Now Healthcare’s CIO, Timothy Ng, is a technology evangelist who has a diverse exposure in industries ranging from financial services to digital marketing. Lee (Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare) and Timothy share the same passion of empowering the inefficient and archaic health sector with new technology, especially mobile devices. From a digital standpoint, Timothy notes the health sector is the next big piece that can benefit exponentially from technology by utilizing data. Triggered by disappointing experiences with obtaining timely doctors’ appointment, Lee and Timothy ambitiously aim to make healthcare services accessible to everyone by bringing together insights they have gained in all walks of industries.
Question asked by Stephanie (Q); Tim’s Answer summarized by Stephanie (A)
Q: What are the key challenges and opportunities faced by the Telemedicine Industry nowadays?
A: The key challenge is around behavior. People are still very used to seeing doctors face-to-face. To change that consumer behavior is something very challenging for the industry. On the other hand, with the soaring mobile phone penetration rate, there is an opportunity for us to access and utilize the data easier than ever. We are also constantly exploring new technologies and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. One example is Vocal Biomarkers that can detect the emotions of a person and present real-time information for doctors. How stressed or display the emotional state of the patient – very useful in Mental Health. The next major wave of innovation of the industry is all about AI, machine learning and big data and how we can analyze it to generate insights for both patients and doctors.
Q: NHS is currently one of your largest organizational partners and is also pivotal to the success of Now Healthcare nationwide offerings. Could you share the approach behind this successful Private-Public-Partnership (PPP)?
A: We originally built the platform for private healthcare, which we have acquired large corporate clients and are currently servicing over a million people. By the end of this year, the number of people we serviced will rocket to over 20 million.
Owing to the success, we have proven our system is flexible and well-functioned. Then, we approached the NHS accordingly. We are part of the NHS digital accelerator, which allows us to embark conversations with various bodies within the NHS organization and discuss how we can integrate our solutions into their existing systems. Our system is global in scope and can be geo-replicated to allow us to function and adhere to regulations in multiple health sectors. For example, we have a system that caters for doctors but can as well be easily customized to function for nurses, other types of doctors and medical professionals alike. In a nutshell, it is crucial to have a flexible system for the NHS to understand and evaluate, providing a single platform that can provide them with access to IoT devices and a single gateway to integrate future technologies. Additionally, we reckon the key thing to most people is security around patient records data. Hence, we have also imposed strict guidelines on how we access and safeguard our data. We were the first in the UK to be fully audited and signed off with a perfect record by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which regulates the UK Health sector.
Q: What is the key barrier when negotiating a partnership with complex government bodies like the NHS?
A: The key barrier is always down to the size. When dealing with a large body like the NHS, there are a lot of governance and meetings involved. In a way, the government can also be cautious about technology. Ultimately, we resolved their concerns on system integration and provide a gateway to the future. The crucial part involves helping the NHS understand how various pieces of technology work together and function effectively. Our systems are geared towards benefiting different parties in the health care system. We have heard doctors considering to quit their profession due to long in-office hours. We aim to reduce doctors’ workload and give back some of the work-life balance to them. With our product, one can virtually log in from a home office; it provides flexibility for doctors to fulfill their work hours from the comfort of home office. The experience has found to be especially rewarding for doctors who have families.
Q: Do you foresee the same success that Now Healthcare has achieved in the U.K. to come along in developing countries?
A: It depends on which country. For example, South Africa has a fairly high mobile phone penetration rate. In certain places of South Africa, people have even adopted cryptocurrency. Hence, it all boils down to the demographics of the developing country itself. Mobile phones and especially telecommunications are local and readily available. The technology is becoming more and more accessible and is the cheapest form of communications for a lot of countries.
Q: Where would you be considering in terms of geographical expansion for Telemedicine?
A: Generally, we think the requirements and challenges are very similar across the globe, except for local regulations. We think Hong Kong has a great underpinning as there is a tight partnership between the private and public sector. Currently, we are interested in investigating JV opportunities in the area. Moreover, we are also actively exploring solutions for out-of-hospital patient care, which is one of the key interest areas for the Hospital Authority in Hong Kong.
Q: What are the HealthTech verticals that you are constantly keeping an eye on?
A: IoT and Wearables because they help feed data. These data can be made available to doctors for consultations. On top of that, the data also serves in providing real-time information that can be mapped to a users’ general markers (when they are healthy). Medical adherence is a key development which we are pushing forward with the help of biomarkers by helping people stay in their standard range of bio-markers through constant monitoring. Imagine your phone could intelligently notify you that you were about to become ill, overtired or even stress based on the biomarkers of even by the sound of your voice. This is the future we envisage and the key is making this information not just available to the user but also the medical professional during a consultation.
Lessons learnt on obtaining Government Support and Private-Public-Partnerships:
- Flexibility and Compatibility – Having a system that is easily customized and highly compatible with the incumbent system.
- Scalability – A scalable solution that fits well with many departments prevail one that is overly-specialized.
- Track Record – Successes acquired in the private sector could serve as a well-grounded support in the negotiation process.
- All-Rounded – In a B2B2C model, it is important to think of a product that benefits not just the end users, but the service providers as well. In the case of Now Healthcare, their system takes into account the user experience of both doctors and patients.
Last but not least, a successful entrepreneur understands what the market wants and sees what direction it is heading. Lee and Timothy have demonstrated their vision well with the Now Healthcare brand. We look forward to seeing more aspiring HealthTech ventures in Hong Kong!