COVER sits down with HealthHero CEO Ranjan Singh to discuss the firm's recent expansion, digital healthcare evolution and the convergence of protection and healthcare
Ranjan Singh, co-founder of digital healthcare provider HealthHero, is a successful entrepreneur with more than 20 years in business. After building a highly regarded career in the travel industry as an executive at Expedia and managing director at ebookers, he set up his own successful online company isango!, which was sold to Tui following a period of nearly 100% year on year growth.
After he joined Penta Investments - a large private equity firm with significant interest in healthcare - Singh's journey into the digital health space came about in 2014 once he spotted what he describes as a "very exciting" opportunity with "the healthcare sector poised to go through a fundamental change owing to digital".
"There was a lot of innovation happening, but no dominant company established yet," he tells COVER. Singh decided to build a platform that made getting access to a doctor as simple and as painless as booking a taxi or ordering a delivery. The seed was planted and Singh joined forces with Marcol, which owned Medical Solutions, and co-founded HealthHero.
I think protection insurance has been driving innovation. The sector was one of the first adopters of this service.
In November 2020, Medical Solutions was rebranded as HealthHero and the firm has since acquired digital triage provider DoctorLink and Irish telehealth firm MyClinic as part of its ongoing expansion globally. An employee mental health support service has been launched and earlier this week, it partnered with not-for-profit Testing For All to offer home-administered Covid-19 swab tests, as it continues to broaden its holistic healthcare offering in partnership with insurance providers.
In light of HealthHero's recent expansion as a business and the Covid-19 pandemic bringing digital healthcare to the forefront more so than ever before, COVER caught up with Ranjan to discuss evolution in context of protection and health insurance.
What is the overall vision of the Health Hero brand and how is its approach to healthcare unique?
What we are about is a simple, but in my opinion, very compelling proposition. It's about bringing together human expertise with digital convenience. If you seek convenience [when it comes to medical advice] it manifests in the form of Dr. Google. You come [away] more worried - every headache turns out to be a tumour. Then you have the real doctors who have the authority expertise and training, but accessing that real doctor can be very hard. [The process is] full of friction. So our raison d'etre is to bring these two things together - holistic expertise and seamless digital access. Not just phone and video - that's nothing special - but more sophisticated, digital access and as you choose it, when you choose it, how you choose it
How is healthcare changing and evolving in your eyes and how is Covid shaping this?
Healthcare has had this issue for a very long time - people are living longer, they want better service but there's no money to pay for it. The only way to tackle this structural issue is to make delivery of healthcare more efficient and more effective. Digital and tech had to be used for this. Pre-Covid there was a heavy lack of adoption of this. It's a matter of habit, patients seeing doctors in person, so to change this habit on the patient side, doctor side and provider side was huge. Covid just forced that change and now patients are going, ‘Wow why did I ever go to my doctor?' It's so much more convenient and equally as effective. Doctors are [seeing that] it's not that difficult. Provider networks, the NHS, insurers and others now need to build this into their standard operating architecture. Covid is a miserable thing to have happened, but if there is one positive that has come out of it, it's the adoption of more efficient ways of delivering healthcare.
Where is there most opportunity to innovate in the digital health tech space, and why?
The first step of enabling two people to talk to each other remotely was useful as it at least took that friction away from a patient perspective. But from a clinician's perspective, they still had to spend the same amount of time [on appointments]. So to take it to the next level, we needed to make a structural, fundamental difference to the delivery of healthcare; by optimising clinical capacity - making the same clinical resource do things more efficiently in less time. That's where our tools come in. Our online triage tool can engage the patient nicely, ask a number of questions and capture all of that information and it even provides a summary with some rare conditions highlighted. So it makes the consultation more efficient. It takes less time but is also more effective. In some cases it may be better to send a questionnaire and wait for a response [if the patient would prefer not] to talk to a doctor. Or it could be even more discreet and they can just use a chat facility rather than be on the phone or video.
We are providing all those tools to fundamentally alter how healthcare is consumed and delivered. What you want, where you want it, how you want it. When you go to your mental health counsellor, they have no idea what your GP has said about you or what your physio has said about you, and the other way round. Ultimately these are all connected. One of the most revealing stats is that one of the biggest sources or causes of depression is lower back pain. People might not realise musculoskeletal and mental health is connected but it is. Our approach is to make a more holistic offering with a unified view of our user, and if they are engaged with our platform then we can have a more holistic view of that patient and serve them better.
How can the role of digital healthcare influence the future of protection and health insurance?
Fundamentally, what is digital healthcare? It can remove the friction out of accessing healthcare and it gives speedy and convenient access to medical advice and support. Also there's a lot of stuff in there which if used properly can help ensure prevention is better than cure. If the protection insurance sector embraces digital healthcare, and they are embracing it by the way, then they can use it very effectively not only to add value to their customers but also to fundamentally support their business, especially with life insurance and group income protection where the right interventions can help reduce claims. We see this as a really good marriage between what we do and protection insurance.
What's holding back innovation in the protection and health insurance space and how can HealthHero help overcome these challenges?
To be fair, I think protection insurance has been driving innovation. The sector was one of the first adopters of this service. Today the sector sees it as a benefit. I would like to see them adopting it as more of a core offering, marrying user experience with cost and process efficiency. This is where I feel the magic happens. And we can work with the sector to enable them [to do this]. We can sit around the table with key clients and go through how we can bring this together. We are more than happy to be bespoke and tailor it. We can come together and create something compelling.