There has been no dearth in experimentation and/or funding. According to Inc42’s “The State of Startup Ecosystem Report 2018”, there are 4,892 startups in the Indian health-tech space.
By Adrit Raha
The last decade has seen a rise in adoption of technology in various fields, from logistics to e-commerce to online consumer services. Yet, for reasons varied, health-tech is yet to come of age and present itself in an avatar that is accessible, affordable and acceptable.
There has been no dearth in experimentation and/or funding. According to Inc42’s “The State of Startup Ecosystem Report 2018”, there are 4,892 startups in the Indian health-tech space. Last year saw an overall increase of 45.06% in the total investments in health-tech startups. Overall, health-tech startups in India raised a total of $504 million from 2014 to 2018. Ranging from preventive care and wellness platforms to data analytics, telemedicine, online pharmacy, diagnostics, biotech R&D and genomics, there has been a flurry of activities in all these areas, but, few would qualify to be disruptive.
Both macro and behavioural aspects have played a crucial role in health-tech’s less than enthusiastic adoption. India, still being a developing nation, has skewed statistics when it comes to accessing even basic technology when majority of consumer centric health-tech innovations are based on the premise of consumers having access to smartphones and internet. A nation still struggling to make healthcare affordable to all and strengthen its primary care infrastructure, health-tech solutions with their dependencies on other enablers do not make it to the list of must-do items. Even policies and capacity building leans more towards providing basic care to the population and fee for service models.
Customers’ acceptance of new practices and processes, which health-tech ushers in, has seen divided loyalties. People, who have benefitted from early diagnosis or better treatments courtesy advancement in healthcare technology, have turned evangelists for the same, whereas people, who have felt duped and possibly harmed, still vouch for traditional care methods. Fundamentally, it comes down to a lack of consumer trust on healthcare technology options.
Not all is lost though for health-tech innovators. While health care delivery capacity continues to be suboptimal, consumers are accessing and using a number of “off the shelf solutions” from self-diagnosis to storing/accessing/sharing health information, connecting with experts and being more in control over their health choices. Backend systems, enabled by new-age technology such as blockchain gives decision-makers the ability to research vast amounts of health related data and use emerging technologies such as AI/ML, AR/VR as tools to augment and strengthen health decision making.
The healthcare technology landscape in India is fast evolving and as it continues to grow, its ripple effects are bound to be felt all across the sector. The challenges are considerable, considering the size and diversity of our nation, but, with right regulatory and policy frameworks and sufficient PPP, healthcare technology can not only become ubiquitous, but, also a norm.
The writer is CEO, Vivant, a health-tech data-driven start-up functioning primarily in the B2B corporate health and wellness space.