This is one simple idea which has the potential to have lasting consequences. We are talking about Lybrate, one of India’s earliest and fast-growing online doctor consultation platform. Its founder & CEO, Saurabh Arora, is striving to make healthcare accessible in the country and bridge the demand-supply gap of healthcare experts by seamlessly connecting doctors and patients with the help of technology and letting them communicate using mobile phones. The health app has been downloaded over 3 million times on mobile devices since the company launched the platform in January 2015. The platform now also has more than 100,000 healthcare experts from varied branches of medicine from across India.
Investors have been quick to take note of this innovative startup. Lybrate raised $10.2m from Tiger Global, Nexus Venture Partners and Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons Ratan Tata in Series A funding in July 2015. It received $1.23 m in seed funding in August 2014. Lybrate is also Indian Medical Association’s digital partner and it has launched its service on Facebook Messenger’s bot platform. In addition, it recently debuted its integrated healthcare solution Lybrate Lab+, enabling users to consult doctors online, get suggested lab tests done and continue consultation upon automatic sharing of reports with healthcare experts, without breaking the loop.
“Our medical app allows users to discuss any health issue with doctors through text, video and voice chat while keeping their identity anonymous,” Saurabh tells FE. “More than 100,000 doctors and health experts from varied branches of medicine from across India are connected to millions of patients through the technology-driven platform. With such a strong network, Lybrate acts as the world’s largest OPD.”
Saurabh left his data scientist job in Facebook, and returned to India to solve the core problem of inaccessibility of doctors that the country grappled with. During one of his visits to the country, he noticed that people were blindly relying on chemists, who were not even qualified to prescribe medicines, for fixing their health problems. The thought of the situation being much grave in tier 2 and 3 cities, and the conviction to find out a solution, prompted Saurabh to incorporate Lybrate, where he connected patients to doctors much in the same way he connected SMEs and large advertisers to their customers using Facebook Ads in Facebook.
“We launched the Lybrate platform in January 2015. When we started, the platform supported interaction between patients and doctors only through text. The feature of voice and video were integrated later to make communication seamless, and today Lybrate is the only platform that supports all three forms of communication,” says Saurabh. He adds: “In our pursuit to make the platform smooth for doctor-patient interaction, we have been innovating and recently launched an integrated healthcare solution Lybrate Lab+ that facilitates lab tests during an online consultation with a doctor and hence completes the consultation loop. We innovate for users and to tap them where they are, we introduced the service of online doctor consultation on Facebook messenger bot, becoming the first healthcare company in India to do so.”
Lybrate’s innovative approach has stuck a chord with users and doctors alike. Over 5 million interactions a month take place on the platform by way of search of doctor, patient queries and doctor-patient interactions. “The money that we raised has so far been deployed to hire smart and talented people along with improving product and technology. These measures have drastically helped the platform reach where it is today,” he informs.
Wider access to doctors
From a patient health cycle perspective, there are five stages that a patient may go through when there is any health issue:
Find a doctor: Doctor discovery
Consult a doctor: Either online or in-person
Lab tests: Get suggested lab tests done, if any
Medicines: Get suggested medicines, if any
Follow-up: Consult doctor again, if required
Lybrate is focused on easing communication between patients and doctors, that is, 2nd and 5th stage of patient health cycle and also offers services in stage 3. “During this process of patient health cycle, we are also able to assist patients in stage 1. We believe that fixing India’s healthcare problem lies in a communication platform that is able to multiply the presence of doctors. This is utmost important in the Indian scenario because the core problem of our healthcare system is the huge shortage of doctors,” says Saurabh, who did his MBA from Columbia Business School. He also pursued his Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from IIT, Delhi.
Saurabh informs that while finding a doctor and booking an appointment is easy, the interaction isn’t as simpler. “It is here that Lybrate is fixing the real problem by expanding the reach of doctors beyond their one-zone geography through use of technology. With Lybrate, people can easily connect with a ‘trusted’ doctor and communicate with them about their health problems. Now, they can also get a lab test done which are suggested by the doctors during an online consult and have the report shared with them automatically. This enables the continuation of consultation without any break.”
For those who do not need a consultation, the platform is equally beneficial due to its unique health feed that consists of health tips that are shared by doctors themselves.
According to Saurabh, medical experts suggest that over 75% consultations require medical tests and because they involve either visiting a lab or making an extra effort to search a lab and book a test online, 70% people tend to ignore it, exposing their health to grave risk. “We came across the offline gap in online doctor consultation that lab tests created. Lybrate aims to make doctor consultation seamless and convenient, and Lybrate Lab+ has taken convenience in healthcare delivery to a new high. Integrated into online doctor consultation experience, the product equips users to book and get sample pick up from the location and time that best suit them, and proceed with the consultation process upon reports being automatically shared with them and their doctor, without breaking the loop anymore,” he informs.
The future is digital
Currently, the usage of Lybrate platform in Tier 2 and 3 cities is less as compared to metros and big towns. “The traction is around 40% and we will be looking to grow our presence in these cities. Also, we will be introducing more features that would make doctor consultation seamless and smooth,” says Saurabh. “It is heartening to see other platforms too coming with up similar model like ours. This strengthens our belief that a communication platform that enables patients and doctors to talk is the core for solving India’s healthcare problem, which doctor discovery alone can’t achieve in a country like ours with shortage of doctors,” he summarises.