The last 2 years have exposed the shortfalls of the existing healthcare system – lack of defined treatment protocols, lack of transparency on pricing and a general lack of infrastructure have all come to light. We have made some good progress over the past few waves specifically for COVID but now is a good time to look at this more holistically and create healthcare infrastructure that the country really needs. We believe that this will rest on three pillars – consistently good clinical outcomes, transparency in pricing and a world-class experience. Most of this can be achieved by leveraging technology, something that India has done well in most of the other sectors but healthcare has unfortunately been a bit of a laggard.
Now as we enter the third wave, on the back of an ongoing mass inoculation program, there is some reassurance that both the public and the clinical community are better placed to deal with what awaits us as a community. However, with not much known about the newer variants and the rising cases, we need to be prepared in full strength to tackle what awaits us. Today with over 70% of the adult population vaccinated against COVID-19, India stands a strong chance to fight it against the pandemic. The allocation of the last budget has also strengthened the healthcare infrastructure as well as the availability of drugs, vaccines and devices that are locally manufactured for various needs. Financial Express Online caught up with Himesh Joshi, CEO & Co-Founder, Ayu Health Hospitals and discussed healthcare delivery during pandemic, digitisation and more. Excerpts:
How health-tech start-ups like Ayu Health are gearing up to support health care delivery as we enter the third wave with rising cases and hospitalisation?
One of the main limitations during the 1st and the 2nd wave of COVID in the country was associated with the availability of necessary information and healthcare resources to tackle the rise in demand for hospital beds, trained staff and other hospital resources like equipment and consumables.
Now, we are trying to find solutions to those limitations. At Ayu Health Hospitals, we have remained cognizant of the situation and have adhered to the call of the state and centre in managing and maintaining all the necessary resources to abreast with the situation. To further ensure that we are as supportive to the public that may need hospitalisation, we have developed a three pronged approach to meet this challenge (1) 100% fixed price packages (2) Dedicated ‘Point of Contact’ and counsellor at the hospital (3) Consistently good clinical outcomes.
Can you explain about your business model and what is the need for a healthcare model like this?
The last two years highlighted the gaps in the healthcare infrastructure in our country at different levels and forced the Government to take immediate measures to contain the situation from further deterioration. Having seen the lacuna in the current healthcare situation, the Ayu Health team worked on solutions to solve this problem with the help of technology, networking with small and medium size hospitals, standardising health care delivery, pricing, procurement, enhancing overall patient experience, increasing hospital visibility in select areas as per their locations.
Ayu Health Hospitals is a growing network of high quality hospitals in India. We continue to focus on great patient experience, latest technology for advanced treatments, transparency in pricing, and onboarding highly experienced doctors. We currently operate in Chandigarh and Bangalore with 40+ hospitals and have aggressive plans to expand to 10 more cities by December 2022.
How prepared are you for a pandemic or a seasonal emergency situation and how can we build trust in the mind of a patient?
One of the biggest problems that the country saw was limited healthcare access to patients during the pandemic. Many people couldn’t get access to the right treatment for themselves and for their family. This resulted in people losing their trust in hospitals especially due to lack of clarity in treatment and pricing.
This brings about the question – What if during this period there was clear information that was available to the public on the number of available beds, doctors, surgeons and medicines at the disposal in each of the hospitals near their location? Such information will set in motion increased trust and transparency of the hospital facilities and accessibility based on which patients/caregivers can take timely decisions and not waste valuable time. This is one of the biggest concerns Ayu Health is trying to address through its technology
Why do you think it is important to standardize and centralise the resources to tackle the medical needs of society?
The number of healthcare brands that people can trust blindly can be counted on fingertips -and that is the problem. For a country as large as India, there are very few hospitals which patients can trust for good clinical outcomes and a good treatment experience. Further, most of these hospitals are out of reach for the average patient.
We want to change that and create a network of hospitals that stands for good clinical quality, transparent pricing and a great experience. Ayu Health’s mission is to make high quality healthcare accessible to everyone, everywhere. This is the least the society needs for India to develop.
How are you bringing in transparency in pricing and standardisation of treatment protocol?
We realized that the biggest complaint that a lot of patients had was because of lack of transparency in pricing. Standard pricing does not exist and patients are routinely asked to pay more than the earlier estimate after hospitalization, leaving a sour taste.
At Ayu Health, we have defined fixed price packages for most procedures to address this. With the help of technology, patients and doctors can access digitised health records, including diagnostic test results at a single place. Assigned counsellors direct the patient to the right doctor for tele-consultation and only call them to the hospital if it’s really required. Our technology platform also facilitates access to insurance providers and other financial support systems, ability to take second opinions and access information about doctors and hospitals so that they can make an informed choice.
What are you doing to digitize the operations of hospitals? What kind of technological upgrades are you providing them?
At Ayu Health, we are creating an operating system that the hospitals can run all their operations on, be it patient management, insurance processing or managing procurement of drugs & consumables. Some examples of what our technology platform can enable include helping hospitals to utilize doctors’ valuable time by pre booking appointments, digitised health records that help in deciding on the apt treatment for the patient, having patient information in one place so that if the doctor needs to contact them, the details are readily available.
We have raised $6.3 million in ‘Series A’ funding from Vertex Ventures and Stellaris Venture Partners in September 2021 and have been able to successfully develop an integrated model of care for patients that need quality healthcare near their home. This fund infusion will help Ayu health to expand its hospital network and build new technology solutions to enable insurance process, efficient procurement and clinical quality management at our 40+ network hospitals both in Bangalore and Chandigarh.
What are your business expansion plans in 2022? Are you planning to expand your business to more cities?
Ayu Health currently has a chain of 40+ hospitals with 2000+ beds in both Chandigarh and Bengaluru. We expect to grow our business 10 times in FY2022 with further addition of 5000 plus beds in multiple locations across India.