A Doctor Meets Unmet Needs and Finds Success

Dr Paul Chan is the Founder and CEO of Paul Healthcare Group, a healthcare consulting and management company as well as the CEO and Co-Founder of Sievert Imaging Center, a licensed ambulatory care center. He’s also the Director of Eastgate Medical, a group of three primary care clinics located in East Sabah.

His Journey

As a child, his passion was business, but parental expectations were for him and his siblings to become professionals. So, Dr. Paul opted to become a doctor with the idea of helping people and making a difference in the community. He had always believed that to help people, he needed to be in the public sector.

So, you can see from the very beginning all the way to the second and third clinics that our journey has been one of meeting needs. There are just a lot of needs for us to meet. And over the years, we realized that there were a lot of things that needed to be done. But there’s so little healthcare manpower here [in Sabah].

When he graduated from medical school, he and five of his friends opted to work in Kota Kinabalu as they wanted to give their time and effort to those who really needed their service. They realized that while the Klang Valley had a high number of medical practitioners, Sabah and Sarawak were in need of the services of doctors.

After six years of working in pediatrics in Kota Kinabalu, Dr Paul wanted some subspecialty exposure in pediatric endocrinology and moved to Hospital Putrajaya for this purpose. After a period of time in clinical medicine, he requested to get into an administrative role. He was then transferred to the MOH headquarters in Putrajaya.

A Clear Vision of What He Wanted in Life

At the MOH headquarters, he networked and got to know those who were running the public hospitals, healthcare facilities, and learned about the legalities involved in private healthcare. By this time, Dr Paul’s priorities became very clear to him:1) He wanted more time with his family, 2) He wanted a good passive income for the wellbeing of his family, and 3) If he could save some lives, help some people, and meet some needs in the process, that would be a dream come true.

“The journey [outside of the hospital system] is an exciting one and there is a lot to learn from various people! We can do things we have never done before in our lives and see things we have never seen before!”

He realized that the best place to accomplish this would be where people needed his service the most. He was at the MOH headquarters for about two years before moving back to Sabah to fill up the role of Deputy Director at one of the government hospitals. In the period of six years as Deputy Director of the Hospital, Dr. Paul, in doing purely administrative duties, was able to see how the whole public health system worked. He gained a wealth of insight and experience in his administrative roles in public healthcare.

Getting into Healthcare Management and Entrepreneurship

After six years as a Deputy Director of Hospital, Dr Paul moved to the private sector and co-founded the Sievert Imaging Center with his wife who is also a medical doctor. This ambulatory care center was filling a huge gap for the private healthcare sector in Sandakan. This service helped the local population and supported the general practitioners (GPs) in the area. Soon, other services such as diagnostics, health screening, blood tests and more were added as referrals from GPs kept coming in.

Meeting Unmet Needs in a Location of Great Need

By meeting unmet needs, Dr Paul had improved healthcare delivery in Sandakan. Now patients had the choice of using the ambulatory care center rather than drive down to the nearest private hospital which was a good 6 to 8 hours’ drive away.

“Making a difference in patients’ lives is not necessarily limited to the field of clinical medicine. There are other ways to make a difference in patients’ lives.”

Upon adding the health screening services at the Imaging Center, it became obvious to Dr Paul that when they identified the condition the patient was experiencing, they didn’t have the ability to treat them as medication was not dispensed at the imaging center. That’s when the idea for a new brand – Eastgate Medical – comprising three GP clinics began. From then on, when patients came for their health screening and needed treatment, their conditions were managed and treated at the clinics. Two of the clinics are located in Sandakan  while one is located at Southeast Sabah in the small town of Semporna

“So, you can see from the very beginning, all the way to the second and third clinics that our journey has been one of meeting needs. There are just a lot of needs for us to meet. And over the years, we realized that there are a lot of things that needed  to be done. But there is so little healthcare manpower here” noted Dr. Paul.

As the organization and healthcare facilities grew, Dr Paul  decided to make things leaner at his facilities. He had an idea to manage all these facilities centrally and the Paul Healthcare Group Consulting & Management Company was founded. The consulting  firm is really a human resource and management company to centrally manage manpower, procurement, financing etc.

If a doctor’s why for moving out [of the hospital system] is strong, he or she will not lose heart and give up on their goals when the challenges come.

When the consulting firm began operations, demands from clinics outside of Dr Paul’s brand started pouring in for assistance in the areas of human resource, management, and administration. So, the company grew. Again, it was about meeting unmet needs. It appeared that the GPs in the area wanted to focus their attention on seeing and treating patients rather than managing the administration of their clinics. “So, where we came in was to help run the clinics [for the GPs] or to help them start a clinic. Things just connected from one business to another business,” said Dr. Paul.

Meeting Unmet Needs Among Those Needing the Services the Most

There is a large immigrant population in Sabah coming from Indonesia and the Philippines, many of whom are undocumented. They hesitate to go to the public hospitals for services as they will be treated as patients belonging to the first-class strata and charged accordingly. “Our [healthcare facilities] are here to meet these needs. We are cheaper than the public hospitals.

There is also another segment of patients from the higher income category whom Dr. Paul’s facilities serve. Prior to the existence of these healthcare facilities, this group of people flew to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, or Taiwan for medical assistance. “This is a small fraction of the population in Sabah, but we are the sole healthcare providers for them here in Sandakan” noted Dr. Paul.

Certainly, there are the majority of patients comprising the B40 group. According to Dr Paul, “We price our services reasonably to meet their level of affordability. Our rates are quite cheap compared to the Klang Valley clinics. This is also to meet unmet needs. So, we rely on the volume of patients for sustainability. We need more of them because they pay much less.”

The journey will not be easy as there will be hurdles. But through perseverance, doctors can jump over the hurdles that come their way. Over time, doctors will find a way to outdo these hurdles as if they didn’t exist even though the hurdles are staring them in the face.

Words of Encouragement to Doctors

  1. As the world outside is much bigger than the hospital system, doctors ought not to be disheartened by the contract system, the termination of their services, or that there isn’t room for growth in clinical medicine. “Making a difference in patients’ lives is not necessarily limited to the field of clinical medicine. There are other ways to make a difference in patients’ lives.” said Dr. Paul.

There are many opportunities in medicine and in nonclinical fields in the outside world. “The journey is an exciting one and there is a lot to learn from various people! We can do things we have never done before in our lives and see things we have never seen before!” said Dr. Paul excitedly. Doctors are advised to take the first step and begin the process with whatever is in their heart, whatever that inclination or passion may be.

  1. Challenges, hindrances, and problems will surely come. The journey will not be easy as there will be hurdles. But through perseverance, doctors can jump over the hurdles that come their way. Over time, doctors will find a way to outdo these hurdles as if they didn’t exist even though the hurdles are staring them in the face.

“To visualize what the outcome or the end of your journey will look like, you need to look at leaders who are successful…Mentors are there to help and guide so, always ask for help”

  1. Mentors are crucial in the career transition process. “Personally, I have two mentors that I connect with on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. Being a doctor, I tend to see things from a particular perspective, but corporate leaders have a totally different perspective”, added Dr Paul.

Mentors make good support people who will help doctors to transition to other fields outside of clinical medicine. They are excellent guides for doctors who want to start a business or an organization. “To visualize what the outcome or the end of your journey will look like, you need to look at leaders who are successful. They have lots of stories, advice, and experiences to share and will set you in the right direction. Mentors are there to help and guide, so always ask for help,” said Dr. Paul.

“With the mindset of continuously challenging myself, we moved and grew from one business to another.”

Dr. Paul’s Final Thoughts on Meeting Unmet Needs

For Dr. Paul, meeting unmet needs in a place deprived of healthcare services was uppermost in his mind when he first came to Sabah. He says that the reason many doctors become physicians is the inclination to serve humanity. Although as a child he dreamed of having his own business, the idea of owning a healthcare business came much later when he was serving as an administrator at the MOH headquarters.

“This meant owning my own business, not working for someone else, or remaining in the public sector too long. I wanted to challenge myself, to make myself uneasy rather than being in one place, doing the same thing over and over again for five to 10 years! With this mindset of continuously challenging myself, we moved and grew from one business to another” noted Dr. Paul. He states that the income is certainly better in the private sector and building a passive income is only possible in the private sector.

Dr Paul notes that entrepreneurship is important for this reason. With his priorities in mind, he chose East Malaysia as the place to meet unmet needs and make a difference. “That’s where the needs are the most and our ambition was to tackle unmet needs. So, being in Sabah and working here tackles the other priorities of having time for my family and making a passive income for their benefit.” he said as he ended the interview.

It also seems that his passion for meeting unmet needs has without doubt led him to a life of success.

Dr. Paul Tan will be conducting the “How To Build Your GP Clinic – Online Workshop” 1st April 2023, from 10 am to 1 pm. Learn how to start your own GP clinic and keep it fail safe. Click here for more information.

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