By Peter Bateman, Youth Co:Lab
In a world accelerating toward more and more connectivity, a team of youth from Asia-Pacific is harnessing that connection through digital technology to provide healthcare for everyone - healthcare at your fingertips.
Linecare is a South Korea based, youth-led social enterprise, bringing vital medical services to end-users via its mobile application.
‘Our goal is to accelerate the adoption of digital health care and improve its functionality, particularly in Southeast Asia and beyond,’ said CEO of Linecare, Dong Seok ‘Danny’ Oh.
Conventional healthcare delivery systems require patients to travel to a dedicated healthcare facility often concentrated in large cities. While many health issues require treatment in person, consultations, check-ups, and other diagnostics can be done effectively via mobile platforms.
Linecare is developing digital health solutions such as mobile telehealth and cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) measurement tools to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce the costs of traditional healthcare delivery models that prevent many from accessing essential services.
Danny first saw the need to make medical treatment more accessible while on a trip to the Philippines.
‘I am Korean, but when I travelled the Philippines, I faced a lot of health care problems there, and digital health care could have been the right solution. I was sure it could create a social impact in this kind of environment,’ said Danny.
Danny saw the potential in decentralized health care delivery, particularly for helping those inhibited by socio-economic or geographic factors. When he returned from the Philippines to South Korea, he decided to turn the idea into reality, and Linecare was founded in early 2018.
The team decided to focus first on the Philippines a country where access to healthcare for much of the population is limited.
‘Our main focus was product building, team building and fundraising. In 2018, we built the first software with the help of a team in the Philippines, and we partnered with a local (Filipino) hospital to do the pilot tests,’ said Danny.
Results from the pilot test showed the potential of the apps impact on healthcare in the Philippines.
'Linecare app is very useful for me as a doctor. It helps me connect to my patients easily with just a tap on my phone,' said Dr. Serge Aclan, a LineCare pilot tester in Batangas, Philippines.
'In fact, I have seen around 42% increase in the number of patients that I can provide consultation with in a month. And it makes me feel fulfilled to be able to help people who are in need of health services especially during the pandemic, where they fear going out or going to the hospitals.'
Support from the local health worker community gave the team confidence to move forward and look to scale up their solution.
‘After that, we saw some major impacts of our product on local hospitals, but there were lots of things we needed to progress. A year later, we became a part of Youth Co:Lab – a project co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation - and then after with the help of Youth Co:Lab, we were able to reach out to the Philippines government and the private sector.’
‘Because of Youth Co:Lab, Linecare was able to receive proper mentorship from a pool of experts who helped us build our network. Of course, the startups of Youth Co:Lab, which are often showcased in their programmes, inspired us to continue with our work despite the difficulties that we had during the COVID-19 pandemic,’ said Patricia Allhen Marie ‘Pam’ Catu, Strategy Officer for Linecare.
Like most startups in Asia-Pacific, Linecare felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business. However, it highlighted a key issue inherent in most current healthcare models and provided an opportunity for Linecare.
‘It took a pandemic for telehealth and telemedicine to gain momentum,’ said Pam.
‘As a Filipina, I saw how fragmented the healthcare system is, and it was exposed even more because of the pandemic. A lot of Filipinos, I would actually say the majority, have mobile phones, and we communicate through our mobile phones. This was very evident during the lockdown, and so this is an opportunity to make use of our phones in order for us to reach healthcare services.'
In the midst of the pandemic, the team received more attention for its groundbreaking telehealth services, which attracted more investors in South Korea, eager to help the group expand outside the Philippines.
‘Indicators of Linecare success would be solving the problem we are facing in low accessibility to digital health care in the Philippines. If we help to get more people [access to healthcare], that will be an indicator of Linecare’s success,’ said Danny.
‘Of course, revenue could be an indicator, but I think how many people we are helping is the first indicator.’
While the pandemic has impacted the team’s official launch, in 2021, Linecare is targeting 10,000 doctors in Manila to give them access to their digital tools and help patients get teleconsultations.
‘Our vision is health care for everyone not only in the Philippines but other developing countries or any country we want to help people get access to healthcare any time,’ said Danny.
With a renewed focus on health and a spotlight on healthcare delivery systems produced by the impacts of COVID-19 on the world, the Linecare team is ready to connect us all to health care at our fingertips and revolutionize the way people access vital medical treatment.
Connect with Linecare on Facebook and LinkedIn
Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.