Uber and Airbnb have long been the poster children for the sharing economy. In other realms of society, entrepreneurs are also trying to match demand with untapped assets and services. HD, a startup based out of Bangkok, is applying the economic model to healthcare in Southeast Asia.
HD operates a platform that helps three parties meet: surgeons with private practice, patients looking to have their surgeries done more cheaply, and vacant surgery rooms at hospitals. The model might sound a bit counterintuitive to people in the West, but Southeast Asia’s medical system is built on very different patient-hospital dynamics.
Sheji Ho, co-founder and CEO of HD, conceived the idea when he saw surgeons in Thailand advertising on Facebook to attract private customers. Dual practice is “very common” for doctors in Southeast Asia, observed Ho, who previously co-founded the Southeast Asian e-commerce enabler aCommerce.
“They get the credential from working for top hospitals, but they are paid poorly, so they also work at private ones where they get the money,” he says in an interview.
In Southeast Asia, people go straight to the hospital when they get sick. The problem with public hospitals, Ho reckons, is they have very long queues, so doctors try to lure patients to the private institutions where they work. “Doctors [in the region] are kind of like merchants who operate across different platforms,” he says.
Forty percent of Southeast Asia’s health spending was paid out of pocket in 2018, according to World Health Organization, compared to 29.8% in Europe and 32.4% in the Americas. Since there’s no central platform providing cost transparency, patients often end up paying a steep price.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, swathes of surgeon rooms suddenly got freed up as Thailand, a popular destination for medical tourism, lost international patients. The oversupply was exacerbated by the country’sUber and Airbnb have long been the poster children for the sharing economy. HD, a startup based out of Bangkok, is applying the economic model to healthcare in Southeast Asia. Dual practice is “very common” for doctors in Southeast Asia, observed Ho, who previously co-founded the Southeast Asian e-commerce enabler aCommerce.