Sophie chung connects doctors and patients around the world

 Sophie chung connects doctors and patients around the world

Sophie Chung This founder connects doctors and patients around the world

 Sophie chung connects doctors and patients around the world

The medical professional brings doctors to her patients all over the world. (Credit: Qunomedical)

The physician brings doctors to her patients all over the world.
(Credit: Qunomedical)

Berlin Anyone who emailed Sophie Chung in the middle of this year received a special out-of-office note: "I’m on an expedition in Alaska, hiking to the highest point in North America."She will be quite disconnected – without a laptop, with little oxygen and at minus 30 degrees Celsius. "In case I freeze my nose off, don’t worry," reassures the 34-year-old founder. "Qunomedical offers access to the best doctors in the world."

This pretty much sums up the idea behind her start-up: Qunomedical refers patients to doctors and clinics in Germany and abroad. Either to make cost-intensive interventions affordable also for less solvent customers or to enable a better treatment. A similar model is also pursued by the German start-ups Medigo and Caremondo. However, the latter filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and was sold to Singapore.

The spectrum at Qunomedical ranges from heart valve treatments in Izmir, Turkey, to hair transplants in Poland. Patients come from over 50 countries, clinics and doctors from over 25 countries are now represented on the platform.

Around 7.000 patients request treatments per month. Doctors and clinics pay a placement fee. Investors include Berlin-based venture capitalist Project A and 500 Startups from California. A family office is also one of the backers, but doesn’t want to make a public statement. In the latest round of financing, Qunomedical raises 2.5 million euros.

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Chung’s mission is to create a more equitable health care system. "It can’t be that many people have to wait forever for appointments with doctors or can’t afford certain things in the first place," she says. With her concept she also wants to connect two worlds of her origin.

Doctor with philosophy degree

Chung can’t quite hide her Austrian homeland: Although the founder lives in Berlin and worked for a long time in New York at a start-up for the mediation of medical appointments. She has not lost the typical Linz singsong. If she talks about the Chinese market, she talks about "Kina". Chung is the daughter of two Cambodian refugees. The family looks back on a long tradition as doctors – also for Chung it was always clear that she wanted to exercise this occupation once.

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During her medical studies, she also took courses in philosophy and researched the interaction between Western and Far Eastern medicine: "Both sides have their advantages, which can be combined well – if you only overcome the prejudices on both sides."The holistic approach of traditional Chinese medicine in particular was something that drove her while she was still an emergency room doctor at the hospital.

Shortly after graduating, however, she found herself not in the medical profession, but in management consulting: she worked at McKinsey as a consultant for the healthcare industry – and quickly realized that something had to change. "Medicine is often completely detached from thoughts such as transparency or service, which are becoming increasingly important in the course of digitalization."

And so grew in the doctor the desire to do something about it. She hired on at New York-based startup Zocdoc in 2015 and became the right-hand woman to chief executive and founder Oliver Kharraz. She also wanted to set up something like a mediator for medical appointments in Germany. Finally, the business idea went to medical tourism – and Qunomedical.

Medical tourism market worth billions

The start was not so easy. Finally, the German health care system is not exactly considered the most innovation-friendly, says Chung: "We really had to go through a lot of trouble to get the health insurance companies, for example, to take us seriously." Yet the challenges are great, especially for startups in this market, says Thomas Solbach, partner at Strategy&, PWC’s strategy consulting firm: "The inhibition threshold to go abroad for surgery is high. patients are often uncertain about the quality and safety of treatment, but also, for example, about their rights vis-à-vis doctors and hospitals in other countries."

To prevent black sheep from damaging the start-up’s reputation, Qunomedical therefore also relies on technology, for example: an algorithm evaluates the skills of doctors worldwide, explains the founder: "Criteria such as certifications, training data, but also patient evaluations flow into it." The second step, however, is then always the precise analysis of the team on site.

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Anton Waitz, general partner at Project A, also believes that Chung could succeed in turning the start-up into an established provider: "Sophie is one of the most passionate and energetic founders I have worked with." She combines smart entrepreneurship with a compelling desire to make the world a better place a little better.

Medical tourism is a billion-dollar market: in 2014, PWC put the market volume at around 48 billion dollars. According to an estimate by the U.S. organization "Patients Without Borders," the market is growing by 15 to 25 percent per year.

Health market expert Solbach also predicts further growth – but not only due to increasing cost sensitivity and availability of services: "The digital transformation will change the health market globally." Locations that are particularly far ahead in innovative diagnostics and personalized treatment would benefit all the more from the trend. Patients who could afford it would then look more for quality medicine abroad.

Founder Chung sits in her bustling startup co-working space in Berlin-Mitte and recalls her days as an emergency room doctor. Doesn’t she sometimes miss? But, Chung affirms. Just recently, she and a BBC camera crew accompanied a hair transplant patient in Turkey.

"When the scalp was anesthetized, everyone looked away in fright – I found it totally exciting."Sometimes she still looks longingly at the doctors in hospitals when they disappear into the operating room: "But maybe I’ll go back there again someday."

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