BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Ping An Good Doctor said its healthcare venture with ride hailing firm Grab plans to hire hundreds of doctors in Indonesia after the spread of the coronavirus caused demand for online consultations in the country to almost double.
GrabHealth, launched in Indonesia in late 2019, now conducts nearly 10,000 consultations daily compared to between 5,000 and 6,000 a day prior to the outbreak, Good Doctor CEO Wang Tao told Reuters in an interview.
“The hiring plan is fluid and will depend on user demand,” Wang said. The company declined to say how many doctors it currently has in Indonesia.
Indonesia, which has a population of over 270 million and the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, has seen the number of reported coronavirus infections climb to 686 while 55 people have died.
In China, where the virus first emerged, the outbreak has prompted residents, either worried about coronavirus symptoms or too scared to visit hospitals for other ailments, to flock to platforms such as Good Doctor, Baidu Inc’s Wenyisheng and Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd.
The Good Doctor platform, which is China’s largest, has said it had 3 million monthly paying users at the end of last year.
It saw downloads jump 1,186% in the week to Jan. 26 from the previous week, according to data from App Annie. In its latest earnings filing, the company also said the average number of daily new registrations between Jan. 22-Feb. 6 was ten times greater than first 21 days of January but did not provide specific new registration figures.
Wang added that online consultations requests from overseas Chinese since Jan. 1 have hit almost 10 million.
He said Good Doctor is now aiming to roll out an English version in the second quarter to meet demand from English speakers in China and users in English-speaking countries.
It will also launch online medical services in Japan that will include doctor consultations with SoftBank Group in the second quarter. SoftBank has invested in Good Doctor and the two formed a healthcare joint venture last year. “As countries including Indonesia and Japan learn from China’s experience in dealing with the outbreak, I hope their local governments will support the online health industry as the Chinese government has done,” Wang said.
Longer-term, Good Doctor is looking to gradually proceed with plans formed with Grab to expand within Southeast Asia in countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, he added.
(Reporting by Yingzhi Yang in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)