AC Health offers cure to chronic ills in healthcare sector
Written by: Tina Arceo-Dumlao
Back in 2016, over 70% of the Ayala group’s net asset value came from longtime reliable growth drivers Ayala Land Inc. and the Bank of the Philippine Islands.
But while these lines of business could be relied on to continue delivering the expected numbers, Ayala Corp. led by Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala felt that it needed to further diversify and take advantage of new opportunities on the horizon.
The group thoroughly scanned the market and quickly decided that the health care sector was one of the new sectors where it wanted to get involved in, not only because it was clearly a fast-growing field but because it was underserved and had gaps that the group can help fill, in fulfilment of its vision to contribute to nation-building.
This desire to contribute to the development of the country’s healthcare sector and serve a broader base of the Filipino market eventually led to Ayala buying into Generika and establishing a presence in the generics space, and subsequently executing a series of acquisitions that eventually led to the establishment of Healthway Philippines Inc and the establishment of the digital health group under Vigos Ventures Inc.
All these have been placed under AC Health, headed by Paolo Borromeo.
That the group made the right decision in investing in health was highlighted during the pandemic, when AC Health harnessed its small but fast growing network to help the country deal with the worst public health crisis in recent memory.
Borromeo was wearing several hats at that time, as aside from AC Health he was also the head of the corporate strategy and development team of Ayala Corp. But during the worst times of the pandemic, he spent most of his time in health care.
By 2022, Borromeo was appointed full time to AC Health, to which many Filipinos turned to during the darkest hours of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, we made ourselves more relevant to the community and created a lot of goodwill. We want to build on that momentum,” he said.
Then, as now, the vision has remained the same, which is to provide every Filipino accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare through an integrated ecosystem approach so that AC Health will be able to help people at different points of care.
This means there is Generika for those who are looking for affordable medicine, then the Healthway Medical Network of multispecialty clinics and hospitals, including the QualiMed group of hospitals. Plus, the group invested in IE Medica and MedEthix in 2019, to import and distribute needed pharmaceutical products, to be sold at the Generika outlets that now number around 750 and to the outpatient centers and hospitals that are expected to be 22 strong by the end of the year.
For those who either prefer or cannot go to the hospitals or clinics themselves, AC Health also offers a digital health solution in KonsultaMD, done together in partnership with Globe’s 917Ventures. The growing Ayala unit is also looking to expand into wellness centers in tourism centers such as Boracay and El Nido under the Healthway Medical Network to give visitors an extra peace of mind.
Borromeo is particularly looking forward to the completion of the Healthway Cancer Care Hospital in Taguig City, the first dedicated cancer hospital in the Philippines that is expected to start accepting patients by the end of this year.
The group decided to give extra focus on cancer as it is one of the top reasons for mortality in the Philippines and is also where the need for more affordable care is felt. It is here where the experience in patient care, the connections with global health institutions, plus the learnings from operating Generika and Healthway will come together.
The hope is to give quality care and at the same time financial relief to those stricken by cancer, especially so as the Philippines has the highest rate of out-of-pocket expense for medical care because of the lack of medical insurance coverage.
“Our vision is to significantly improve cancer care here in the Philippines. We feel we can really make a difference and lower the cost of cancer care for our fellow Filipinos,” said Borromeo.
With its growing presence in the country’s healthcare sector, Borromeo is confident that AC Health will be one of the next major growth drivers of Ayala Corp.
It is well on its way, having registered a P229-million net income last year, buoyed by the healthy growth of its pharmaceutical unit and the lengthening list of hospitals and clinics under the Healthway Medical Network.
So far, the group has invested P11 billion to date with P7 billion budgeted for this year across the entire ecosystem, including digital through the recently launched KonsultaMD super app, an indication of the importance that the Ayala group is placing in healthcare.
“In a few years, we would have put in P20 billion into the healthcare sector. Our goal is to be able to grow the network further and touch even more lives,” said Borromeo.
Indeed, by 2030, AC Health wants to make a significant difference and serve one of every five Filipinos, if not more.