This Australian startup makes finding a doctor as easy as booking a hotel


Waiting is taboo. We’re not used to it anymore. The norm online is that we can find what we want, when we want it. But although this experience is true for many industries, there are still markets that have not entirely transitioned to the instant economy. These industries tend to be hamstrung by legacy protocols and a de-emphasis on information transparency. One example is the healthcare industry, which is underpinned by a fragmented process to connect patients and practitioners. There is an absence of an efficient and uniform curation process.

HealthEngine is an Australian startup that is hoping to bridge this disconnect.

Founded in 2006 by Dr. Marcus Tan and Adam Yap, the online platform helps patients “book health appointments 24/7” by connecting them with qualified practitioners. It aims to facilitate a holistic experience for patients by including specialized providers and practices from an expanding range of disciplines. Currently, it caters for appointments in health verticals such as general practice, dentistry, psychology and physiotherapy among others.

But before becoming a multidisciplinary marketplace, HealthEngine started as a directory. It was born out of personal necessity for Dr. Tan. In my conversation with the Australian co-founder, he described the difficulties he faced as a general practitioner in the industry. “As a GP, I was trying to find GPs to refer my patients to… At that time, there was no way of getting that information. I was really looking to build a product that I was happy to use to solve a problem that I had as a GP.”

The startup initially focused on building a search directory that aggregated health professionals but evolved a booking feature to accommodate for an increasing demand. “Directories were gaining traction, but we needed to know how to sustain it… [we built] a scheduling service to surface up that availability.” Tan went on to explain that this growth continued to form the basis for today’s marketplace. “It created a marketplace. We had demand and supply. We now see ourselves as the national marketplace of providers and patients because we’re facilitating that connection.”

As a marketplace, the platform’s efficacy relies on the simultaneous engagement of the demand and supply side. These two types of users are patients and practitioners respectively.

For HealthEngine, the psychology that drives engaged user behavior is underpinned by simplification.

Through the lens of patients, the individuals demanding health services, there is a preference for having their requests satisfied with speed. This is driven by an on-demand economy that has been conditioned to expect instant gratification. We are inclined to value companies that fulfill our requests for products, services or information faster.

HealthEngine allows patients to make appoints 24/7

For HealthEngine, Tan believes this applies to how the platform facilitates faster health appointment books. “From a patient perspective, we are an app that makes their life easier. It’s a seamless experience being able to book in without having to cue up. It’s convenient, it’s easy, it’s simple.”

Patients are encouraged to use the platform because of the ease with which the startup enables this connection. The psychology here mirrors the motivations of consumers choosing to shop online because of the increased optionality and decreased to wait. Tan refers to his platform as “reflecting other aspects of your consumer life.”

In addition, there is a strong role simplification plays for practitioners as well. Currently, health professionals rely on marketing methods such as paid advertising and organic word of mouth to increase their client base. There appears a dearth of scalable and targeted marketing mediums. Tan describes HealthEngine as also addressing the challenges faced by the supply side of the health market. “From the practitioner side, we are now being found as a marketing tool if you want to connect to more patients in the same way that allow more people to book hotel appointments.”

By aiming to add value to both sides of the marketplace, HealthEngine has built a strong following over the past decade. There are “1.1 million people using the site a month and 50-60 thousand new users a month.” Coupled with this, the platform currently “connects 15,000 practitioners, who work out of 4,000 practices around Australia” and have facilitated “8 million bookings since starting.” But the vision for Health Engine is bigger according to Tan, who believes that the Perth-based startup has the potential to further improve the insights it can provide to the healthcare system as a whole. We generate a lot of data and we can share insights and provide targeted data. We’re moving into a SaaS model where we are providing more features adding service to a practice in terms of analytics, bookings etc.”

The healthcare industry has been traditionally splintered. When patients need to find practitioners with specific qualifications, evaluating and comparing the options has been cumbersome. When practitioners want to market themselves to more patients, they have been hamstrung by a lack of efficient communication.

HealthEngine hopes to change the status quo for both sides of the healthcare industry using the simple tools of aggregation and simplification.

Leave a Reply