Using technology to meet patient needs

Recent press speculation that Ping An Good Doctor, a China-based online medical and healthcare information platform, is considering listing on Hong Kong’s stock exchange, and could potentially raise up to $1bn in the process, is further evidence that patients all over the world are turning to technology to help meet their immediate health needs.

The rise of online platforms offering relatively immediate access to doctors, in my view, does have the potential to address the lack of available resources for patients all over the world who are facing increased waiting times to get an actual appointment with their physician. A friend of mine was abroad recently and found themselves in a situation that required them to get an appointment with their GP as soon as they returned to the UK. They didn’t have sufficient time to see a doctor in the country they were visiting, and adding in the time difference meant they would have had to get up in the middle of the night to try to call their surgery to get an appointment for the day they returned. A quick google search returned a UK service called Push Doctor, which, if they hadn’t needed an examination by the doctor, would have served them perfectly. It is yet another example where technology meets medicine and provides a great alternative to trying to get appointments that aren’t at least two weeks away.

Push Doctor, a bit like Ping An Good Doctor, enables patients to speak to a doctor online using an app on their phone, thus providing a consultation, and in the case of Push Doctor an issue of a prescription for the patient as well (Ping An Good Doctor doesn’t currently issue prescriptions). Companies offering similar services have emerged all over the world, ranging from the UK, Russia and India to China, Japan and the US, and essentially they are all technology companies as opposed to companies with their origins in medicine using technology to solve what is becoming an increasingly concerning issue, namely, that we have more people than medical resources. I wouldn’t imagine Ping An Good Doctor to be the only IPO as many of these companies are backed by financial sponsors which will ultimately need an exit strategy, and as tech companies are proving to be popular with investors, IPOs would likely be the most popular exit route.