Saturday, June 13, 2009

BTO: Getting the Red Carpet treatment

Business Times - 13 Jun 2009

Getting the Red Carpet treatment

Marketer Peter Seow has started a medical privilege programme for members only. By Cheah Ui-Hoon

A YEAR ago, Peter Seow's 78-year-old father starting needing to go for more doctor's appointments - to keep track of his high blood pressure, diabetes, joints and so on.

Mr Seow and his two brothers took turns to accompany their father to hospital. On one visit, the marketing company chief executive officer took his father for a 10am appointment - only to sit in the waiting room for several hours, until they finally got to see the doctor after lunch.

The long wait snapped Mr Seow's patience. He thought of how much time was wasted, with only old magazines to flip through.

So he started to check with friends and in the marketplace to find out if there was some kind of medical privilege programme available.

There was none good enough. But that wasn't a bad thing. The seasoned marketer - who three years ago started a rewards and privileges company called Red Carpet Editions, which works with credit card companies, wealth management firms and luxury retailers - decided to start one himself.

Mr Seow spent a year negotiating terms and conditions with doctors and hospitals. And now he and his team are ready to launch Red Carpet Medical - which will give members healthcare privileges of a kind the market here hasn't seen before.

Privileges such as the ability to get an appointment with one of Red Carpet Medical's panel of doctors within 24 hours, a separate waiting line for Red Carpet Medical members, preferential rates for consultation, surgery and total hospital bills - and even a medical concierge service.

So how did Red Carpet Medical stitch this together, when other operators have tried - and failed - in the past?

Mr Seow says that the challenge was working out the details with healthcare providers to provide the perks - which he made sure were practical perks, not just ones that 'sounded' good.

'The ability to get an appointment quickly was crucial, especially when you have people like my dad, who when they want to see a doctor want to see them now,' he quipped.

Besides cutting down on waiting time, Mr Seow also wanted preferential rates.

He was able to leverage on the network that Red Carpet Edition already had in place, which assured doctors of a good pool of patients.

Thanks to medical adviser Victor Ng - CEO of Surgeons International Holdings, which manages the marketing of a group of surgeons - Red Carpet Medical has signed more than 40 specialists to its programme.

'But we want to work towards having 200 specialists by next year,' says Mr Seow. The panel now includes consultant plastic surgeon Leslie Kuek, consultant general surgeon Ngoi Sing Shang, cardiologist Ruth Kam, obstetrician Lee Keen Whye and oncologist Tay Miah Hiang.

With the programme priced at US$650 a year for individual members or US$1,300 for family members (limited to three), Red Carpet's initial target group is foreigners.

'At the end of the day we want to promote Singapore as a medical hub, so we won't look at tie-ups with hospitals in the region,' says Mr Seow. Already, Singapore is losing regional patients to lower-cost destinations such as Thailand and Malaysia, says Dr Ng, a practising GP.

Red Carpet's sign-up process will be launched in the third quarter of the year, says Mr Seow. Numbers may be limited to less than 5,000 to retain exclusivity.

'While Red Carpet Editions has operated on a business-to-business platform so far, we're making the medical privilege programme available on a retail basis,' he says.

This is because there's a real need for it out there, he reckons. And he has already signed his father up as a member, of course.

For more information on Red Carpet medical, visit

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