Start-ups Reinventing Indian Healthcare with Technology

Date:   Friday , October 07, 2016

Headquartered in Gurgaon, this hospital chain delivers top-notch eye care at affordable cost to its customers through renowned eye specialist with rich experience.

Quality Health Care a Must for India

If we look at World’s Healthcare Scenario, India currently ranks at 112 among 190 countries, which is unfortunately way below the global healthcare parameter. According to the WHO, approximately 9.8 million deaths occurred in 2012 in India, of which 77 percent were on account of diseases and poor health. It’s really shocking to see that India leads the world in the number of deaths due to maternal and infant mortality. As per the KPMG-OPPI Report about 80 percent of doctors and 75 percent of dispensaries are serving urban India, which makes only for 28 percent of India’s population, leaving the rest in dire need of basic health facilities. Not only does it highlights the immense need for more healthcare penetration into tier II – III cities and rural India but also, draws our attention towards the significant market opportunity for the growth of Healthcare Industry.

Startups are the Way Forward to Deliver Quality Healthcare

In a country where more than 60-70 percent of villagers are abjectly dependent on nearby cities for basic medication, the need of the hour is to find solutions to provide affordable and accessible medical facilities by connecting doctors and patients even in the remotest areas of the country. Every year, thousands travel to big cities from rural areas in search of proper medical facilities. Data shows that each year due to inadequate public healthcare and healthcare expenses push an additional 39 million people back into poverty. Also, those who access the services by travelling to urban areas, incur huge travelling and allied costs and loss of wages.

In this age of digitization and information technology, healthcare startups can certainly bridge some of the challenges and provide hope by acting as the much needed facilitator to the needy and ailing rural inhabitants. Starts ups are inching closer to making that happen by setting up platforms for patients to find the right doctor for a particular ailment, getting an expert medical advice sitting at a far off place, buying medicines from the comfort of one’s home, or getting healthcare services delivered at one’s doorstep. It’s welcoming to see that India serves as the fastest growing startup-base worldwide and 6-8 percent of the recent B2C startups in India have been in the health-tech sector.

The healthcare industry is in the phase of technological advancement right now witnessing an amalgamation of healthcare and tech like never before. This technology-backed industry is eyeing immense scope for innovation through its data-driven mobile applications and cloud-based healthcare information systems. The growth of healthcare technology has spurred a new market for healthcare startups with many innovative and disruptive startups coming up in the health-tech space in the last couple of years. These new-age companies are evolving as platforms to provide quality and economical access to doctor consultations and diagnostics across the country through effective use of technology and network based models. There is also emergence of companies that are focused on reducing the urban-rural divide by providing better access to healthcare, irrespective of the location. What is evident from all these examples is the distinct shift that is taking place in the healthcare industry.

For startups, improving user experiences in the healthcare industry presents a huge opportunity. Over the years, the industry has seen many healthcare IT innovations making their way in the form of wearable to applications to solutions. It has entered an altogether new phase, with healthcare records moving online, doctors and patients looking forward to mobile solutions, cloud based telemedicine technology, tracking medicine regime, artificial intelligence, Robotics, Nanotechnology, 3-D printing, IOT and much more.

The Road Ahead

It is without any doubt that despite the opportunities, there are a lot of hurdles in this sector. Presently India’s healthcare is way below the global standard. One of the most critical needs today is to eliminate the huge divide between rural and urban access to healthcare. However, startups are playing a major role in leveraging technology to fill these gaps. There is also need for a streamlined regulatory framework. Transparency, credibility, funding, incubation and access to health care are some of the other challenges that plague the Indian healthcare. Any start-up trying to make a mark in the healthcare sector should therefore sufficiently address these challenges to be able to make any sort of impact.

The \'Startup India, Standup India\' initiative by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi provides a string of concessions and programs to encourage fledgling enterprises. The plan will help creative and path-breaking technology in India and will help new ideas come to life. To develop India into a global hub for healthcare, policy support in the form of reduced excise, customs duty, service tax exemption, and NHRM program to boost rural healthcare are required. And, also favorable regulatory changes like insurance coverage, taxation, and government push would further boost the healthcare sector\'s growth.

Based on WHO doctor patient ratio norm of 1:1000, India indicates a severe shortfall ratio of 1:1700.With limped penetration of healthcare in rural areas, lack of healthcare professionals, inadequate medical facilities and low medically insured population, the potential for healthcare startups to emerge as the real game changer in Indian healthcare ecosystem is vast. There is unprecedented start-up activity happening in the Healthcare sector for the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see how these companies grow and evolve over the next few years.