Ayala on the lookout for more health care investments

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AC Health is considering opening FamilyDOC, its chain of primary care clinics for franchising, particularly for expansion outside Metro Manila and parts of Southern Luzon. Photo shows FamilyDOC branch in Brgy. San Roque, Pateros. --

By Anna Gabriela A. Mogato

AYALA Healthcare Holdings, Inc. (AC Health) continues to be on the lookout for new investments, particularly in hospitals, financing and health technology.

“Demand for better health care services remains high, and we are expanding to serve more customers and patients. At the same time, we are also actively looking for new investments to integrate without our portfolio,” AC Health President and Chief Executive Officer Paolo Maximo F. Borromeo was quoted as saying in a statement.

In particular, Mr. Borromeo said AC Health is eyeing investments in hospitals and financing, a move that would complement its existing retail health portfolio which includes Generika Drugstore, FamilyDOC and MedGrocer.

“We see many potential synergies with hospitals and financing. Moving forward, we want to offer a full continuum of quality health care… Health financing would be a key enabler to ensure access to these services,” he said.

In a roundtable interview in Makati City on Saturday, Mr. Borromeo said the company is also looking to boost the use of technology in health care.

He said AC Health is planning to introduce a mobile integrated health care solution where users can access lab results, search for old prescriptions, and contact doctors.

Actimed, Inc. Vice-President for Operations Jay F. Ferrer, who represents Generika Drugstore, said part of the mobile venture is to connect patients with medical professionals, which they plan to “launch hopefully very soon.”

“This is basically what we will call ‘virtual pharmacist’ so it allows you to talk to a pharmacist face-to-face or via chat, or by voice, calling anytime of the day but preferably during working hours when we launch it… They can address your needs that you might have,” Mr. Ferrer said during the same roundtable interview.

However, Mr. Ferrer noted the biggest challenge for this service is Internet access.

“Because it’s easy to go outside but technology becomes useless when you have poor Internet connection. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that and with the help of the government also become a better service so that even if you can’t stand, you can’t leave your house, there’s still a chance for you to speak to a doctor,” he said.

In February, Ayala’s health care unit invested in start-up Wellbridge Health, Inc., the owner and operator of MedGrocer. MedGrocer provides customers a platform to place online orders for medicines certified by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), which will be delivered directly to them.

Meanwhile, Mr. Borromeo said AC Health is also considering opening FamilyDOC, its chain of primary care clinics for franchising, particularly for expansion outside Metro Manila and parts of Southern Luzon.

At present, FamilyDOC has 15 sites in the cities of Cavite, Las Piñas, Parañaque and Pateros.

There are plans to open 50 FamilyDOC clinics by next year — where sites in Taguig and Pasig City are already confirmed — and 100 clinics by 2020.

Generika Drugstore, which partnered with AC Health in 2015, is targeting to have 1,000 branches within the next three years. Each branch will serve as a three-in-one facility which includes a pharmacy, laboratory and clinic.

Mr. Ferrer said Generika developed a new store format, Health & Wellness Store, located in Signal Village, Taguig. The branch also features a doctor’s clinic under the FamilyDOC Express pilot project of Generika and FamilyDOC.

FamilyDOC General Manager Raymund Paul H. Darroca said the company is also planning to expand its family medicine practice to include obstetrics.