Australian startup HealthEngine, which raised $10.4 million from Telstra and Seven West Media just last year, has opened a new fundraising round as it seeks to grow its medical directory service across the country.
The company now says it is booking tens of thousands of GP visits each month on its platform, which addresses one of the biggest problems when you need to see a doctor in a hurry: certainty.
As a category, healthcare has been one of the categories slow to take advantage of some of the potential in digital platforms, especially when it comes to consumer convenience. People have long been used to booking hotels and flights and – increasingly – restaurants online, and the rise of Uber in the taxi industry has shown the potential of booking platforms with scalable bases of service providers.
But booking medical visits commonly still involves phone calls to a regular GP’s office or, more frustratingly, searching for a doctor through various directories and then ringing around in the hope of finding an appointment. HealthEngine aims to solve that.
It lets you book a doctor in a nearby location at available timeslots through its directory of listed practitioners, which now numbers more than 60,000, with more than 3,000 available to book online. They include dentists, physiotherapists and psychologists. Pulling together a network of practitioners means users can quickly navigate through their options to find a suitable appointment.
HealthEngine has found 20% of customers have turned to them because their current GP practice didn’t offer online bookings. One in 10 users say if they hadn’t booked with them, they would have ended up going to a hospital emergency department – something with potential benefits for the efficiency of the wider health system, a topic currently under scrutiny with the $7 payments for doctor visits introduced in last week’s federal budget.
The company is aiming to recruit thousands more practitioners and expand its 35-strong Perth-based team in its next expansion phase. It has opened a Series B fundraising round in which it aims to raise between $5 million and $10 million.
The board is currently chaired by Pat O’Sullivan, who was previously the Optus CFO and COO at PBL. Directors include Telstra Ventures MD Matthew Koertge, and Seven West Media COO Nick Chan.
The founder and CEO is entrepreneur and medical doctor Marcus Tan. He bought the directory business four years ago and started working on it part time while continuing his clinical practice.
Tan, who holds an MBA and is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said the calibre of the board would “give current and future investors confidence that they have chosen a long-term market leader”.
Tan told Business Insider that the medical industry talks about a Holy Grail of patients being able to find “the right care at the right place at the right time”, and that HealthEngine was being developed with that in mind. Tan is working towards adding in another layer – “at the right price” – because as well as wanting quality care, patients can be surprised by out-of-pocket expenses.
After Telstra and Seven West bought their minority stake last year, Tan started working for the company full-time. After its early days being run from Tan’s living room, the company eventually moved into vacant space in The West Australian building, owned by Seven West, but has now outgrown that and is about to relocate again.
The business has two key revenue streams: from its directory, where medical practitioners list their services, and its booking engine, which allows patients to book appointments in nearby locations with a few clicks. The company takes a fee from practitioners for listing, and charges a new-customer acquisition fee to doctors when customers book through them. It’s free for patients to use.