According to the World Health Organization's Global Health Workforce Statistics, the ratio of general physicians to patients in India stood at 6:10000 in 2010. This rose by an insignificant amount to 7:10000, in 2012.
Started in 2010, HelloDoctor24x7 is all about bridging this gap between patients and doctors in Odisha, and acts as an information pipeline for the same.
During medical school, Dr. Lalit Manik wished to solve the information crisis problem in OPDs. Narrating his experiences, he tells us that these OPDs witnessed hundreds of individuals roving around helplessly, asking doctors for information. Incubating his startup in the KIIT University Technology business incubator, the venture was seed funded (Rs 20 lakhs) by angel investor and Co-founder Sanjay Das.
From 2010-12, the startup was more of an information pipeline to patients. It also provided backend support to hospitals and clinics by handling calls and other requirements through their Patient Relationship Management Solutions (PRMS).However, Lalit felt the need to expand his offerings. Thus, exploring options for this venture, he took up a Masters’ course in Public Health at the University of Dundee, Scotland, handling the startup remotely all the while.
This is where he met his future Co-founder Shashank Singhal. Shashank came up with the idea of starting a 24x7 tele-consultations company in India when he was unable to book an appointment in the UKfor five days, with even a general physician. Shashank tells us:
On average, doctors get 20 calls/day from their patients. Of these, they miss, on average,eight important calls. Doctors often forget to call their patients back.
Invited on-board by Lalit, Shashank built the concept of tele-consultation under the same roof. He met around 200 doctors and 500 patients in his first phase, and did extensive research. Shashank describes the experience as nothing less than fun.
On asking the co-founders why they chose Bhubaneshwar for this service, they tell us
Bhubaneswar has a high concentration of tech institutions, thinkers, and doers in some pockets, all with unlimited entrepreneurial enthusiasm. Moreover, high-tech incubation centers provide opportunities to meet individuals who will possibly invest in your business.
The 24x7 solution was launched in January 2015. The startup has hit the milestones of more than 6000 calls and 3000 registered users, 40 per cent of which are repetitive. Their early adopters are people that stay a great distance from doctors, people too busy for a visit, people with chronic ailments requiring frequent follow-up check-ups, families with pregnant women, and old aged persons.
On an average, HelloDoctor24x7 gets 42 inbound calls per day, 40 per cent of which are for consulting doctors.
Started with a team of 12 individuals, the venture has grown into an 18-member team, with 12 campus ambassadors. They are present in 10 districts across Odisha.
Users have to paya certain amount online, then call the helpline. The telecom operator will ask the dialer their problem, and try to understand the diagnostic type, i.e., which doctor they should visit. On receiving the request, the operator connects the dialer with the requested doctor. The website also claims to provide any health-related information free of cost.
There are certain tariff cards attached to every doctor, explain the co-founders. A general physician could cost INR 20 per minute; a specialist (gynaecologist or dentist) as much as INR 40 per minute, anda super-specialist might charge up to INR 60 per minute.
The venture takes 40 per cent of the amount paid by the user online as their revenue. They have generated a total revenue of Rs. 1,95,400 between March and June 2015. Out of this, INR 60,000 is paid for sales,while the rest goes on promotions.
Moving forward, the service expects to receive 1200 consultations/day, and has tied up with Punjab National Bank. They have also recently opened two digital health kiosks where patients can directly consult with doctors and get prescription as a print-out. They plan to extend this to 100 kiosks with pharmacies and laboratories, to achieve their targets. Furthermore, the co-founders are looking to expand their services to four states in next six months, expecting an engagement of 3 lakh users. They’re also reaching out to corporates and industries in order to graspa larger customer share.
The venture aims to also start delivering medicines too, by collaborating with local chemists and pharmaceuticals. Additionally, they’re building their health kiosks in these chemist shops.
Furthermore, the startup has approached VCs like Saif Partners, Health Start, Acumen Fund, Ivy Cap Ventures and other private investors, marketing themselves as the ultimate health helpline.
In a report launched by PwC and GSMA, by 2017, diagnostic services are expected to comprise nearly 15% of the mHealth market, with US $3.4 billion in revenues globally. A majority of these revenues are expected to come from call centre and mobile telemedicine solutions, with approximately US$ 1.7 billion and US$ 1.6 billion respectively in revenue.
However, investments by venture capitalists tell a different story in India. The first half of 2015 saw only two percent of venture capital funding going to healthcare. But with Tiger Global Management, Ratan Tata and Nexus Venture Partners investing a total of 10.2 million in healthcare communication firm Lybrate, things are definitely moving towards a change.