©2019 by APPPPS Partners Inc.

App gives old med practice a new face

By Maria Eden Dino on July 7, 2017

The hospital just got bigger. And better, siblings behind a health-service application hope.

Having a quality care from medical experts takes time and effort, especially in the Philippines where traffic congestions are rampant and long queues in hospitals awaits you, according to Dr. Patrick Bugayong.

Bugayong is one of the forces behind the Aide app, which they say is the first one that allows patients to receive medical and health care in the comforts of their homes and without going to the doctor.

The app harkens to the old days when physicians lugging leather medical bags cross a flowing river, hike a steep mountain or walk tree-lined streets to visit a patient. With the Aide app, that is a just a screen-touch away, Bugayong added.

The concept of home visits or house calls have always been a staple for medical care, he added. Hence, we decided to bring it back to life and give it a new face. 

“The concept is not new. We just saw a resurgence in other countries, as well as recent studies trying to promote the effectiveness of the old practice,” Bugayong said. “So, we thought, ‘Why not give the old way a hi-tech face-lift?’ And that’s when we came up with Aide.”

Lola

THE “we” in Bugayong’s statements refer to his brother, Paolo Bugayong, and sisters, Pamela and Patricia. Together, they form the APPPPS Partners Inc., the company behind the Aide app.

Patrick, a general physician, said the idea to create the app was hatched last year when they tried to look for a nurse for their grandmother.

“Since Patrick is a doctor, we did play around with the idea, ‘What if there is an app for medical professionals?’” Paolo told the BusinessMirror. “If you need a nurse, physical therapists or doctors, [having an app like] that will be very useful. What more if they will go to you?” 

Patrick said it took them seven months of developer work, validation studies and surveys to build the app.

We wanted to make sure there’s a population demand for the service, he added.

“The process went from there; the concept to validation, to actual user interface or the design,” Patrick said. After that, we started recruiting our first medical professionals.”

Since it was launched in October last year, the app currently offers the services of 700 nurses, 500 doctors, 500 physical therapists and 400 veterinarians. 

According to the company’s latest statistics, 57 percent of the medical aides are women.

Inner workings

LIKE other apps on Google Play Store and Apple Store, the Aide app is downloaded to a user’s device.

The patient chooses a service, inputs the symptoms, sets the time, date, location and selects  books and a medical aide for P150 through his credit card. 

The chosen medical aide reviews the appointment on his feed and may contact the patient via text or call. 

“If the medical professional is near the location, most probably he could get it. The doctor sets his price and the patient will also have the option to choose,” Paolo said. “So, Aide is a platform where we bridge that two together.” 

The patient’s information and details of the requested service are delivered to the appropriate medical practitioner. 

“We say it works with four easy steps: choose, set, book and check-up,” Patrick explained. “It is pretty simple with the four steps, but we are even trying to make it simpler.” 

According to him, a patient may spend between P500 and P1,000 per appointment. Patients can enjoy a variety of services, including medical and nursing care, physical therapy, diagnostics, labs and even animal care. 

Special features 

AMONG the special features Aide offer are adult vaccinations, pediatric vaccinations, pet vaccinations, glutathione injections, and botox injections. 

For Patrick, vaccinations are the biggest draw.

“Not just vaccines [but also] blood tests so, we are tied up with a lab,” Paolo said. 

“Usually, if you get [a] blood test, you have to fast a day before, so with the home care, you do not have to leave your house.” 

He added the laboratory staff comes to the patient. “Later on, they just e-mail the results to you.”

To access the bookings from the patients, there will be a P2,000 subscription fee per quarter and P3,300 and P5,000 for semiannual and annual membership, respectively. 

A medical practitioner earns an average income of P500 to P1,000 per appointment. 

Patrick said making adjustments and their customers happy with the service is always the hardest part in the company. 

“The hardest thing is that in Aide, you are dealing with two customers—the patient and the medical professionals [both need] to be happy,” he added. “When we developed the app, we thought, ‘Okay na ito’, because I am a doctor, and I already know what the medical professionals want [from] their patients. But when we released, we saw that there were things [that] needed to be improved.”

Challenges

PAOLO said that challenges came up not in the developing stage but during the start of commercial operation.

“I guess you will always have to update, and you will always find bugs. You always have to listen to customers,” he told the BusinessMirror. “We already set up three to four updates, and we are continuously updating.”

Likewise, they also need to ensure the security and safety of the patients. Patrick said medical professionals undergo a vetting process. 

Applying doctors, physicians and other medical specialists go through an intensive series of background checks and submit a set of required documents to make sure they were registered and licensed, according to Patrick.

“It is a long process, but it is the only way we can secure that our patients can trust us,” he said. “Having a medical professional come to you, you want to be sure that [he or she] comes from a reputable source.”  Currently, there are 2,300 medical practitioners who wish to subscribe to the app, but only 1,700 of them have been screened.

However, Paolo clarified that Aide professionals were not employed under the company.

“They subscribe to Aide for them to find work,” he said. “So with Aide, it gives them opportunities outside clinics. It gives them ways other than applying in hospitals to earn.”

In spite of a high demand of medical professionals in hospitals, Patrick added the reason why practitioners subscribe to the app.  “We do not only allow the professionals who cannot get into hospitals a platform to provide their services but we also allow practitioners from hospitals to get additional work and patients,” Paolo added.

Plans, projects

ACCORDING to Patrick, the company will soon offer an ambulance service and payment gateways, such as Paypal.

“Our biggest update will be the ambulance service. Emergency system is a different service so we are including that.”

He said when they launched Aide, “we wanted it to be more  ambulatory, so our cases are usually colds and coughs.”

“It is appointment-based rather than an emergency,” Patrick added.

The app itself prevents emergency cases, as only limited symptoms such as sore throat, skin rash, headache, fever and the like appear on the interface.

Paolo said they also encourage patients to go to the hospital if there’s an emergency.

“If you need machines, definitely, the hospital would have it. If it is an emergency, go to the hospital,” he explained. “We are not competing [them] with hospitals. Actually, we would like to say we are complimenting [them] in any case.”

Patrick said the company will be partnering with an ambulance service that will arrive in two months, and they will also include alternative medicine in the app.

Expanding coverage

WITH over 25,000 downloads and 7,000 active users, the company began to operate outside Metro Manila last January.

“We do efforts in social media and even if we could easily choose [an] audience based in Metro Manila, it is not stopping that post from going viral, so we are not exerting much resources,” Paolo said.

While the app has covered Davao to Ilocos Norte, the most number of bookings came from Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.

“Recently, we had a service where over 300 nurses were booked to cover the whole Philippines, and we provided from Mindanao way up to the Northern Luzon,” Patrick said.

Making the app available internationally is a big dream to both siblings. However, Paolo thought that the biggest hurdle is to make sure the app can speak the native language.

“But it is not difficult actually to start in another country because, business like this, it is really in the cloud. There is a technology already, so it is just replicating there. The challenge is to make it survive there if the ecosystem in that country will take in,” he added.

“We would like to be in a country where the needs are the same as the Philippines, with horrible traffic [and people] looking for home care,” Paolo said.

e-Commerce challenge

AS the e-commerce grows rapidly, Paolo sees every day a learning experience.

“We are fairly a very young company. We just have to make sure that we are better everyday,” he said. “But there will be another competitor coming, we do not know. Anybody can put it up, but we just have to find our own competitive advantage.” 

For his brother, keeping up with an innovation will never be easy as they move along. 

“It is not being ahead of the game, it is just being in the game. Going with it, it is hard to be ahead when your app itself is already a novel to you. It is something that has not been done, so there is no one for us to follow,” Patrick said. “It is looking toward the people who have succeeded in our field and then learning from them. At the same time, learning from each other since we are specialists in our own field.”

Patrick added they learn things from Patricia, a teacher, and Pamela, who has expertise in corporate and finance.

“Someone with money can build an app, but the expertise involved in it, like being good in business and being a doctor, you have to have that nice mix with the company because, if not, the app will fail,” he said. “My gurus told us that apps failed not because of the lack of intelligence in the developers. It is because the developers do not know how to run the business, they do not know what the demand is and they do not look at it as the way we should look at it as outsiders.” 

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