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We Doctor (Guahao)

  Hangzhou,   Website
PITCH
China’s most funded medtech startup offers comprehensive health-related services/products and "online hospitals" via its apps. Links city doctors with local physicians, reforming rural healthcare.
WHY?

Healthcare inefficiencies, abuses

Chinese hospitals are notoriously overcrowded, understaffed. Scalpers obtain registration slots, reselling them to desperate patients.

Supportive central policies

China’s RMB 850 billion 10-year healthcare reform plan includes digitization of hospitals, real-name registration.

Unequal medical resources allocation

Most good doctors are found in first-tier cities. Elsewhere, patients have difficulty accessing quality healthcare.

MARKET

US$26 billion

Forecast digital healthcare market in China in 2017

In the first half of 2015, China’s mobile health startups attracted US$800 million in investments. There were more than 2,000 such platforms in China that year.

PRODUCT
Approved by China’s health authorities, Guahao’s digital platform (apps, website) offers online hospitals, medical insurance, a specialist database, appointments for public hospitals, e-prescriptions, test reports, payments, online follow-up, and more. A separate app for doctors links big-city specialists with local physicians, boosting resource-sharing, remote consultation and diagnosis via the Internet.
Approved by China’s health authorities, Guahao’s digital platform (apps, website) offers online hospitals, medical insurance, a specialist database, appointments for public hospitals, e-prescriptions, test reports, payments, online follow-up, and more. A separate app for doctors links big-city specialists with local physicians, boosting resource-sharing, remote consultation and diagnosis via the Internet.
BUSINESS MODEL
Boosted by its Tencent/WeChat partnership, Guahao quickly attracted many users and gained market dominance. Its supply side comprises hospitals and individual doctors. It offers a full range of online and offline products (insurance, pharmacy, online hospitals, etc.), creating a diversified, steady income stream. Its biggest asset remains its government backing.

Read more

Guahao is approved by the central health authorities, which helps it to open and build local government “guanxi” (connections), penetrate hospital networks, and attract big investments.
 
Healthcare was the only internet sector untouched by BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent – China’s Internet “Holy Trinity”) when Guahao founder Liao Jieyuan created his business in 2010. “The low-hanging fruit had already been picked,” explained Guahao’s executive director and investor John Wu (Wu Jiong).

TIMELINE

  • Launch
  • Growth
  • Recent Developments
  • Future Plans
  • 2010 - A frustrating time at Chinese hospitals and new public policy led Liao Jieyuan to found Guahao.com; raised Series A financing.

    Read in detail:

    The launch

    2010, Liao spent nine months taking his newborn nephew to top hospitals in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Fujian for treatment.

    • It was a painful experience – the long queues and waiting time faced by anxious, suffering patients and their family – made him realize that the healthcare system seriously needed to change.
    • “I think that it was very wrong. There should be some changes in hospital services. The first breakthrough I came up with was registration – moving it to websites.”
    • Many of his friends were pessimistic about his new business plan, saying hospitals were a closed sector. But Liao pressed ahead: “Ignorance made me brave at that time. I just knew I had this strong urge to change the situation.”
    • Hence Guahao.com was founded as his new business, providing IT systems and services for hospitals.
    Products and services

    Liao heard that Shanghai Fudan University’s famous Huashan Hospital wanted to set up a real-name registration service, but lacked IT resources. Liao pressed repeatedly to be given a chance to develop an online system for Huashan, for free.

    • Finally, he was given 5% of registration users as a trial. Guahao’s system proved much faster, more convenient – the hospital management hence increased its share to 50%.

    Set up call center (500 lines) for patients, especially the elderly who preferred phone registration (than using the Internet).

    • Calls exceeded 2.1 million in one month.
    • Liao obtained the help of the Health Department, coordinating with telcos: Guahao was made a public service platform, given a capacity of 3,000 lines.
    Fundings

    December, finished Series A financing of US$22 million by Fenghe Fund Management and Cybernaut Investments

    Key personnel

    John Wu (Wu Jiong), former CTO of Alibaba Group, joined Guahao as senior consultant and investor (later executive director). Wu is also the founder and chairman of Fenghe Fund Management.

    • This marked the start of Guahao’s relationship with Alibaba; both are Hangzhou-based.
    Policy changes

    China launched its RMB 850 billion healthcare reform plan in April 2009. Part of it required Class III (top tier) hospitals to implement a real-name registration service.

    • To see a doctor at Chinese hospitals, patients must first register or “guahao” (literally, “get a number” – hence the name Guahao.com).
    • Class III hospitals – the best in the country – attract the longest queues – and ticket scalpers who register first, then sell their numbers to highest bidders. Real-name registration solves this problem.
  • 2011 - Expanded rapidly in Class III hospitals, served 6.5 million one-time users but had no income; Liao funneled RMB 170 million of his own funds into Guahao.

    Read in detail:

    Expansion

    All Fudan-affiliated Class III hospitals outsourced part of registration needs to Guahao. By year-end, all Class III-A hospitals in Shanghai had linked to Guahao.

    Challenges

    Company finances were straining – each registration cost RMB 10 but as a public service project, Guahao was not allowed to charge patients.

    During 2010–2012, zero revenue; Liao invested RMB 170 million of his own money.

  • 2012 - Raised Series B financing from Morningside Ventures; number of one-time users reached 28 million.

    Read in detail:

    Fundings

    January, 8-digit USD Series B financing from Morningside Ventures.

  • 2013 - Launched Guahao app; failed to break into Beijing market, but found its profit model. Served 72 million one-time users. Major staff departures; split from Alibaba.

    Read in detail:

    Products and services

    Early 2013, launched app that allowed appointment time to be personalized according to doctors’ habits, seriousness of cases, etc. This shortened waiting time.

    • App linked to hospitals’ payment system – allowing one-stop payment; patients only needed to connect their bank card or Alipay (China’s most popular online payment service, by Alibaba).

    July, Liao found the profit model for Guahao – Taikang Life Insurance contacted Guahao for partnership; jointly launched “Taikang Three Treasures”.

    • Taikang customers gained Guahao’s health management service, direct payment by insurer (previously via reimbursement); Guahao gained users from Taikang’s customer base.

    More health-related supporting services launched – e.g., patients going to Beijing or Shanghai for treatment get doctor recommendations based on medical history, air-ticketing, accommodation, car pickup, etc.

    Sinopharm and other licensed online pharmacies also partnered with Guahao to provide medicine for non-local patients suffering from chronic illnesses.

    Challenges

    April, major staff changes, reshuffle – departure of top managers including CTO Tang Zhengrong; one-third of staff, about 100, let go. (It was reported that investors, top managers were losing faith because the profit model was still unclear.)

    Failed attempt to break into Beijing market – Guahao had partnered Alibaba’s e-retailer Taobao in May to provide hospital registration services to Taobao users.

    • They were stopped by the Beijing Health Department, which said the registration platform could not be used for commercial gains.

    Cracks also began appearing in Guahao-Alibaba relationship.

    • Liao later told the media it was Guahao who had taught Alibaba the business of mobile healthcare, but Alibaba ended up creating its own “Future Hospital”, thinking Alipay could do anything and everything – turning Guahao into a competitor. “Thus the partnership could no longer continue.”
  • 2014 - US$106.5 million Series C funding by Tencent; start of Guahao’s partnership with Tencent/WeChat, spurring rapid market expansion.

    Read in detail:

    Products and services

    June, Guahao’s app was renamed “We Doctor” after partnering Tencent, which launched the “We Doctor Platform”.

    • Tencent to use Guahao to promote its WeChat Pay (whose results have been disappointing vs. Alipay).
    Expansion

    Guahao would gain users from Tencent’s QQ, WeChat; both now directly linked to We Doctor. (1Q15 monthly active users: QQ – 832 million; WeChat – 549 million).

    • Offered RMB 5 “gift” (“hongbao”) for every use of We Doctor app by QQ, WeChat users.
    Fundings

    October, US$106.5 million in Series C funding led by Tencent, participated by Fosun Capital, Morningside Ventures and Qiming Ventures.

    • Valuation exceeded US$600 million – the highest in mobile healthcare sector.
  • 2015 - Launched app for doctors and China's first online hospital, raised US$394 million in Series D financing; clinched Fosun Pharmaceutical partnership; renamed "We Doctor Group".

    Read in detail:

    Products and services

    March, launched We Doctor Group app – platform for 300,000 doctors from different regions collaborating in 5,000 specialized teams offering online, offline treatments.

    • Local doctors are supported by top specialists from big city hospitals – so patients can get suitable treatment locally, no longer need to travel far for famous doctors.
    • Big city hospitals can avoid overcrowding; small local hospitals, often underused, can gain patients – reducing waste of resources.
    • Top participating specialists include “National physician master” dermatologist Xuan Guowei, Chinese Academy of Engineering member and ophthalmologist Professor Xie Lixin, “China’s No. 1 neurosurgeon” Professor Li Yongjie of Beijing Xuanwu Hospital.

    September, renamed the company as “We Doctor Group”.

    December, established China’s first online hospital, Wu.gov.cn, in Wuzhen (a town near its HQ in Hangzhou).

    Expansion

    February, entered strategic cooperation with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical in pharmaceutical e-commerce, medical services.

    Fundings

    September, finished Series D financing of US$394 million by Hillhouse Capital, Fosun Pharma and Goldman Sachs.

    • Guahao’s valuation exceeded US$1.5 billion.
  • 2016 - Finished Series E financing; launched China’s first healthcare saving, insurance services; built internet medical closed loop.

    Read in detail:

    Products and services

    December, launched the first ACO (Accountable Care Organization) model in China to provide healthcare saving services and medical insurance to its individual members, family members and corporate members.

    Fundings

    January, raised US$20 million from Shandong Tianye Group.

  • Recent Developments

    Linked to 2,400 major hospitals in 23 provinces, with over 150 million real-name registered users, 260,000 medical experts.

    Guahao has also opened 17 internet hospitals across China, providing online medical services and remote consultation. These online hospitals promote medical resource sharing, bringing quality resources and services to primary-level hospitals that used to lack them.


  • Future Plans

    Open internet hospitals across 32 provinces in China.

    Build a collaborative working and case-sharing network that connects medical institutions in different tiers.

Updated: 12/2016
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