Telehealth Startup Aims to Revolutionise Healthcare in Cambodia

MeetDoctor makes healthcare services more accessible nationwide, providing services at affordable costs.
A person uses a phone in front of Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital. Picture: Sam
A person uses a phone in front of Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital. Picture: Sam

A telehealth startup is using technology as a tool to make medical care more accessible for individuals at affordable costs.

MeetDoctor is the brainchild of 27-year-old Nit Buntongyi, a Major in medicine from Stung Treng. He came up with the idea after visiting the United States and discovering how accessible the healthcare system is there for individuals who have difficulty accessing services.

Nit Buntongyi speaks at a ceremony in 2021 at Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology. Picture: CADT
Nit Buntongyi speaks at a ceremony in 2021 at Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology. Picture: CADT

In 2018, MeetDoctor was nothing more than an idea. After participating in a school program and many competitions, including Smart Spark, he and his team decided to turn the idea into telehealth, which is currently MeetDoctor.

MeetDoctor is a digital platform that connects patients with doctors in Cambodia who specialize in various fields. It also offers a variety of services, including online consultations, medicine delivery, and home lab testing.

People can access MeetDoctor via its website, Telegram, and Facebook.

“Our initial purpose is to assist individuals living in the provinces to see professionals whenever and wherever they are needed,” he said. “Additionally, MeetDoctor wishes to promote digital medical knowledge to our doctors in order to develop their digital skills.”

Telehealth has previously existed throughout Asia and Europe. Despite many firms executing electronic medical records for document preservation, telemedicine has not yet been realized in Cambodia, he said.

“As there is still a deficiency, we want to improve it,” he said.

With simply a concept, he found it difficult to get started as it requires the involvement of doctors, patients, and institutions. As technology was so poor at that time, and they had never experienced telehealth, most doctors were uninterested, he said.

“They said they didn’t like it and didn’t want to participate,” he added. “Also, I am young and have no background in business. This is an obstacle.”

As telemedicine proved effective for his father, it inspired him to overcome the challenges. According to his personal experiences, his dad couldn't move as he was sick and had skin disorders. It was hard as his father was in Stung Treng, which was far from Phnom Penh.

“I attempted to find the doctor, but it was tough,” he said. “So, I sent the images and video to Japanese specialists, and they diagnosed it. My dad recovered from his illness after we treated him.”

MeetDoctor currently offers 18 specialisations, ranging from internal medicine to brain surgery. Dermatologists, psychiatrists, and internists are three of the top specialisations.

“It’s popular as it seems to be the most effective,” he said. “They can obtain treatment and recover without having to leave their homes to go to the hospital.”

One of MeetDoctor's psychiatrists, Sy Rato, said that online consultations make healthcare services more accessible to the general population. People may consult from anywhere as long as they have access to the internet and mobile phones. Since MeetDoctor is truly beneficial to individuals, he decided to be a part of it.

“It makes consultation go by more quickly. Whether or not professionals and patients meet, you may get effective and high-quality mental health counseling services anywhere,” he said. “So, MeetDoctor allows me to treat someone who does not have access to a hospital.”

Since February 2021, MeetDoctor has received more than 30,000 patients. Most of the patients are from Phnom Penh as they have more access to the internet and understand telehealth, Buntongyi said.

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According to the Market Analysis Report, the South East Asia telehealth market size was valued at $194.5 million in 2020, and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 17.6% from 2021 to 2028.

Increased penetration of the internet and the constant evolution of smartphones and tablets have made accessing telehealth services more convenient and are expected to contribute to growing demand.

Buntongyi said that besides focusing on telehealth and making it affordable, he wants to open an Artificial Intelligence clinic in the future and become more engaged with health services and providers, including physicians, nurses, and medicine.

“Anyone can access and find a solution from doctors at the AI clinic,” he said.