Will Indonesia’s telemedicine start-ups be the next unicorns?

Indonesians are shifting online for their medical consultations and purchases as hospitals remain overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. This could result in business opportunities that could boost telemedicine market leader into the next billion-dollar company, a new report shows.

Business research and consultancy Inventure Indonesia’s latest report titled 30 Consumer Behavior Shifts projects that telemedicine start-ups will grow faster after COVID-19 and that the competition to create the best service will be tighter.

“Once consumers get a satisfactory user experience that’s convenient, less costly and time-efficient, the service will enter into a mainstream phase with a bigger market,” Inventure’s report reads. “Under such conditions, there is a possibility for the market leader in this type of service to be the next unicorn.”

Indonesia currently has five unicorns, identified as start-ups valued at over US$1 billion, namely ride-hailing app Gojek, online booking platform Traveloka, e-commerce platforms Tokopedia and Bukalapak, as well as digital payment platform OVO.

As with remote working and online learning, consumers have been forced to adapt to a new way of getting medical treatment: virtually. Telemedicine platforms Halodoc and Alodokter, which provide online consultations with doctors, have reported a skyrocketing use of their apps and demand for their services.

“Medical treatment is crucial in a crisis such as this. But the advice for patients to avoid hospitals and doctor visits, while people need routine consultation or to ensure they are not infected, has resulted in urgency for telemedicine services,” Inventure wrote.

Alodokter recorded 61 million web visits with more than 33 million active users in March. It has been downloaded by 5.5 million users.  “It was approximately 1.5 times higher than the platform’s usual traffic before the coronavirus outbreak,” said Alodokter partnership vice president Agustine Gunawan. 

“In contrast to last month, people are now asking about non-coronavirus-related health issues, such as what medicine to take if you feel unwell at home and so forth,” Agustine added.

McKinsey & Company Consumer Healthcare Insights reported findings that 44 percent of respondents who canceled routine or mental health appointments tried to convert them into telehealth appointments. About 24 percent were able to receive care.

Halodoc has launched a service that enables users to make appointments for COVID-19 rapid tests or real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at 20 hospitals in Greater Jakarta and Karawang municipality in West Java. As of Monday, Indonesia recorded 6,760 COVID-19 cases with 590 deaths.

The platform has formed partnerships with five private hospital chains: Mitra Keluarga hospitals, St. Carolus hospitals, Mayapada hospitals, Primaya hospitals and Bina Husada Cibinong hospital.

“We’ve seen more people become aware of health, and they come to our platforms for health consultations,” Halodoc CEO Jonathan Sudharta said in a statement.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo conveyed his appreciation for the business on Monday. He said he hoped the platforms would continue to grow.

“I think that medical consultations through advanced technology, or telemedicine, should be enhanced so that we can limit direct contact between doctors and patients [during the pandemic],” said the President during a Cabinet meeting at the State Palace.

Source: Esther Samboh – The Jakarta Post