The healthcare startup space, which is still in a nascent stage of evolution in India, is gaining traction over the last few quarters, with companies focusing on hospital management systems, doctor discovery, delivery of medicines and home healthcare services.
India has a shortage of medical professionals with around 1 doctor for every 1,700 patients, as against the WHO prescribed ratio of 1: 1,000. The core challenge remains as to how to to provide better access to healthcare.
Smartphone led mobile technology digitisation of healthcare practices is somewhat bridging this gap.
Healthcare startups like Practo, NetMeds, Portea, Healtcart, Care24, Medikoe, 1mg, DocsApp, Healthenablr among others, have found a foothold in the business world and attracting investors. According to a report by research firm Tracxn, until April, a total of $27 million has been invested in India in 2016, through 28 deals. A cumulative of over $338 million is invested the sector since 2009, with 2015-16 seeing 84% of the overall funding.
Vinod Murali, MD, InnoVen Capital, said, “Healthcare technology is a growing segment in India with significant potential. Given the broken healthcare infrastructure, there are multiple areas which can be served better using technology. Healthcare delivery is also an area of VC interest with eye care, dentistry, nephrology & pathology (labs) witnessing startup traction. Innovation in Medtech in areas like oncology has also been promising and one of our portfolio companies—Perfint has made good strides in this segment.”
Innoven has invested in startups like Practo, Portea, EyeQ and Attune, with a total funding of about $15 million in the healthcare and lifesciences segment.
SAIF Partners, the VC firm which has invested in Care24, the home healthcare tech-enabled marketplace, and YourDOST, an online emotional wellness platform, also reiterated that the healthcare startup segment is set to boom. Mridul Arora, principal at SAIF Partners said, “There are multiple drivers which make us believe that this will be a huge market in coming years. We believe technology will support the medical infrastructure, and not replace them. Also, the cost of healthcare should ideally come down as different business models increase efficiency.”
Digitisation and tech penetration is also expected to bring in transparency and more awareness among patients and result in better quality treatments.
Practo, with its online consultation product Practo Consult enables consumers to get answers from doctors for free.
It has replicated the Indian business model in Singapore Philippines Indonesia and Brazil.
Shashank ND, founder & CEO of Practo said, “Healthcare sector is one of the last sectors to be disrupted by technology. We believe we are just 1% done and a lot more needs to be done to truly solve the healthcare challenges faced by our country, and large parts of the world as well. But we are seeing strong adoption of our software by clinics and hospitals as well. Our hardware solution—Practo Tab is seeing fantastic growth in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where the adoption is even stronger than in urban areas due to mobile broadband being the primary connectivity.”
Beyond doctor’s appointment and consultation online, the important aspect is about the availability of resources and information handy. Unlike in e-commerce, food-tech or travel segment, the adoption of tech in the healthcare is somewhat slow. The convenience factor is just in the introductory phase where people have now started to consult doctors online or order medical services.
For instance, Medikoe, a Bengaluru based startup brings major healthcare pillars—hospitals, diagnostic centres, pharmacy, blood banks, specialty services, wellness and home care services on a single platform. Users can get in touch on any of these service providers in less than 2 minutes. The startup claims to have 100% month-on-month growth with 2 lakh unique visitors a month at present.
But, Vishal Bali, chairman and co-founder, Medwell Ventures, which acquired Bengaluru-based Nightingales speciality home healthcare services in India, believes that, more than just aggregating, it is the last mile connectivity and interface with medical, para-medical staff and patients that matters in healthcare .
“The sustainability of Nightingales is built largely on key factors like the rise of chronic diseases in the country, which contribute 30-40% of overall hospitals admission. This category requires consistency of care, consistency of protocol and a lot of these can be done by the patients themselves. Which is what we are trying to address through tech using EMR and apps,” Bali said.
The adoption of tech in healthcare is such that, even startups are thinking of using drones to carry live-hearts and organs for speedy transportation. Bigger players like Manipal, Max Healthcare and Apollo are waking up to the reality and have started with their in-house online doctor booking and health information services and are looking to partner with such startups to cater to a larger segment.