How these healthtech startups are upgrading healthcare in India

Startups in India are constantly finding new ways to supply smart gadgets, new mobile apps, web platforms, Internet of Things (IoT) and other new age digital solutions in the healthcare space

By Rashi Varshney

Today, we wear health bands to track our health realtime, we schedule a doctor appointment over a mobile app, get reports online, can consult a specialist over a video conference, make use of telemedicine, and conveniently carry our reports and medical history in a smartphone. These technological advancements makes healthcare approachable and accurate. Otherwise, if you see state of healthcare in India, we have acute shortage of doctors with around 1 doctor for every 1,700 patients, as against the WHO prescribed ratio of 1: 1,000. And, the technology has all the powers to not only fill this gap but also transform this space completely.

In healthcare, technology has completely changed the way doctor-patient interact with each other. A lot of these changes can be attributed to startups, as tech savvy new players are finding novel ways to tap lucrative opportunity for digital offerings to change the dynamics. These startups are constantly finding new ways to supply smart gadgets, new mobile apps, web platforms, Internet of Things (IoT) and other new age digital solutions in the healthcare space.

Adding to the same, Gowtham Jayaram, Chief Technology Officer, Medwell Ventures says that ubiquitous computing (data & computing available anytime and everywhere) is the primary innovation driver in the healthcare industry. “This spectrum of solutions ranges across(simple to sophisticated); Booking healthcare services over the web; Getting & sharing your medical records on your mobile; Wearables measuring your blood pressure regularly and alerting your doctor & next of kin. Ubiquitous computing coupled with major improvements in Clinical accuracy & miniaturization of medical devices will make omnipresent health monitoring a reality in the next 2-3 years,” he added.

Medwell Ventures, is a home healthcare startup founded in 2014 by Vishal Bali (ex CEO Fortis) and Dr Ferzaan Engineer (ex CEO Quintiles) and Lalit Pai. Medwell is basically a healthcare delivery system for chronic diseases in the out-of-hospital space. Jayaram further added that technology is the guide-rails on which companies can organize consistent, measurable healthcare services at scale.

Here’s how these startups are leveraging technology with an aim to change the healthcare landscape in India:

Smartphone can now be a hearing aid

According to a recent WHO study, less than 1% of the 6 crore people in India who need hearing aids actually have or use them. There are multiple reasons for this: firstly, there are less than 2000 practicing audiologists in India, with most of them clustered in metros and Tier 1 cities. As a result, a large percentage of people who live outside the larger cities do not have access to qualified healthcare. Secondly, decent quality hearing aids cost upwards of Rs 30,000 each. And most people need two aids- one for each ear. This is beyond the reach of the common person. Lastly, there is still huge stigma related to hearing aids, and many people, even those who can afford aids avoid them for fear of standing out. Recent medical studies have shown that untreated hearing loss not only causes social isolation and loss of productivity, but can also be linked to higher risk of depression, dementia, accidents as well as other health issues.

A healthtech startup Quadio Labs, was listening to all the problems of hearing impaired people. The startup has launched a free hearing app Q+, which turns a contemporary smartphones into a hearing aid by harnessing the phone’s processing power and using the phone’s mic and wired headsets for delivering the sound to the user, processed as per the user’s hearing loss.

With inbuilt hearing tests, adaptive sound processing and controllable listening experiences, the Q+ app is intuitive, affordable, easily available on smartphones, and provides multiple listening settings for different sound environments (quiet and noisy). Most free apps only amplify sounds, while Q+ the app is designed to reduce feedback and background noise.

“We started off by manufacturing high quality, low cost hearing aids in Pune. We looked at the smartphone revolution and wondered- a smartphone today has more processing power than any electronic hearing aid in the market today. This led to us building and launching India’s first and only Hearing Aid Mobile app that does not require a traditional hearing aid- just your smartphone and the headphones that came in the box,” told Neeraj Dotel, CEO, Quadio Labs.

Besides the Q+ app, the startup also provides digital hearing aids; and also an internet-enabled remote audiometry and hearing aid fitting framework ‘Net dispensing’, which allows the company to break the physical barriers of an audiologist’s clinic and reach millions of hearing impaired individuals wherever they are- even at home. Once the audiologist has completed a hearing impaired person’s diagnosis, they can recommend possible solutions- these could be prescribing or fitting a traditional hearing aid, or even helping them download and use the hearing aid app.

Dotel told that to serve more hearing impaired people, Quadio Labs opened Hearing Care clinics in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns in Maharashtra and Gujarat. “To reach out to more people, we sent our Audiologists out into villages and conducted free hearing camps. We soon realized that Brick and Mortar was not the way to go, and a unique ‘telemedicine’ approach was required. Hence we combined internet and communications technology with medical expertise to build our innovative and proprietary ‘Net Dispensing’ solution that can convert any location into a virtual ‘hearing clinic”. Today, our Net Dispensing solution is in use at leading Hospital chains, ENT Doctors’ offices, EyeCare centers, even NGOs,” he added.

Video consultiation ATMs in Rural India

DoctorInsta, a video-medicine consultation platform which allows round the clock medical consultation over video through smartphones & web is going to settup ATM for video consultation across India. To target the rural patients, the startup is in talks with local general physicians and plans to set up 500 kiosks (Health ATM’s) across rural areas and small towns in phases in coming months. The kiosks will focus on psychology, psychiatry, sexology, dermatology, gynecology, diet and nutrition and chronic diseases such as diabetes. In these ATMs, patients can drop by to consult specialist doctors over a video link. In the initial stage, DoctorInsta is planning to launch these services in villages across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where health scenario is grim and lately will target outskirts of Delhi and slum dwellers in Mumbai. The startup intends to establish world’s biggest virtual medical clinic to ensure better access to healthcare.

Blood bank software

Blood transfusion is a complex system with multiple rule based outcomes leading to high percentage of errors cause of the human factor. Paying heed to risks of errors, a Aurangabad -based startup Strides has build a SaaS-based platform, Safetrans. It is a blood bank software, configured employing indept transfusion medicine rule engine, to support good transfusion practice. Safetrans tracks, records and act on each step of the blood transfusion process, right from donor selection to the blood component being transfused to the patient, tracking the entire cycle. SafeTrans enables blood banks to eliminate cognitive process based bias errors from every stage of the blood transfusion process. Safetrans is embedded with indept transfusion medicine rule engine.

SafeTrans is available in on-premises license version and is used by around 75 blood banks across India enabling , some 20 lakh blood components, screening more than 10 lakh donors. The software has so far identified more than 60,000 mistakes and has saved 10377 lives. In 2015-16, 3.5% of entire components issued in India were through Safetrans.

New age patient-doctor interaction

Digitisation and tech penetration can also bring in transparency and more awareness among patients and result in better quality treatments. Mirai Health, a connected healthcare startup is leaveraging technology powered solutions to improve doctor and patient experiences, especially to the middle class segment in India. “Our focus is to equip outstanding doctors with the tools they need to provide sustained high quality patients experiences.” said Aakash Ganju, co-founder of the startup.
Mirai Health’s ‘technology powered touch’ platform allows doctors to manage patient needs for scheduling, records, queries and ongoing clinical care before and after they visit a clinic. The web and mobile based platform is a multichannel healthcare platform, integrating cloud telephony, secure chat, web, voice and mobile app platforms with medical practices. The multichannel interface is designed to cater to the diverse technology adoption of patient populations in India. Integrating remote patient experiences with their in-clinic records provides insights that allow our doctors to provide a well-informed care experience to their patients.

For example, Dr X is a leading diabetologist, with practices across three different locations. He serves over 2000 patients annually, many of them from outside Mumbai. While Dr X is consulting with a patient in his clinic, there are potentially 1999 patients outside that need access to varying degrees of his care. Dr X does not have the tools to capture or serve the needs of these patients outside the clinic. The absence of these tools raises the barrier for Dr X’s patients to approach him. Though he is a great doctor, Dr X has been unable to provide a sustained, consistent, predictable healthcare experience to his patients outside the clinic. With the Mirai Health multichannel platform, Dr X has dropped the barrier for his patients to access him. They can now access their doctor’s expertise 24×7 independent of his availability and location. Patient needs are addressed smoothly, while the interactive communication platform ensures analytics and reporting for Dr X around the patient experience.

Ambulance, a tap away

Technology is not only capable of providing opportunities, but also is capable of reducing the costs, increasing efficiency, improving access and raising quality of care. For instance, there are likes of Practo and Credihealth. The online-medical assistance startup Credihealth provides complete digital medical assistance for hospitalisation needs. The startup recently launched Ambulance service via the Android app which helps users in gaining quick access to an ambulance during the wee hours. While you ‘ask-for’ medical assistance, an ambulance nearest to your home will be coordinated- through a more efficient backend system.

The popular healthcare platform, Practo provides a singular platform that helps consumers with all their healthcare requirements. Practo also makes software products that help healthcare providers ranging from clinics to hospitals digitize. Such as Practo Ray, a SaaS software for clinics that helps doctors digitise and is available in 10 regional language in India.

Tech for Womenhealth

Doc N Me, which is a cloud based patient collaboration and practice management software exclusively for Gynecologists and Obstetricians. With a skewed doctor to patient ratio, and the delicate condition of women’s healthcare in this country, doctors could use assistance in dealing with their existing patients effectively and reaching out to more patients at the same time. Since its launch in January 2016, the startup has acquired over 60 doctors and 11 thousand patients. Doc N Me was also selected as one of the few Nasscom 10000 Startups in Hyderabad.

Most physicians complain that the current EHR systems do not function in sync with their workflows and increase their workload rather than decreasing it, which is a major reason for physicians to stick to the conventional pen and prescription pad. Addressing this pain point, Doc N Me provides a technology-based real time tool to the doctors in the consulting room. The patient data was traditionally lost between misplaced reports and prescriptions, is stored on cloud. Therefore, the doctor has a better picture of her patient’s conditions before implementing any treatment protocols, and the patient’s health is placed into her own hands. With Doc N Me, the patient does not require to maintain her own information, like a personal health record. The information is stored and updated by their doctor in real time. Doc N Me delivers its solution via desktop and mobile based applications for doctors, patients and doctor’s assistants.

Medical conference over app

While sharing knowledge does not sound a fancy thing in tech world. But sharing leads to quality. A startup, DailyRounds is an academic network of Doctors. Medical Doctors share their best cases in the DailyRound app. Over 300,000+ Doctors share interesting cases and learnings in the app. Over the last one and a half years, DailyRounds has become the highest rated medical app globally. In medical industry, knowledge and case sharing and discussions used to happen in conferences or expensive medical journals. The startup leveraged technology to bring it outside these closed walls. The DailyRounds app is a free, light and open networking app for doctors.

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