During the last two years, especially in the COVID pandemic, the health care segment in India has evolved a lot that too rapidly and enormously. This positive change has been possible only because of the government’s active support and technology and digitalization of healthcare services. Eka Care is one such example which is a connected healthcare platform building a digitally-enabled healthcare ecosystem between doctors and patients for better health outcomes. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online, Deepak Tuli, Co-founder and COO of Eka Care talked about the role of digital tech in the healthcare industry and how it is playing a vital role in bringing changes. Excerpt:
How has the healthcare sector in India evolved during the pandemic in the last 2 years?
The sector has become a focus area of the government, which is evident from the fact that this year’s budget saw an increase in spending in Healthcare by 137%. Aarogye Setu and CoWIN are examples of the focus of GoI complemented with multiple technology partners. For instance, during the start of the pandemic, India was struggling to provide PPE kits and masks to doctors and the general public; we were also struggling to manage a supply chain due to limited resources and lockdown. Once the production was ramped, by the end of 2020 (less than a year), India was struggling with excess supply of masks and as per a report, 50% of companies might have gone out of business.
Pandemic has opened up many opportunities for healthcare start-ups. Tele-medicine, health records storage, home delivery of drugs, home collection for health tests, masks, PPE kits you name it there are start-ups helping the nation fight the pandemic.
As per the Rock Health Venture Funding database, the investment in virtual care and digital health more broadly has skyrocketed, fuelling further innovation, with threefolds the level of venture capitalist digital health investment in 2020 than it had in 2017.
What unique services Eka Care provides in the healthcare segment?
Technology being at the core of the organization, we have developed products and services for doctors and patients alike. Our unique offering to doctors helps them KNOW THEIR PATIENTS BETTER by giving them extensive info about their patient’s medical history and also store their medical records and history. At the clinic, our AI-driven Self-Assessment tool provides doctors with an overview of their patient before they even enter the doctor’s chamber. There is no such product available to doctors to improve their medical practice. We have been approved by CoWIN & NDHM and have been working towards enabling both care-givers and care-seekers with the right set of tools to build better healthcare.
As WhatsApp has become an application that is being used by the majority, we have integrated our system with the platform. Now users can forward their medical records (in any form- images, pdf, Jpegs) from their registered mobile numbers to our WhatsApp number and the record gets updated in their medical Vault on the app.
We enable users to manage their health records and store them for easy accessibility, allowing them to avoid the additional cost and effort of going for retest in near future. Thus, reducing the cost of diagnosis and treatment.
Eka Vault – We are successfully extracting values from the lab reports which patients upload and are able to give longitudinal value to consumers and highlight the area of concern to the user. The user can then consult an Eka Care doctor or his preferred physician.
Self-Assessment: Our tool enables a consumer to self-assess their medical condition by simply answering a few questions. This medically aware system gives a provisional diagnosis that helps patients to reach out to their doctors. It also helps doctors understand the medical condition before the patient even enters their consultation chamber.
Appointment booking on WhatsApp: Our users can now book the appointments with their doctor through WhatsApp. Eka Bot allows users to select their preferred time and mode of consultation (online or in-clinic) and make their appointment.
Self-Assessment: AI-driven self-assessment lets doctors know their patients better before they start their consultation.
Telemedicine: Self-recorded solution helps doctors connect with their patients across the country.
Appointment: Easy to use appointment system ensures that doctors get maximum appointments and do not miss any patient.
AI driven doctor’s prescription pad allows doctors to write prescriptions in less than a minute. system also reduces error by giving the right prompts i.e. allergy, contraindication in medicines.
Doctor Network: The platform allows doctors to create their own network of doctors.
Providing visibility to Doctors: The team at Eka Care is focused on reshaping doctor discovery. The beta project is live in tier 2 cities, wherein doctors will be listed on our platform and our 1.2 Mn users (pan India) can discover them as per their proximity. Users will also be able to book doctor’s appointments through the App, mobile-web and desktop site. As part of the project, we will also promote and advertise our doctor’s profiles on Social Media and Google Network.
Offering a single platform (Eka Care) to manage their calendars, even when they are using multiple EMR tools helping them save time and brings in more efficiency.
How creation of health ID under Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission will help common people in India?
A Health ID will be a repository of all health-related information of the individual, which would include his past medical conditions, treatment, and diagnosis. This would also cover individuals’- lab tests, doctor’s visits, diseases/medical conditions, along with his past prescriptions. By creating Health ID, each individual:
A. Can control and share his health records with any of the doctors and healthcare centers impaneled with ABDM. This would help him to provide medical information seamlessly to doctors, especially when the individual decides to take a second opinion, change his doctor or has shifted to a new city/place. Doctors will equally be benefited as they would get complete patient’s information to make an informed decision; moreover, they would save time during diagnosis.
B. Health insurance companies too will have access to individual’s information through the Health ID digits. As per the authorities, the analysis of the health data will help the government to do better planning, budgeting, and implementation for state and central health programs.
What has been the role of technology and digitization in enhancing the health care facilities in India?
Technology is on the verge of reshaping Indian Healthcare. It has made doctors accessible to care-seekers and has enabled a communication channel between them. From booking doctor’s appointments to lab tests, technology has bridged the gap and improved accessibility significantly. Now patients can also track their reports, appointments; they can store their health records digitally for quick retrieval
Till August, this year, The National Telemedicine Service of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare had completed 90 lakh teleconsultations in the country. The last 10 lakh consultations came up in a record 17 days, according to the government of India’s announcement on August 9, 2021.
During the same time, eSanjeevani OPD was hosting over 430 online OPDs, around 400 of these are specialty and super-specialty online OPDs. Over 60,000 doctors and health-workers across the country have been trained.
A report by EY predicts that the telemedicine market in India may reach $5.4 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 31 percent. It also forecasts that 15-20 percent of the healthcare ecosystem is expected to shift to virtual care, across triaging, consults, remote monitoring, and home health.
What are the main challenges faced to convince doctors and people to join Eka Care’s platforms and how you overcame it.
There are two major challenges when it comes to convincing doctors to use the Eka tool.
1. Change of habit: Doctors, since the very beginning of practice, are used to using pen & paper. They have been comfortable using the existing setup at their clinic and it was difficult for the team to migrate them to a digitally enabled practice management tool. What helped the team? The continuous perusal and making them experience the product helped doctors gain confidence and gradually move their practice to Eka care. The features like patient communication center, doctor’s referral program helped them enhance their practice. Our team also supports doctors to enhance their online visibility by managing their social media and Google Business listings.
2. Data Security: Doctors were skeptical about the security of their patient’s data. To make them believe that their data will be secure with us, was a challenge. What helped the team?
We have signed NDAs with care-providers (doctors) where we are bound to pay pre-agreed liquidated damages amounting to INR 10,00,000 (Ten Lakhs Only), in case Eka Care is found guilty of disclosing or sharing the Patient Data in any manner that may or may not amount to referring Patients to other healthcare professionals with the same specialization.
Care seeker: Again it’s a massive behavior change, we are not used to storing health records when we are healthy. Pandemic has taught us to be medically aware and be ready all the time. Now people are concerned about their health and are ready to put that effort into storing health records.
What’s your take on universal health coverage in India?
Ayushman Bharat (PMJAY) was launched to provide Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to 50 crore Indians by 2030. Technology is the only way to effectively provide benefits at this large scale. This is the right move towards Better health economy, we believe this will change the way health care is delivered in the country. Along with this the whole digitization of the patient healthcare records, approved doctors list, hospitals and other healthcare providers services will give flexibility and access to right healthcare. PMJAY will play a role similar to UPI in digital payments. We are building solutions where consumers can store their health records and doctors can run their clinics digitally. We are building for this change and want to play a role in building digital health care for India.