As reported in the Nikkei Asia Review (found here):

Bayu Surya is a 28-year-old editor based in Jakarta who suffers from eye problems and pressure sores due to sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end. Seeking advice from a doctor, he recently turned to remote consultation app Halodoc, rather than to go to a clinic for a consultation in person.

The app allows him to select a doctor from a list, then start a video call with them. He can also use the app to buy medicines, which will be delivered to his office.

“In Jakarta, we have heavy traffic [if you go to a clinic], but this app makes my life easier,” he said.

Backed by increasing demand for healthcare in Southeast Asia, app-based consultations are becoming more popular in the region. Though the capacity of telehealth services are limited to basic consultations, they are expected to improve health conditions in underserved areas.

Halodoc was founded in 2016 by Chief Executive Jonathan Sudharta, who used to work as a medical representative for a pharmaceutical company. Since he knew many doctors, he received a lot of requests from patients — who usually had to wait long hours to see a doctor — asking him to connect them. This was the start of Halodoc, he told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview in Jakarta.

Halodoc now has some 2 million users and a database of 20,000 doctors. The consultation fee is between 25,000 to 75,000 rupiah ($1.7 to $5), which is lower than an in-person consultation at a traditional clinic. There are several thousand consultations a day, with Halodoc taking between 5% to 25% of the consultation fee depending on the contract with the doctor.

The app allows users to link their account to their insurance policy, so they can pay with health insurance. Currently Halodoc partners with five insurance companies including Allianz Life. It also collaborates with 1,000 pharmacies, from which medicines are delivered to users.

Halodoc invites doctors to register with the service, by attending medical industry events. It works with the doctors’ association of Indonesia to ensure the applicants are certified.

“In Indonesia, there are two types of problem. In urban areas, you spend four hours [traveling small distances and waiting at a clinic] just to take a 10-minute doctor consultation, whereas in rural areas, doctors are very far away,” said Sudharta.  “What if we use technology to help solve the pain of healthcare?”

The inability of healthcare systems to provide for growing demand is the key factor in the growth of teleconsultation apps. According to consulting firm Solidiance, total medical expenditure in six major Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) is expected to reach $740 billion by 2025, from $420 billion in 2017. Nevertheless, most countries have fewer doctors than their population requires. The World Health Organization has shown that the number of physicians per 1,000 population in the latest years that data was available was 0.20 in Indonesia, 0.47 in Thailand and 0.56 in Myanmar. This is far below the figure for Germany (4.19), the U.S. (2.56) and China (1.81).

In addition, although in urban areas the healthcare facility is adequate to cater to patient’s needs, digital entrants into the market have highlighted an unmet need for improved access to healthcare, said Khansa Chavarina, a business analyst at Solidiance. “The ‘proven’ success of the digital industry, especially e-commerce in Southeast Asia, means there is a promising future for digital healthcare, which is why the industry is showing rapid growth.”