Mobile apps change Philippines healthcare sector
Joseph Agustin ‘Jaeger’ Tanco, the 37-year-old president and chief executive of PhilhealthCare Inc., a leading health maintenance organization, is using digital technology to redefine customer experience in the healthcare sector.
PhilCare, which has over 300,000 members, 30,000 accredited physicians and 1,400 accredited hospitals and clinics, is the pioneer in prepaid health cards in the country.
It is also the first to introduce mobile apps with artificial intelligence capability that allows members to consult with doctors using smartphones, skip the long lines in waiting for medical care, produce electronic vouchers, find the nearest clinics, generate letters of authority or obtain an electronic medical prescription.
Tanco, a son of STI Group founder Eusebio Tanco, employs a team of developers in PhilCare led by vice president for information technology James Indino Jr.
“We would like to share some of the innovations we have done in our company and how we could better serve the Filipinos,” says Tanco, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurial Management from the University of Asia and the Pacific and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Ateneo de Manila University.
“There is a growing population that starts to move towards technological features. We are coming up with different ways through technology to give better service. We value our clients a lot. The way to show that we value them is by giving them a better service than what they would expect,” he says in a news briefing at Azuthai Restaurant in Makati City.
About 70 percent of PhilCare’s members belong to the millennial generation, as the company is one of the biggest healthcare providers to the business process outsourcing sector. The company has around 1,000 corporate clients. Tanco says PhilCare aims to reach out to more clients including uninsured families through social media.
Of PhilCare’s existing 9,000 prepaid members, about 7,000 enrolled through the company’s website. A subscriber of ER Vantage prepaid package pays a one-time fee of P1,200 for P40,000 coverage in case of emergency or hospitalization.
Tanco cited a 2018 report by We Are Social which claimed that Filipinos had the highest social media usage in the world (three hours and 57 minutes) despite having an internet penetration rate of only 67 percent.
The study also found out that 59 percent of Filipinos were using their mobile phones for social media, games and searching for products or information.
Tanco, however, says only 4 percent of Filipinos had healthcare coverage which was mostly provided by employers. He says that with the help of social media, PhilCare aims to increase healthcare awareness among the other 96 percent of the population. “Health insurance is very important. There is a lack of government support for healthcare. I know a few people, who after being hit by a certain illness, ran into debt. This is why health insurance is important,” says Tanco.
Christian Cristobal, the senior vice president for sales and marketing of PhilCare, says the company aims to change the traditional experience of HMO subscribers in falling in line and waiting for an hour or two for the letter of authority approval. “Those are the things that we want to eliminate through technology,” says Cristobal.
Tanco says PhilCare introduces different ways to help clients have easier access to hospitals and clinics. “We really want to give the clients the service that they deserve,” he says.
Indino’s team developed apps such as PCare EASy (PhilCare Electronic Approval System) for a faster and more convenient way for LOA issuance; PhilCare Snap, or Near Field Communication-enabled membership which is designed to make hospital transactions faster, more efficient and paperless; and Hey Phil, a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence to help members find doctors, clinics and hospitals.
Indino says an exciting innovation that PhilCare will soon introduce is Digimed, or digital medical experience, as a feature of Hey Phil.
“It can do online consultation. Think of Uber for doctors. Unlike others that launched a telemed app where doctors are confined to a call center setting, ours is truly mobile. This means that the doctors can answer patients’ calls at his or her mobile phones at the convenience of his or her house. It is borderless. We can even get doctors from abroad. There are some foreign doctors who want to partner with us,” says Indino.
Digimed now has 20 doctors on board, a number that is expected to reach 200 soon, according to Indino. Hey, Phil app has been downloaded 52,000 times and now has 10,000 active monthly users. Indino expects the number of active Hey Phil users to double this year. “We’re confident that the rest of the HMO industry will take our cue and work towards improving our industry as a whole. Technology has been the focus of PhilCare for the past five years and we have more in store to keep our trajectory moving forward,” Indino says.
Tanco says technology offers a growth opportunity to the healthcare sector. “Healthcare has to make sense to Filipinos for them to purchase it and we need to provide them with sensible healthcare from the acquisition, to benefits and up to actual utilization,” he says.
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