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The cost of healthcare in Australia continues to rise, thanks to an ageing population, an increasingly sedentary workforce, inactivity as convenience food and shopping are delivered to our door and more and more screen time.

Figures back up the growing cost of healthcare in this country. One report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates $185 billion was spent on health in the 2017/18 financial year, which equates to an annual cost of $7,485 a person.

Back in 2000/2001, Australians spent $91 billion on health, after adjusting for inflation, an average growth rate of 4.3 per cent a year. Taking into account population growth, per person spending has increased an average of 2.7 per cent a year over the period in real terms, with no signs of this abating.

As spending on health has risen, so too has the range of services patients can access. Doctor Care Anywhere is one of a number of overseas health services businesses that now operate in our market. It launched its services in Australia after raising $113.4 million on ASX in two tranches. A November 2020 initial public offering (IPO) raised $102 million followed by a further $11.4 million capital raise in February 2022.

“The two capital raisings achieved different objectives,” says Dr Bayju Thakar, CEO of Doctor Care Anywhere. “The first raising gave the company the firepower to better serve our current patients with a broader range of services and execute our growth plans.

“It supported the substantial growth we’re experiencing, with quarterly consultations and revenue for the 2021 full year up more than 100 per cent. This raise also allowed us to acquire Tasmania’s online doctor service GP2U as well, which allowed us meet the huge demand for our telehealth services.” This year’s capital raising was executed to underpin continued growth and facilitate the implementation of a new operating model. On current numbers, Doctor Care Anywhere is expected to be profitable on an EBITDA basis by the end of the first half of its 2023 financial year.

Opening up operations here two years ago, Doctor Care Anywhere Group PLC is the local Doctor Care Anywhere’s parent. The UK telehealth company delivers quality care to patients, while reducing the overall cost of providing clinical services.

It now delivers 50,000 consultations a month in the UK, a 100 per cent increase from the time of the IPO. Doctor Care Anywhere operates a joint venture with AXA Health which it formed prior to arriving in Australia.

Dr Bayju Thakar, Doctor Care Anywhere

"We see significant opportunities to grow national mental health and GP telehealth services." 

Opening new markets

It was a natural progression for Doctor Care Anywhere to expand from the UK into Australia.

“For a start, there are a lot of similarities between the UK and Australia in terms of patient health needs and in our clinical workforces,” Thakar says. “We see significant opportunities to grow national mental health and GP telehealth services in Australia. We will focus on the evergrowing mental health burden in Australia, particularly in rural and remote areas.”

The GP2U acquisition was an important milestone for the business. It gives Doctor Care Anywhere a platform on which to build its presence in the Australian market and further expand its international business. It will give GP2U the support it needs to make a real difference in helping patients, particularly those in rural and remote regions. 

Australia has a unique system of Commonwealth government-funded medical services provided through Medicare. But, there’s a limit to the care local hospitals can provide. With the proportion of the population comprised of over 65s forecast to reach 21 per cent by 2023, pressure on the health care system will only continue to rise.

Chronic disease is also escalating, as is the cost of medical research and innovations. So, health care providers are working out how best to address these challenges and also make the most of emerging health technologies and health data, being mindful of ethics.

“Our business model is one of our key competitive differentiators,” says Thakar. “We use our technology platform to provide connected care across the patient journey. A patient enters Doctor Care Anywhere’s treatment pathway through a virtual consultation with one of the company’s GPs.”

Guided by clinical decision support tools, a GP may organise diagnostic tests through a national network of diagnostic centres, specialist consultant reviews of the results and provide ongoing clinical management. This may also facilitate specialist care and intervention when appropriate. All of this is stored in a single electronic health record.

“Our integrated online and offline services is how we differentiate ourselves. It’s all about providing continuity of care for our patients, not just writing scripts,” he adds.

With a growing need for private sector care around the world, Doctor Care Anywhere aims to continue its global expansion. It wants to partner with existing medical service providers, to support government health programs and improve their output.

“The structural change to virtual GP services that was underway well before the pandemic is now being sustained as we emerge from COVID. Virtual GP services makes things better and cheaper for patients and eliminates inefficiencies for doctors,” says Thakar.

“All health systems around the world have their challenges and require locally designed business and operating models. But some problems are universal, such as poor access to medical services, supply side constraints, fragmented patient journeys, perverse incentives and an opaque system. Our online to offline expertise and track record reducing costs and connecting health pathways means we are able to provide potential solutions and expertise for these challenges. That’s why we see huge growth potential over the medium and long term internationally. We are just getting started,” he said.

The future patient seeks mobile medical services that can provide quick, professional and reliable service on their doorstep. Doctor Care Anywhere is capitalising on a burgeoning demand.

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