A long-standing darling of the Hang Seng, Oliver Wang, chief executive of Ping An Good Doctor, talks about the challenges that the company has faced with the Coronavirus, how it is working with local authorities and his broader strategy for expansion in Asia
The annual figures from Ping An Good Doctor – released in late February – were impressive. The largest healthcare platform in China, but listed in Hong Kong, reported a 52% bump in revenues to Rmb5.065bn (US$720m) while the company’s core business of online medical services saw growth of 109% to Rmb858m.
The company remains a stock market darling. Over the last year, its shares have returned just over 108%.
But the company has won broader plaudits too for the way that it has handled the Coronavirus problem. As an online doctor, it is perhaps not surprising that it saw a tenfold jump in the number of new registered users every day between January 22 and February 6. But what the company did then was to provide free online and telephone consultations to a public that was worried about the deadly virus.
Chief executive of Ping An Good Doctor is Oliver Wang. Named one of Jack Ma’s ‘Five Tiger Generals’ in his early days at Alibaba, as president of Alibaba Software he oversaw the company become one of China’s best-known online software operators and the SaaS vendor with the largest market share and most registered users in the country.
In 2013, Wang joined Ping An and from March 2014 to June 2016, he served as chairman and chief executive officer of Ping An Health Insurance. At the same time, Wang led a team of internet experts to create Ping An Health Cloud, where he was the chairman and CEO and established Ping An Good Doctor – in only one year.
The growth of Good Doctor has been unstoppable. In April 2016, it raised US$500m Series A funding round of financing giving the company a value of US$3bn. And it took a pre-IPO investment of US$400m from Masayoshi Son’s Softbank Vision Fund in December the following year before listing in May 2018.
Cornerstone investors were a who’s who of international investors: Blackrock, Capital Group, GIC, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Khazanah Nasional, Swiss Re and CP Group.
But it is a sign of how the company is regarded that the public tranche of the company’s initial public offering was oversubscribed 658 times.
The following transcript of HMi’s interview with Oliver Wang has been edited for brevity and clarity.
HMi How has Ping An Good Doctor reacted to the Coronavirus outbreak?
OW We believe our online medical services are our core business and future growth driver. During the novel Coronavirus outbreak, online consultation has become the best choice for users for medical treatment due to the advantages of no contact and no cross-infection. Online consultation of Ping An Good Doctor has also played an important role in the fight against the epidemic.
In tackling the epidemic, Ping An Good Doctor is fully using the advantage of its online healthcare services, given that it requires no contact and face-to-face interaction and offers the public health guidance through its free consultation hotlines and online consultations. A thousand of our doctors voluntarily gave up their Chinese New Year vacation and worked around the clock to provide services at the forefront of online consultations.
We have joined hands with 56 provinces, municipalities and local governments including Wuhan, Fujian, Beijing and Chongqing, to provide real-time online consultation services for novel Coronavirus-infected pneumonia. The company has set up free anti-epidemic consultation hotlines and have been providing consultation for novel Coronavirus-infected pneumonia, as well as guidance on prevention of epidemic diseases spread.
In addition, Ping An Good Doctor has collaborated with more than 30 leading enterprises including Baidu, WeChat Work, Pinduoduo, Meituan Dianping, Kuaishou, Weibo, Moji Weather, Zhihu, Ximalaya, Gaotie Guanjia and so on, to export 24-hour online consultation services, forming a more extensive service network to offer help and guidance to more members of the public.
During the epidemic, the visits to the platform of Ping An Good Doctor reached 1.11 billion, new registered users increased tenfold, the daily consultation by new users was nine times as high as usual, and the cumulative views of relevant videos exceeded 98 million.
Meanwhile, the epidemic has largely increased people’s acceptance of online healthcare, considerably shortening the user education cycle and accelerating users’ shift from offline health care to online, in the same way that the unexpected 2003 SARS outbreak prompting Chinese people to develop the habit of online shopping. The epidemic has also, objectively, created greater opportunities for our online consultation business, as well as for China’s online healthcare industry as a whole.
HMi Would it be fair to describe you as a data company as much as a healthcare company?
OW Ping An Good Doctor is an online healthcare services platform. The nature of our business determines that we hold a lot of user data.
We attach great importance to online information safety and protecting our customers’ privacy. We strictly comply with national laws and regulations. We have established a sound information security management system, sorted out the internal staff’s right to use customer information, strengthened the monitoring of user information usage behaviour within the company, and protected customer data from being leaked.
Our stringent data protection is also recognised by [stock market index provider] MSCI. Ping An Good Doctor was awarded its first ESG rating by MSCI. The rating result was BBB, which was at the same level as Ping An Group, Alibaba and Tencent. MSCI considered that compared with its industry peers, Ping An Good Doctor implemented stronger measures for data privacy and safety and could better regulatory manage risks related to the safety of its information.
OW On one hand, Ping An Good Doctor combines the advantages of our services such as our online platform, online medical consultations and AI-based medical system with the government’s offline health resources to build online hospital service platforms, resolving people’s difficulties and troubles relating to seeking medical diagnosis and consultations.
For example, in December 2019, we collaborated with the health commission of Fuzhou, Fujian Province to develop an online hospital service platform for Fuzhou City. Since the platform was launched, Fuzhou residents can enjoy services such as online follow-up, prescription renewal for chronic illness and medicine purchase and collection through the internet by logging in to the platform with their registered social security card. This is China’s first actual regional online hospital services platform.
The government and industry players are actively exploring and steadily pushing the development of ‘internet + healthcare’ especially after the outbreak of the current Covid-19 epidemic. The central and regional governments are scrambling to introduce guidelines and policies to encourage online medical consultation. In its recently issued guidance, the National Health Commission requested ‘full utilisation of the unique advantages of online hospitals and medical consultations and encourage the introduction of online follow-up consultations for common and chronic diseases and drug delivery service’. These policies recognise and encourage the role of online healthcare in combating the epidemic. This majorly benefits Ping An Good Doctor as it brings more cooperation opportunities for our online medical business.
HMi You have traditionally focused on the domestic market, but you have rolled out your doctor’s AI assistant in Singapore and have launched a video consultation service with BDMS in Thailand. What is your strategy for Asia?
OW The world is facing a shortage of high-quality healthcare resources. The offline public healthcare system cannot meet people’s growing demand for healthcare services. We believe that internet healthcare is an effective solution to this problem. Therefore, while focusing on domestic markets, we export our technological strengths and internet healthcare experience to overseas markets, working with local partners to provide local residents with efficient and high-quality online healthcare services.
Our joint venture with Grab, the largest online-to-offline internet company in Southeast Asia, officially launched an online healthcare service platform in Indonesia in the fourth quarter of last year, promising to serve nearly 300 million Indonesian users with services such as online diagnosis, drug delivery, online health mall, and offline appointment to create the largest internet healthcare ecosystem in Southeast Asia.
In 2019, we established another joint venture with Softbank Group, Japan’s largest telecommunications company, and launched an online healthcare service platform in Japan at the end of the year. The platform offers comprehensive services, covering online consultation, hospital recommendation, health mall, counselling, and corporate health management. Supported by SoftBank’s strong local network and market influence, the joint venture will build a one-stop Internet healthcare platform for 130 million Japanese users.
OW In the second half of 2019, Ping An Good Doctor launched Private Doctor Membership with one-on-one private doctors and renowned doctors from the nation’s top 100 hospitals. Private Doctor Membership will provide users with such all-round active medical and healthcare services as 7×24 online consultation, second-round consultation by renowned doctors, offline clinical arrangement, health management, chronic disease management and so on.
Meanwhile, Ping An Good Doctor has entered into strategic partnership with 29 leading players: China Mobile, BAIC Group, China CITIC Bank, Wyeth Nutrition, China Everbright Bank, Minsheng Life, Pearl River Life, PKU Founder Life to name just a few of them.
The 29 enterprises operate in such industries as banking, insurance, automobile, communications and maternity. In the future, the users of these strategic partners will be able to enjoy Private Doctor Membership’s all-round high-quality and one-stop medical and healthcare service.
After its launch, Private Doctor Membership received wide positive response from users. According to Ping An Good Doctor’s 2019 annual report, the feedback from users of Private Doctor Membership was much higher than the average, reaching a user satisfaction rate of 99.85%.
Its average monthly consultation volume is three times that of ordinary users and the participation rate for health courses is four times that of ordinary users. For users, their doctors have turned from random strangers to acquaintances with a long-term, stable relationship, which is the reason for users’ recognition of Private Doctor Membership services.