In the long spell of social isolation unleashed by the pandemic, there were some undercurrents that silently changed relationship of people with personal health and redrew their equation with healthcare providers. Connect with a doctor was always needed and remains inevitable but then speed in diagnostics is getting increasingly critical, remote access in healthcare a necessity, proliferation of medical devices a new norm.
In the spotlight is what seems an increasing role for medical devices that can offer a “point of care” play wherein a patient’s ailment is diagnosed and treatment dished out closer to his or her home than within a huge hospital setting or necessitating a visit to a healthcare facility. “Point-of-care is the future of healthcare,” says Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior Research Scholar and Lecturer at Princeton Environmental Institute and Director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington DC.
Driven by this belief and with a view to help transform healthcare delivery by making diagnostics more accessible, he founded HealthCube in 2015. It is a “point-of-care diagnostics solution provider.”
It is still early days for HealthCube but still over the last three years it seems to have some numbers to showcase. Dr Radha Rangarajan, its chief scientific officer, says, “over the last three years, over one million beneficiaries have been registered on the HealthCube ecosystem and 2.5 million tests performed.” The tests offered are across the spectrum – from “a single device that can check health vitals to bio-chemical parameters and with add-on devices more tests included,” says Dr Rangarajan. As with the tests, the range is equally wide on the prices of the various diagnostic devices – from as low as $ 300 or over Rs 20,000 to around $ 1500 or over Rs 1 lakh. The revenue model at the moment is a combination of product sale or a services fee model wherein, it either offers the products or when working with state governments or with corporates offer services with its “point of care” diagnostics. Some of its devices include pathology and even glucose testing and include tests like those for blood chemistry, cardiac markets, urine parameters, heart rate, respiratory rate, ECG, blood glucose, hemoglobin, total cholesterol among others.
HealthCube today talks of a footprint across four continents. In Kenya, the company is working with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support diagnostic services in remote parts of the country through ten clinics. In India, HealthCube devices are deployed across 22 states. It is also working on different operating models with 11 State Governments. “We are present in 12 aspirational districts. HealthCube has also worked with the Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation in Bhagalpur on maternal health. We have executed a project to screen the entire Indo-Tibetian population for their vitals and basic biochemistry at the behest of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Leading corporates have collaborated with HealthCube for their CSR programs including Vodafone Idea Ltd., Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, among others,” says Dr Rangarajan.
During the past 18 months as the pandemic unfolded, HealthCube also took to offering COVID-19 risk assessment to employees of organizations. These include those to Tech Mahindra, Tagros Chemicals among others “as part of their return-to-work program,” says Dr Rangarajan.
Unlike in a routine lab, Dr Laxminarayan says, “where you have to send a sample, incur transportation charge and instead this is used on the spot and helps get the patient treated on the spot. Point of care is the future of healthcare because you want instant result that is also accessible anywhere and also affordable.”
But then talk to some of the private diagnostic laboratories and they feel the running cost of a point of care device would be high. But Laxamanan disagrees and says, the running costs in the case of point of care devices have in fact come down substantially plus the major or routine equipment used in the laboratories also have consumables, maintenance, apart from other costs such as those of building the lab, airconditioning, hiring trained personnel and purchase of equipment and therefore in any apples to apples comparison, the point of care devices are only a fraction of the cost of a traditional setting.
HealthCube apparently has been able to find takers for its model and has been able to raise funding. So far, Alkemi Venture Fund 1 invested in HealthCubed’s Series A in April 2019 and the total funds raised were to the tune of USD 5 Million. How it is able to scale up further and tap the various avenues of growth that Dr Laxminarayan talks of will be watched. For the moment, what seems to work for HealthCube, seems its team with diverse strengths. It also lists some high profile names backing it. For instance, it has Rajshree Birla listed as a director.
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