Incidence of kidney disease in India is high and rising. According to the National Kidney Foundation of India, about 100 people in one million suffer from kidney diseases. These diseases are treatable and in some cases curable. However, of those people requiring dialysis in India, only about 22.5% receive treatment.
In true entrepreneurial fashion, Indians across the country have seized the business opportunity as a way to address this growing problem. Nephroplus and Deep Chand Dialysis Centre, for instance, are two such companies that are making valuable contributions. Recently, we had the chance to catch up with another such venture, Sparsh Nephrocare, which is actively creating solutions to the challenge of expanding the reach of dialysis treatment across the country.
Many point to the high cost of dialysis treatment as the primary barrier preventing patients from receiving treatment. However, according to Saurav Panda, founder of Sparsh Nephrocare, this is not the case.
“We believe that accessibility is the key barrier which prevents patients from receiving quality dialysis treatment in India,” explained Mr. Panda. “Most of the nephrologists and dialysis facilities are located in Metro, or Tier I, cities in India which are home only to about 5% of Indian population. A patient in Tier 2 or 3 city not only has to bear the direct cost of treatment, he or she also has to travel often to the big centers or relocate there altogether.”
As a result, individuals suffering from kidney disease forego treatment not necessarily because of the initial cost of treatment, but because of additional costs incurred during travel time, as well as the burden of travel itself. Mr. Panda established Sparsh Nephrocare along with fellow Indian School of Business alum, Gaurav Porwal, in order to address this issue. Since 2010, they have been working to expand the currently inadequate accessibility of affordable dialysis treatment to those who need it throughout India.
“We were looking to do something meaningful which can impact a large number of people,” explained Mr. Panda. “While looking for ideas, we came across a rather massive demand-supply gap in dialysis treatment service delivery. There are almost 15 lakh kidney failure patients in India who need dialysis on a regular basis to survive. However, only about 50,000 patients have any access to the treatment… All in all, we found that the current scenario is unacceptable and dialysis really needs to be made more affordable and accessible to the patients.”
In order to do this, Sparsh Nephrocare has developed a system that enables remote management of dialysis patients. They have created an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to help them streamline patient medical data and information regarding the internal operations of the dialysis center. This information, Mr. Panda explained, can be accessed online by both patients and doctors in order to track the progress of the dialysis treatment and the individual patient’s health.
Using this technology, Sparsh Nephrocare serves as a dialysis outsourcing company, partnering with existing hospitals and nephrologists to set up dialysis centers fully equipped with physical capital and medical expertise. With a management structure devoted specifically to dialysis patient care, Sparsh Nephrocare guarantees their patients the highest standards of treatment and transparency, a notable contrast with many hospital-run centers in the country.
For example, because dialysis treatment requires extremely purified water supplies, Sparsh Nephrocare has set up water treatment plants customized for each location the water is sourced. They have also actively worked to eliminate many of the unsafe but common practices of dialysis across the country, setting new standards for dialysis units in India.
“Almost 90% of dialysis units in India rely on manual reprocessing using really harmful chemicals like formalin & sodium hypochlorite, which really cause patients a lot of harm overtime,” explained Mr. Panda. “We only use automated reprocessing of dialysis kits – in accordance to US FDA standards – which eliminates chances of infection and harmful chemicals while improving the quality of dialysis provided.”
With funding from strategic partner Sandor Medicaids, Sparsh Nephrocare has been able to expand dialysis treatment to patients that were previously unable or unwilling to receive it. They currently have 15 centers across 8 cities and 6 states, and by 2015 are hoping to add 60 more centers and reach 10,000 more patients. “We aim to be the number one dialysis service provider in India through our centers in Tier 2 and 3 cities and also the partner of choice for any hospital that wishes to have a best-in-class dialysis facility in its premises,” Mr. Panda told us.
In 2010, Sparsh Nephrocare was rated one of India’s most promising start-ups at the Economic Times Power of Ideas entrepreneurship development program. Last year, Microsoft featured their ERP solution in a case study analyzing ways technology is being used to expand access and affordability of healthcare. As Sparsh Nephrocare continues to gain recognition and grows, the future becomes more and more promising not only for the company but for the Indian healthcare space in general.