Startup raises $2.5m to be an Airbnb for medical tourism

Medical Departures has raised a series A funding round worth US$2.5 million, the company announced today. The round was led by Singapore-based venture capital firm Digital Media Partners (DMP), and was joined by VC CyberAgent Ventures, European media firm Hubert Burda Media, and OPT SEA, the Southeast Asia arm of Japanese digital advertising agency OPT Group.

Bangkok-based Medical Departures is an Airbnb for medical tourism where travelers are patients and their hosts are qualified medical professionals. Its promise is access to affordable and quality healthcare for patients who want to travel abroad to find it. The startup connects patients to doctors of various specializations in markets including Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, and Costa Rica – all of them top destinations for medical tourism.

The reasons these are considered attractive destinations, according to medical tourism website Patients Beyond Borders, include government and private sector investment in healthcare infrastructure, excellent tourism infrastructure, successful adoption of best practices and state-of-the-art medical technology, and potential for cost savings on medical procedures.

The website estimates the market size for medical tourism at about US$38.5 to 55 billion. It says the market is growing at an annual rate of 15 to 25 percent, with Asia leading the charge in that growth.

Health holiday
It’s this global opportunity that Medical Departures wants to capitalize on. The company wants to expand more aggressively than would be possible while bootstrapping, hence the series A round of funding, founder and CEO Paul McTaggart tells Tech in Asia.

Paul says the funding is immediately available to the company in full, and will be used exclusively to “accelerate the growth of Medical Departures in key destinations such as Southeast Asia.” He declines to specify which markets the startup is targeting, as well as the runway it gets with the funding. The medical tourism market is growing at an annual rate of “ 15 to 25 percent. ”

Medical Departures claims to offer more than 5,000 doctors and dentists through its two websites, Medical Departures and Dental Departures. Paul says the startup is growing in triple digits year-over-year in terms of doctors, users, and revenue, although he doesn’t provide specific figures.

As the startup tries to expand, its key challenge is finding high quality medical professionals to work with. The process includes questionnaires and screenings for potential doctors and dentists, verification of their credentials with local health authorities, on-site visits to the countries the startup operates in, and patient reviews that are verified by a combination of manual review and algorithm work. An algorithm also ranks clinics and doctors based on more than 60 factors of quality, Paul explains.

“Technology startups focused on the healthcare industry in Asia have seen a lot of investment in recent years,” says Mark Suckling, principal at DMP. “Medical Departures is tackling a unique opportunity – helping overseas patients benefit from excellent and affordable medical services available abroad.”

The startup faces competition from services connecting patients to doctors both domestically and abroad, like Singapore’s DocDoc, which raised US$8.5 million in series A funding last year, and Malaysia’s BookDoc.

Source: Michael Tegos, techinasia.com