Born and raised in a rural village in Jiangxi, Cheng Dong, the Founder and CEO of BangEr, saw with his own eyes the lack of healthcare provision in his village. After training as an orthopedic doctor, he knew he wanted to make a difference.
The story of BangEr started in 2001 in Taizhou, a third-tier city in Zhejiang province. Manufacturing was the key economic activity with most people making their living in factories. This meant many accidents, particularly finger amputations. Dong knew he could help. After working in a local hospital for several years, he saw an opportunity to acquire a small hospital. For re-plantation finger surgeries, the first six hours are crucial. Dong worked long hours in the operating theatre to reattach fingers for workers who would otherwise have had to spend hours traveling to Hangzhou. With Dong’s intervention, patients were able to save their fingers and return to normal life.
The hospital quickly built its reputation in Taizhou, and this encouraged Dong to take over a second hospital in Huzhou in 2003. By 2014, five hospitals were operating under the name of BangEr Orthopedic. To realise his goal of building the most reputable orthopedic hospital chain in China, Dong needed a partner who shared his vision. Huang Bei, a Vice President in the Eight Roads healthcare investment team, was intrigued by the business for its prospect as well as the social impact it created. Eight Roads invested and later Huang Bei joined BangEr full-time as its Chief Operating Officer.
The success of BangEr Orthopedic is rooted in its intention to do good. As of today, BangEr has treated over a million patients. It has more than 3,000 staff in 14 hospitals with 4,000 beds, performing more than 20,000 surgeries annually. With over 2,000 towns in China, BangEr has enormous potential for future growth.
Affordable medical care
For grassroot hospitals to be successful, affordability is key. Over the past decade, multiple policies were introduced to encourage the development of a private medical sector in China to supplement the public system. BangEr is well-placed to take care of the underserved mass market and was among the first batch of private hospital operators able to access Basic Medical Insurance (BMI), meaning patients have part of their medical expenses covered by the government-run insurance medical plan.
BangEr has brought down medical costs further by optimising the operational efficiency of its hospitals. It carefully manages the use of medicine and equipment in each case to reduce waste. BangEr also offers charity programmes to those who cannot afford treatment.
Quality control while scaling up
Scaling up is a big challenge for many entrepreneurs and even more so for hospital operators. Market and patient profiles are unique in different cities. Transplanting a successful operation model to a new city requires high levels of localisation. BangEr pulled through by setting up unified standards and procedures for all of its hospitals and bringing everyone up to speed with extensive training programmes.
In China, most physicians work in the public system, which has a distinctive culture and practice. It can take time for them to adapt to the model of a private-run operation. In response, BangEr strengthened its internal training initiatives, introducing seminars and workshops in different departments, and sending physicians from BangEr to other hospitals for learning and exchange programmes. In 2015, it founded a strategic partnership with Genesis Rehab Service from the US. On top of jointly developing rehabilitation centers across its hospital platform, new training modules have also been put in place. At its hospital in Yuhang, a suburb of Hangzhou, 90% of doctors have been developed through internal training.