Millennials with well-paid jobs and employer health insurance may not be worrying about hospitalisation expenses. But keeping themselves fit and healthy — regular check-ups, preventive dental work, eye tests, etc – does cost quite a lot, especially in the metros. Along with them is the huge middle-class which may not want to visit government hospitals but also find out-patient departments at private clinics quite unaffordable. That’s where innovative healthcare options offered by several healthtech startups come in — tailormade for out-of-pocket expenses and accessible on an app.
“Our subscription plans pay for out-patient expenses that include doctor consultations, medicines and diagnostics, including medical procedures that can be done in a primary care set-up,” says Bhavjot Kaur, co-founder and CEO, Clinikk. The Bengaluru-based healthtech startup has 16 health clinics in the city and two more in Hyderabad. At these primary care centres, called Clinikk Health Hubs, subscribers have free access to doctors virtually and in-person. The age-agnostic subscription plans start at Rs 500 per month and include basic health insurance of Rs 5,00,000 in a tie-up with Care Health Insurance.
Meanwhile, Kenko Health’s plans start at Rs 299 per month. The plan you select decides the discounts you get on your medical expenses, ranging from 20% to 50%. It has over 8,000 hospitals and healthcare centres across India embedded into its network. With Kenko, a family of four can get healthcare benefits along with extensive discounts on doctor fees, prescribed medicines, and diagnostic tests for as low as Rs 849 every month.
Mumbai-headquartered QubeHealth has taken a different route to bring affordable healthcare to customers. QubeHealth-Credit provides money-on-tap to individuals through their employer, to pay for any healthcare bill and pay back in no-cost EMIs. This ‘money’ is transferred to the individual’s bank account upon request, through the Qube app. The user then ‘loads’ this amount to the QubeHealth Card and uses it with any healthcare service provider. The employer pays QubeHealth a subscription fee per employee, per year to offer this benefit to its employees. “It covers medicines, doctor consultations, dental, eye care, assisted pregnancy, maternity or any other healthcare procedure. The money can be used to pay for non-blood relations and even pets. Third, you have no limitation of healthcare providers, as long as they are in India, and they are a registered medical provider,” says Chris George, co-founder & CEO, QubeHealth. The target customer is an employed Indian onboarded through her employer, who earns a minimum salary of Rs 15,000 per month, has been with the organisation for at least four months and has a good credit score.
Far away from the metros, Lian Thangvung’s Qonect is directed at the low income segment. Based out of Imphal, Manipur, it first offers such customers a loan up to Rs 20,000 to help build their credit history and follows it up with a combination of health insurance, medical emergency loan and digital health cards for instant discounts on medicines, medical bills, etc., all through the Qonect app. “We are driving financial and insurance inclusion in the entire North-East through our embedded finance in healthcare model,” says Thangvung, who founded the startup in 2021.
Technology is the bedrock of all these healthcare finance models. “Our tech infrastructure helps us maintain longitudinal data on our customers’ health that enables us to personalise care plans,” says Clinikk’s Kaur. This is important as there is a dearth of structured medical data that can enable the health ecosystem to enforce preventive healthcare. “We are continuously training our doctors on evidence based care pathways that with the help of technology we will be able to scale and standardise for all our customers,” she says. “Over time we will be building a portfolio that will not only yield value for us but will unlock huge value for the customers and we will be able to drive our subscription cost down further.”
As QubeHealth’s George says, its ‘fin-tech’ stack is what connects the banking and financial ecosystem with credit customers, their employers and healthcare providers. Balaji Sundeep, VP Product, Falcon, which enabled QubeHealth’s fintech layer, says whether it’s programmable wallets, payments via UPI QR codes/ cards, or rewards via loyalty wallets for spending at preferred outlets, all of these experiences are made embeddable through APIs and SDKs by Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) players. “Breadth of use-cases such as early wage, salary payouts, fuel payments, vendor payments and neobanking across verticals such as new economy, logistics, wealth management and rural banking streng-thens our belief that every tech firm will need a fintech layer,” he adds.
Kenko also uses tools such as AI and ML with its partners to give prepaid benefits on medical expenses and also mitigate risks with fraud detection. The first step involved screening nationwide patient data to understand customer needs better and identify the offerings that would help them save time and money.
“Technology and AI will play an important role in integrating players which can provide these financial services — the banks and financial institutions (the lenders), the care providers like hospitals, and the insurance companies,” agrees Anish Gupta, head of products & insights, Heaps.ai, a healthtech platform that leverages advanced data analytics, AI and ML to revolutionise healthcare delivery and payment models.
As of now, discounts and cashbacks work as incentives for millennials. But these founders are emphatic these new ways of delivering healthcare are here to stay. “Embedded finance will soon become a cornerstone of healthcare in the country,” says Aniruddha Sen, co-founder, Kenko Health. “By integrating financial support into our healthcare systems, we can provide the care people require without worrying about unnecessary paperwork. It also empowers patients to seek medical care early without worrying about its impact on their finances.”