Taking healthcare in remote areas to save a million lives – A3's challenging journey
A3rmt customizes wireless portable medical technology to tackle area-specific healthcare inefficiencies in emerging markets. Its impact could be massive.
India is teeming with healthcare problems. Low income and poor education severely restrict access to medical facilities in rural areas; poor training and inadequate paying schemes are mainly responsible for bad medical performances and non-implementation of public health programs; while lack of facilities, medical devices and unreliable communication and patient transportation prevent adequate action in many cases. This is where remote technology comes in, allowing doctors to control patients from long distances. A3 is doing just that.
It has been calculated that by 2018, the portable medical devices market worldwide will be worth $20 billion (MarketsandMarkets). The US and Europe are currently the main technological developers and are expanding to emerging markets. “Providers of portable medical technology based in the West often fail to understand the diversity of local medical scenarios in developing contexts” says Dr. Shrikant Parikh, Founder and CEO of the company, adding “A3 offers Indian solutions for Indian conditions.”
A3rmt partners with senior doctors in every area they work who provide detailed information about the specific local challenges in healthcare. “Their surveys include technical as well as ethnographic details, which help A3rmt create customized devices. Broadly speaking, solutions consist of patient side units, wirelessly connected to multiple cloud servers. Doctors just need to have a smart phone/hand held device,” says Parikh.
The team focuses on five broad areas: cardiovascular diseases, cuts and wounds, war zone medical care, pregnancy, and radiology. “Take an ambulance in war zone as an example,” says Parikh, “Every time medical staff assist patients, they need to fill in endless amount of paperwork. We offer technology that automates the process.” In Tamil Nadu, A3 has provided a system for doctors and cardiologist of the State Governmental District Hospital to remotely serve patients in the Primary Healthcare Centre of Kunjapanai village, which lies in a hilly, forested terrain.
So far the team has assisted 28'000 patients – of whom 1100 were in critical conditions - in 180 locations. They have partnered with 15 NGOs, private/semi private hospitals and governments, including the Ramakrishna Mission, the Gujarati and the Tamil Nadu governments. Currently, A3 is collaborating with Indian Railways to bring remote medical technology to their hospitals. They offer different pricing schemes to different client.
A3 has provided their technology to six Indian states so far, and has even crossed the Indian border to reach the hospital of Mwanza, Tanzania, where patients are remotely monitored by senior doctors in Ahmedabad. “This centre told us that they contacted 52 other companies to improve their medical technology and efficiency before they found us.” says a proud Parikh. The success of the Mwanza partnership triggered the interest of other African countries that are currently negotiating to obtain A3 services.
Dr.Shrikant Parikh, says: “When we started in 2008 we faced much criticism. Medical practitioners were very conservative and not very amenable to adopting of new ways of practicing medicine - and often for good reasons. Changing that mind set was a central challenge.”
Now things are different. The IT boom, the start-up era, has contributed to delivering a more positive perception of technology an innovating power. The company is experiencing slow but increasing understanding of the medical community and it is going to be profitable by the first quarter of 2015, feels Parikh.
This success would not have been possible without investments from the team, which includes his wife Dr Vandana, Dr Sunil Lakdawala - COO of the company and Dr. Uday Desai, whose laboratory in Hyderabad served as a centre for A3rmt technology development. The team has benefited from two government-sponsored schemes, TEPP and CGTSME, which have helped with the starting capital and working capital respectively.
Endurance has been A3rmt's strong point. “We started in 2008, but it is only in the last two and a half years tat we ae taken significant steps forward,” reveals Parikh. he team's resolution to stick to their ethic: “ A3 motto 'save a million lives' has inspired them to seek for solutions that would have an actual impact.” Monetisation is not A3's first concern and for this reason the team has sometimes “wasted time”, in Parikh's words, with companies more interested in the money-making side of the business.
The team is undoubtedly contributing to a radical shift in medical care worldwide. However, they are still facing resistance from the traditionalist Indian medical community; and competition from Western countries. A3rmt is already at a scaling stage, having shown numerous successful examples of patient control; however, to continue being sustainable and keep a positive impact it needs to develop effective means of gaining visibility. At the moment the best publicity for A3 has been the satisfaction of their clients, the efficiency of their technology and strategic partnership that give them credibility (A3rmt was shortlisted in the final pitch at this year Bangalore IBM Smart Camp). Although this is part of a good strategy, a clearer presentation of the A3rmt concept would further push the success of the company.
Here you can watch more about A3rmt