Even in Australia, where our healthcare is among the best in the world, we still waste hours of time sitting in medical centres to fulfil the need employers have for a doctor’s certificate for regular occurrences like the common cold.
Australian startup The Medic is a platform that allows patients and doctors to connect in real time via their smart phone or laptop, on demand, for a small fee. The doctor appears after a minute or two, gives the patient a consultation, and after the consultation the doctor can choose to either send a prescription to the patient’s home, issue a medical certificate, or do a referral to a different specialist.
The company was founded by Jason MacLulich (ex-CTO at GoCatch) who decided to launch a venture in the highly regulated MedicalTech space for a number of reasons. The first is because he believes digital health care in Australia is still lagging behind the rest of the world; initiatives like The Medic are taking off in a few places already, particularly in the United States and Europe. The second is because, generally, the concept of ‘telemedicine’ is still an unheard of thing in Australia.
“We’re really trying to push the envelope here and push patients and people basically to have more choice on how they consume their healthcare,” says MacLulich. “Rather than always having to get out of bed or get off the couch when you’re sick and waiting in a waiting room with a bunch of other sick people for an hour or so, potentially more, then there’s no reason why you can’t just see a doctor in the comfort of your own home. So we’re making that a reality for people.”
From a user perspective, the platform is relatively simple to use. You go to the platform and sign up, and once you are registered you can request to see a doctor. At that point, you enter your payment details. There is an out of pocket expense at the moment because there’s no medicare rebate for telemedicine in Australia.The expense to use the platform is $35.00. Users then enter a ‘virtual waiting room’ and the doctor connects. If a doctor isn’t immediately available, users are told that they will get a callback within a certain period of time.
The Australian Medical Board has a number of provisions laid out that govern telemedicine. Mostly they’re to do with identity, making sure that you know who the doctor is and who the patient is. The provisions also make sure the platform has advised the patients that they may need to seek further care from another GP, as well as making sure that The Medic has taken an accurate medical history of the user so that the doctor knows any allergies or current medications that the patient is on. That’s a big one.
Apart from that, it’s really up to the GP or doctor to make an informed medical decision as to whether they feel comfortable that they can issue medication or give other advice.
That aside, the other major problems that the startup will face is the fact that people are used to not paying for their health care. Many citizens in Australia are used to bulk bill clinics, and trying to justify an out of pocket expense can be a bit of a challenge to overcome sales wise. Of course, it must be noted that nowadays there are many medical centres that no longer accept bulk billing. The team at The Medic remain hopeful that the government will eventually legislate the changes needed to move the sector forward.
“I’m hoping that in the near future, the government considers telemedicine consultations between a GP and patient as being something that can be medicare bulkbilled because that would really open the market to all patients rather than just the ones who can afford it,” says MacLulich.
When it comes to user acquisition, the startup is pursuing a number of avenues. Like any two-sided marketplace, it’s always tricky at the start because supply wants demand, demand wants supply, and they’re not there at the same time. The Medic is looking to seed the doctor’s side of the business by basically paying doctors to be on call for a certain period of time. Initial recruitment of the doctors has come through more traditional means like job advertising, health care websites and health recruiters.
Because the concept is so new, the immediate future of The Medic will be all around focusing on marketing lower risk diagnostic outcomes to potential customers; things like repeat prescriptions, medical certificates, and referrals, which makes it more palatable to people.
The Medic applied and was accepted this year into the NRMA Jumpstart Program. “I saw Jumpstart being advertised and I went to their RoadShow when they came round to Sydney at Fishburners,” says MacLulich. “So I went there and saw the pitch, had a chat with some people who had been through the program, Gamurs for instance, I talked with the company founder Riad and he told me that he gained quite a lot out of it so I thought it would be worthwhile going in and I applied.”
To date the company has remained boot strapped, aside from the investment as part of the accelerator, and has decided to keep things that way until the end of the program next month. MacLulich expects the first round of seed funding to be somewhere in the vicinity of $400,000 to $500,000.