For those of us who have been working from home (or in the office), sitting and slouching over our laptops has probably contributed to problems such as back pains and stiff shoulders. Such bodily pains are common and usually goes away on it on own. We have all experienced pain at some time in our lives and thankfully most of it is painful but short-lived. However, imagine if you have chronic pain that doesn’t go away. Such a life sounds torturous but is the reality for patients who suffer from chronic pain conditions.
Thankfully, there are specialised services available to such patients. Listed on SGX’s Catalist on 30 July 2020, Singapore Paincare Holdings is a medical services group specialising in paincare services. They aim to be a one-stop provider covering the full spectrum of paincare treatment solutions including minimally invasive procedures, specialised injections, pharmacotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. They also offer Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and physiotherapy services as part of the post-treatment rehabilitation.
As a medical services group, Singapore Paincare Holdings (SPCH) is very dependent on its network of practitioners and clinics which started with 9 clinics as mentioned in its prospectus. Since its listing, SPCH has undergone some significant shareholder changes. As of December 2020, Sian Chay Medical Institution, a well-known TCM provider for lower income and needy patients, has increased their stake in the business to 15.27%. SPCH has acquired substantial shareholdings in Ready Fit Physiotherapy (51%) and Medihealth Bishan (60%). Both of these companies were solely owned by a single practitioner prior to the acquisition. Additionally, SPCH has also acquired 40% stake in KCS Anaesthesia Services Pte Ltd. These acquisitions are part of SPCH’s strategy to expand their network as well as a way to attract talent to join the Group.
One of the risk factors mentioned in the prospectus was the fact that 17% of the Group’s revenue for HY2020 was fully contributed by the minimally invasive procedures that can only be carried out by Dr. Bernard Lee, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer. While SPCH has plans to train the general practitioners (GPs) in the Group as well as formalize their expertise, this is one area that Group could improve on especially with more formalized training and dissemination of expertise.
With only a year since their listing on the Catalist, Singapore Paincare Holdings is still a relatively new company to investors. Here’re some things to know about SPCH if you are an investor or are interested in the development of medical and healthcare services in Singapore.
Who are some of your competitors and what differentiates SPCH?
Our competitors can range from specialists in Western medicine to TCM practitioners, chiropractors, osteopaths, and even masseurs, catering to various individuals of different affluence levels. Each of these services has its pros and cons. Open surgeries administered by specialists are generally invasive, while relief offered by less invasive non-medical services may be slower to take effect or may not provide lasting relief.
SPCH’s differentiating factor is our ability to offer minimally invasive procedures as an alternative to open surgery, and that provides faster and sustained pain relief outcomes for our patients. However, there is synergistic value in some of these competing services. For example, we have been able to combine our treatment with physiotherapy and TCM to achieve improved outcomes in terms of pain relief and well-being.
SPCH has become the final stop for many patients who have been unsuccessful in finding relief for their difficult chronic pain conditions. We leverage a unique diagnostic approach with our patients’ pain conditions that builds on our knowledge of the multiple pathways leading to chronic pain to eradicate the pain generator and provide lasting pain relief.
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What are your plans in expanding or diversifying your patient base?
We are working to position ourselves as the first line of defence for patients suffering from painful conditions and have acquired several general primary care clinics as part of our strategy to make paincare services more accessible and affordable to the masses and intend to continue doing so as and when the opportunity arises.
Having a network of GPs as a first line of defence is also helpful in facilitating the referral of complex cases that they come across to the specialists at SPCH. We also plan to engage more corporate clients and the general public, by conducting seminars and talks on pain care and raising awareness of the vast range of pain conditions that can be treated by the Group.
In addition, the Group also plans to expand through acquisitions. On 30 November 2020, we announced the acquisition of 40% of the total issued share capital of KCS Anaesthesia Services Pte. Ltd. We believe that the acquisition would allow the Group to include the provision of anaesthesia services and procedures, which is complementary to the Group’s existing pain care services and aligned with the Group’s strategy to expand its business locally to become a one-stop centre for pain care treatment.
What are some key demographic trends you foresee in Singapore and the Group’s target geographies in the coming years?
We anticipate that rising income and education levels will continue to drive demand for quality medical services needed to enable improved quality of living. Singapore’s ageing population signifies a larger proportion of elderly, who are generally more susceptible to degenerative chronic pain conditions and less likely to be able to afford expensive treatment and surgery. This demographic group is also less mobile, and it can be a hassle for them to wait or seek treatment at public hospitals.
The decentralised treatment that we offer presents an opportunity to provide greater bedside care for them, which may prove essential in the future. In addition, the increasing recognition of pain care as a specialised field by insurance companies, and growth in the number of insured patients in Singapore will enable more patients with chronic pain conditions to seek out private healthcare services offered by the Group.
Singapore’s reputation as a country providing high medical standards has been an attraction for overseas-based patients, but this group of patients has shrunk significantly since border closures were introduced in view of the pandemic. Management believes that the expected recovery in overseas patient numbers when the borders are reopened will augur well for SPCH as well as enable us to execute our plan of bringing our services outside of the country
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Going digital/technological innovation is seen as a requirement to remain a viable business. What are some ways the Group is “disrupting” itself?
We have digitalised the entire Customer Relationship Management (CRM) process across the group. We are now able to access data ranging from how patients searched for our doctors to keeping track of their involvement at various touchpoints from GP to specialist. We can track each subsidiary’s paincare outcomes and patient satisfaction. As we expand overseas, we believe that this digital platform serves as a tool for performance review as well as a tool for financial accountability.
Despite the Covid-19 situation, we continue to prioritise public education by making use of online platforms to hold public forums on treatment options for various chronic conditions, such as arthritis and osteoporosis. We have also leveraged social media platforms such as Facebook to share videos that provide helpful bite-sized information about common chronic pain conditions with the public.
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Having a “moat” or a competitive advantage is something many investors look for in companies they invest in. Can you share how SPCH has a strong business advantage?
Our unique proprietary treatment for difficult chronic pain conditions differentiates us in the market. We can confidently pre-determine patients’ pain outcomes and provide treatments that achieve high success in pain reduction and patient satisfaction. Our Paincare Academy has strengthened its training and certification process of all practising doctors and specialists. We are also working with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) to formalise the Group’s expertise.
Pain is ubiquitously present in many diseases and conditions. While some pain can be alleviated by treating the underlying condition, many patients continue to experience persistent pain even after such treatments. Unmet pain needs are a growing trend both locally and globally. Pain care cuts across all disciplines, ranging from Neurology, Surgery, Rehabilitation, Orthopaedic and Internal Medicine. We are well-positioned to provide paincare solutions for these patients, especially those with degenerative conditions.
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Editor’s Note: Some answers for this article were extracted from the SGX 10 in 10 series published on 29 June 2021 and have been republished with permission. You can read more on Koda on the SGX website.
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