#SMETowkay: Making affordable healthcare for SMEs a reality
While the insurance market in Singapore may seem well served, one business segment may have fallen through the cracks. Unlike large enterprises and multinationals which offer both scale and volume, most small and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) struggle to find affordable and comprehensive healthcare plans.
Former classmates Chris Teo and Clarence Zhang first spotted this gap while working in the insurance industry. They discovered that SMEs were underserved as most of them were too small to negotiate for a corporate rate with healthcare providers. In addition, insurers would only sell them basic outpatient insurance when it’s bundled with a more expensive hospitalisation coverage.
The two friends saw an opportunity to fill this gap in the insurance industry and started Mednefits in 2014 with another former classmate Hadiyano Wibawa.
“That was the year when disruptive companies like Grab came out,” says Chris. “This got us to believe that we can use tech to lower healthcare cost and reduce administrative issues for SMEs”.
Besides brokering insurance for SMEs, Mednefits also has a digital platform for pooling SMEs together to negotiate affordable corporate rates with healthcare providers. Clients can get access to this platform for free if they appoint Mednefits as an insurance provider or pay an annual fee of $99 per employee per year. This provides their staff with healthcare benefits such as complimentary health screenings or discounts at any of its partnering outpatient clinics, including General Practitioners (GPs), Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and dental services.
Since the platform started three years ago, Mednefits has provided health benefits for some 15,000 employees across 180 SMEs. In addition, to ensure that SME employees enjoy the full savings, Mednefits does not take a cut from its 300 healthcare providers.
To make health insurance simple and accessible for its clients, Mednefits is also an ardent user of technology. Their mobile app for example, allows users to easily find its healthcare partners, as well as other information such as whether they are open. Users also simply have to flash their personalised e-patient card on the app to be entitled to the benefits at the clinics.
For its healthcare partners, Mednefits developed a cloud-based system to process claims without hassle. Nurses only need to enter a patient’s NRIC to check if he or she is eligible for the benefits. They can also key in the patient’s bills to keep track of sales, making book keeping simple and fuss-free. As nurses are usually juggling multiple tasks, the entire process was designed to be completed within five clicks. “Nurses handle all the clinic operations so the doctors don’t want us to overtax them,” Hadiyanto shares.
The founders also developed both the app and cloud system in-house because they believe that by doing so, it ensures that their product will constantly be improved. “You will always want to improve your product to make it better. But outsourced IT companies will charge you for every change until you are afraid to ask for it,” explains Chris. After the founders met their chief technology officer through an incubator at the Singapore Management University, they decided to form their own tech team to design their technologies from scratch.
Having their own team of developers has enabled the start-up to quickly expand its digital offerings. Mednefits recently launched a credit platform for companies to track the allowances provided for their employees’ health and wellness purposes. Traditionally, these employees submit paper receipts to their accounting colleagues for it to be processed. With Mednefits’ new platform, the allowances may be converted into e-credits for use at partnering clinics or stores. Besides eliminating the need for cash reimbursement, employers can also easily track the claims via the cloud platform.
Although technology has played an important role in automating Mednefits’ processes so it can offer a variety of services with a lean team, Chris says the game changer is how it enabled them to fulfil the needs of a neglected business segment.
“The real disruption is our business model. We are able to provide better benefits at no additional cost to all the SMEs in Singapore,” he says.