How Startups Are Changing Health Landscape in India

Date:   Tuesday , August 23, 2016

Fitastic is an online healthcare platform that offers an extensive library of exercise videos, easy to execute online fitness programming, and an abundance of healthy recommendations, thus promoting sustainable fitness and lifestyle behaviors within the online community.

India\'s healthcare sector is in contradiction. It is not like we are not going up the ladder, but if you look at the numbers, they have a different story to tell. According to a recent report by FICCI-KPMG, India\'s healthcare sector is should touch a whopping $280 billion in size by 2020. What does this mean for the Indian economy? It will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16 percent.Sounds promising, doesn\'t it? But that is only from an industry perspective. The reality, as they say, is a different story altogether.

The public health care system is inconsistent, with underfunded and overcrowded hospitals & clinics, and inadequate rural coverage. Despite rapid economic growth, especially in the past two decades, successive governments have failed to invest in health. India spends only about one percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, as against three percent in China and 8.3 percent in the U.S. With the government\'s low spending on healthcare, patients and their families bear the brunt.According to a report by Deloitte, total healthcare spending in India will escalate an annual rate of over 12 percent, from an estimated $96.3 billion in 2013 to $195.7 billion in 2018.

Good News? Not Exactly

In developed countries, a significant share of healthcare costs is shared by the Government and insurance companies. However, in India, 70 percent of the population pays for their healthcare. Highest in the world!

The Need Of The Hour

While these figures are sure scary, they present the next set of problems and challenges for startups to solve. The need of the hour is to develop innovative ways to deliver quality and low-cost healthcare solutions to the masses. As with other industries, IT has to play a prominent role in redefining the healthcare industry and bring efficiency into the entire ecosystem.

The Health Information Technology (HIT) is now gaining momentum in India with many startups now eyeing this space. Frost and Sullivan reported, India\'s healthcare information technology market is expected to hit $1.45 billion in 2018, more than three times the $381.3 million reached in 2012.

Currently, the startups dominating this space are mostly aggregators or into price discovery. These are predominantly platforms which give you access to many health service providers at a click, or best price for getting health services. While they sure make life easier and are much needed in the ecosystem, the time is ripe to step on to the next level.

Next in line are startups which can help in increasing the health reach to the masses. For example, telemedicines, e-consultation,second medical opinions and many others. There are quite a few players in the market, and this space is also heating up.

Looking into the Future

The next wave of startups will be the ones dealing with preventive healthcare, healthcare delivery and analytics. These will be the companies which can have a significant impact on the industry and will dig deeper into the core problems. With the increase in healthcare spending and out of pocket expenses, the demand for preventive healthcare and healthcare delivery is growing exponentially. While earlier, hospitals were the only link in this ecosystem, home health services, specialised care centres and app based self-management programs are the next big thing.

Take for instance, the latest assessment by WHO points that the number of people with diabetes in India doubled from 32 million in 2000 to 63 million in 2013. This is expected to increase to 101.2 million in the next 15 years. The same is the case with other lifestyle related diseases like obesity, cancer and others. Our current health infrastructure is in no way ready to manage this load. Health IT based solutions to manage these health conditions and ensure quality healthcare delivery are a big boon.

The Verdict

Health Information management and analytics space have an enormous potential to grow in India. The present structure of healthcare in India generates little data to be used. Most of the data is in paper format. For the one available electronically, there is no health information exchange which can make use of the data to drive innovation.

We need startups which can look into digitisation and aggregation of medical and health information. These can then be used to drive cognitive research and artificial intelligence, which can push the mantle for medical research and preventive healthcare. Picture this, using historical data - a doctor can look up into medical databases and can compare a drug\'s impact on patients with a positive medical history in a matter of few seconds.

The next wave of health care startups is into preventive healthcare, care delivery and analytics. Hopefully,few players are getting into the domain. The future sure looks bright for them. This will not just open new possibilities in the healthcare industry, but also take us towards tomorrows which will mean lesser investments in healthcare individually.