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The Power of Using a Marketplace in Healthcare by Yeo Wan Ling

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Headquartered in Singapore, Caregiver Asia is an online services marketplace which taps on the sharing economy to connect caregivers and healthcare professionals with care seekers. As the co-founder and CEO, Yeo Wan Ling pursues healthcare with a passion, and strongly believes in the utility function of marketplaces.

Since its launch, Caregiver Asia has attracted over 2000 active healthcare professionals and is steadily expanding into Malaysia and the US. The online aggregator of healthcare services is looking to revolutionise the traditional healthcare delivery process by shifting it into the virtual sphere. In her Arcadier Inspire Summit talk, Wan Ling gives her input on digital disruption in the healthcare industry and shares her experience on scaling Caregiver Asia.

Innovation is Disrupting the Healthcare Industry

According to Wan Ling, latest developments in the healthcare industry are diverging from the trajectory of care seekers following their doctor’s advice unquestioningly. Health is sacred, and instead of simply receiving information from a caregiver, care seekers are increasingly interested in educating themselves on their health and making decisions for themselves. Not only do care seekers want to know about the different healthcare options available, they also want to weigh those options and learn more about the types of services that caregivers provide. The web plays an integral role in bridging the knowledge gap between caregivers and care seekers, where the ease of doing online research empowers care seekers to engage in a two-sided discussion with their caregivers. Wan Ling herself makes it a habit to find out more on her symptoms on the net prior to visiting a doctor to be able to make a more well-informed decision.

Caregiver Asia has recognised this trend and supports these pro-active care seekers by featuring open reviews on their platform, where care seekers can both rate and write reviews on caregivers. As booking healthcare services online is still a rather new phenomenon, these reviews serve as a safety blanket for new care seekers, and give them greater reassurance on the credibility and quality of the services provided.

Wan Ling also identified that people’s changing attitudes towards healthcare will affect many constituents of the healthcare continuum. Starting with patient records, more care seekers will want to have possession of their health records, which in turn affects the decisions they make regarding healthcare. As for healthcare products, it is likely that more marketplaces which complement service delivery will spring up to meet the increased demand for online services. Technology advancements are also set to disrupt the healthcare industry. Wan Ling says, “With the rise of AI, there will be a lot more accountability to the end-consumer on the kinds of data and permissions required.” Digital innovation and changes in care seekers’ attitudes towards healthcare are thus set to dramatically alter established norms in the healthcare industry.

Cultural Differences when Scaling Marketplaces

Testament to Caregiver Asia’s global approach, the platform is not only multi-language, but also multi-country and multi-currency. When scaling a business, Wan Ling notes the importance of taking into account differences between countries, which are not limited to cultural differences. However, it is precisely these differences which can yield unexpected opportunities. She cites two examples: Caregiver Asia’s foray into the Malaysian market was rather smooth-sailing given the cultural similarities between Singapore and Malaysia. Nonetheless, an opportunity in the form of providing a stay-in certified nurse service presented itself. Unlike Singapore, where most caregivers do not offer this service, Malaysia has an abundance of well-trained professionals who are willing to become stay-in nurses.

A second example is the startup’s venture into the US. As opposed to Malaysia, Caregiver Asia’s path into the US was strewn with hurdles. A major setback was that home healthcare is insurable in the US. In order to overcome this regulatory obstacle, Caregiver Asia had to build an entirely new platform, Bookacare, that is in line with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Your understanding of differences between countries can either make or break your business and it is certainly of paramount importance to familiarise yourself with them and take advantage of any possible opportunities.

Overcoming Obstacles with a Relatable Business Model

Caregiver Asia may have been an exception to most startups as Wan Ling says that they were fortunate enough to not face any crippling issues during its set-up. On the supply side, gathering sufficient caregivers was not a problem as there were many people who genuinely wanted to help others. Bridging the supply-demand gap, where there were more caregivers than care seekers as the latter were still apprehensive about seeking healthcare online, was a slight issue. Nevertheless, Caregiver Asia was able to combat this problem rather easily through education and by repeatedly reassuring care seekers that it is safe to book healthcare services online.

Securing funding was also a relatively smooth-sailing process. Wan Ling credits this to Caregiver Asia’s relatable business model, which enabled them to close their Series A, B and C within weeks. Caregiver Asia’s problem statements and solutions were not only sound, but also appealed to many investors, which aided the startup in raising funds within a short period of time.

Rather than external obstacles, the obstacles that hindered Caregiver Asia stemmed from the internal side instead. During the initial scaling up process, Wan Ling faced significant difficulties in recruiting suitable candidates to join her team. This was partly due to the pragmatic work culture in Singapore where Singaporeans prefer working in stable environments to a volatile, highly disruptive one characteristic of a startup. Even Wan Ling went the traditional route, and kickstarted her career by working at a bank, followed by a multi-national company (MNC) and a government agency, before building Caregiver Asia. Despite the manpower setbacks in the launch phase, greater awareness about the positives of working in startups, namely the enriching and exciting experience, have resolved Caregiver Asia’s staffing woes in the past year. The startup grew by 400% in staff strength and found it much easier to attract candidates who were a right fit for the company.

Always Walk Forward No Matter What

Wan Ling ends off her talk with a piece of simple yet oft-forgotten advice, “Just keep walking.” Working in a startup is challenging as startups are disruptive by nature. This means that the environment is unpredictable and subject to rapid internal and external changes. External changes include regulatory restrictions and market demands. On the internal front, Wan Ling asserts that it is necessary to keep challenging the team to surpass their boundaries to help the company grow. As a result, pushback is inevitable. Regardless, Wan Ling advises, “Keep walking towards the goal you set out to achieve.” You may stray off the main path from time to time but just keep walking.

Your team members are your greatest asset. When times are tough, Wan Ling looks to her team as a source of motivation. It is her team which gives her the fuel to break her own glass ceilings. Take charge of your inner demons and “remain true to what you want to achieve”.

Watch Wan Ling’s entire Arcadier Inspire Summit Talk:

Watch it right here.

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