by Elisa Valenta
The coronavirus pandemic has severely strained the healthcare system. A visit to a doctor’s office or hospital is risky nowadays as hospitals remain overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Thus, in this crisis, telehealth—a platform that connects patients to doctors through the internet— is stepping up as a critical technology in solving the healthcare problem. Using the internet, telehealth providers allow patients to consult with doctors from homes. The doctors then make a preliminary diagnosis remotely by evaluating symptoms, offer a solution, and even write a medical prescription for mild illness.
Consequently, during the pandemic, telehealth platforms have reported a skyrocketing demand for their services. Alodokter (PT Sumo Teknologi Solusi) is one of them. Alodokter has more than 24 million monthly active users throughout Indonesia, with more than five million downloads. However, in the first two weeks in February when the news of the pandemic developed, more than 15 million visitors accessed Alodokter platform.
“During this coronavirus pandemic, people are searching for comprehensive information about the virus. People are trying to get the right medical advice in facing this situation,” says Nathanael Faibis, cofounder and CEO of Alodokter.
Nathan has extensive experience in both startup and healthcare industry. During 2010 to 2012, he worked in France, Kenya and Morocco as a project manager for Sonisphere, a pharmaceutical market research firm. In 2012, he joined Lazada as head of production and user experience for Southeast Asia. Nathan helped launch the ecommerce. In early 2013, he rejoined Sonisphere in Jakarta as the country head and global head of data management. A year later, he started Alodokter.
His strong background on pharmaceutical research, mainly in the emerging markets, makes him aware that there are enormous demands on online medical services in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia. He says Indonesia’s demand for online healthcare service is growing very fast. Yet, data shows that online healthcare information consumption per user is still low in Indonesia compared to the developed countries.
“It was in 2014 when I met Suci Arumsari, my cofounder. I saw Suci made a wrong decision on her health problem based on a false article she read online. Now, we want to help our users to get the right healthcare provider once they understand their health problem,” Nathan says.
At first, Alodokter provides health-related articles and video features, aiming to provide accurate information with simple explanations of illness, disease, and treatments. Now, there are more than 350,000 articles made by content writers that have been verified by doctors.
Since then, the service continues to grow. As Indonesia is still facing a shortage of doctors, since 2016, the company develops artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot technology to help answer frequently asked questions from patients. The chatbot helps the real doctors to provide a more accurate diagnosis and treatment. As of February, the chatbot is responding to more than 500,000 patients per month. Yet, this number doesn’t include chat surges during the current pandemic. Beside online chat, Alodokter also facilitates offline consultation with doctors by helping the patients to book a hospital visit. Thus, the patient could save time in queuing at the hospital. Currently, the platform allows users to book or request meetings with 20,000 doctors at more than 900 hospitals and clinics.
Alodokter monetizes their business by charging a small consultation fee of Rp 15,000 (more or less $1) to patients. It also generates money from the traffic on its website and mobile app. Alodokter’s ability to see the healthcare industry potential in Indonesia has attracted investors’ attention as well. In 2016, the company received a Series A funding of $2.5 million from Golden Gate Ventures and 500 Startups. Later on, in 2017, Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank stepped in with $7 million investment on Series B, followed by a $33 million Series C in 2019 led by Sequis Life and with participation from Philips, Heritas Capital, Hera Capital, and Dayli Partners. Existing investors SoftBank Ventures Asia and Golden Gate Ventures also participated in the round.
Alodokter uses the funds to expand its hospital network integration and to offer more services. Currently, Alodokter also provides an insurance product that links to its consultation service at an affordable price. For the product, Alodokter is partnering with insurance company AXA Mandiri. With only Rp 95,000 of a monthly premium, policyholders are given unlimited online consultations and could claim benefit when hospitalized. Sales of the insurance product have skyrocketed to 25 times over the past six months, in which Alodokter collects selling fees.
Healthcare providers in Indonesia have created a compelling market opportunity for private sector participation. In recent years, many startups have popped up to address this deficiency. Alodokter is not the only player. Halodoc, which is backed by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also runs live chat services based on different medical conditions. However, Nathan is confident that Alodokter has positioned itself as a comprehensive, scientific, easy-to-understand healthcare information providers for all Indonesians.
“We are the first-mover in the industry. We understand our customers’ needs better as we interact with a massive number of users every day,” Nathan says.In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alodokter is teaming up with other telehealth platforms and the Ministry of Health to intensify the coronavirus rapid test. Alodokter also provides free consultation 201720182019to answer questions related to COVID-19