Economics professor, chef, ex-army officer, and investment manager join hands to start myCOL to help improve hospitalisation process
“For over 19 years, Wockhardt Hospitals had close to 3,000 beds and were the second largest. And the largest hospital boasts of 7,000 beds. Currently, there’s a spend of close to USD 185,000 per bed. One of the biggest problems in our country is infrastructure development,” said Vishal Bali of Medwell Ventures at the Decoding Healthcare event by Unitus Seed Fund in Bengaluru. Thus, highlighting the infrastructural challenges the growing healthcare sector is facing.
It was this challenge that created myCOL. At the core of it, myCOL was started with the understanding that securing in-patient hospital admission in India is an intimidating exercise even for the upwardly mobile and educated class.
Be it the asymmetry of information regarding bed availability, a non-existent comprehensive database of specialists and hospitals, or simply the administrative hassles in completing admission formalities. It is estimated that more than 31,500 man-hours are wasted daily in Delhi alone in securing in-patient hospital admissions.
Having known each other for several years, Professor Mudit Kapoor, PhD in Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and Vaibhav Singh, who has been a part of private equity, investment management, consulting, M&A and advisory, discussed the idea for a few months. They spent time in conducting extensive primary research at the hospitals.
Dinesh Tewari, being a strict disciplinarian from the Army, was invited to assist with the operations and staff handling. Aarti Gupta, having run an entrepreneurial venture in food, was considered appropriate from a customer engagement and retention strategy.
Addressing the problems
The research was conducted through primary survey of patients (and their care takers) at some of the biggest hospitals in NCR using a simple questionnaire methodology. The major issues that emerged from the patient’s side are as follows:
- Lack of information regarding hospitals, doctors, and facilities put them at a severe disadvantage. Information was too costly to gather during stressful times so they were forced to make uninformed, sub-optimal decisions.
- In-patient admission: the patients and the caretakers were not given appropriate advice on the procedures involved and so they ended up wasting three to four hours during admission.
- Billing and insurance. In case of billing – the expectations and the actual did not meet. No one explained the various parts of the bill, and as a result, this led to mistrust and misgivings and delays at the time of discharge. In case of insurance, it was difficult dealing with the TPAs, which led to massive delays, confusion, frustration adding to the stress. On an average up to six hours are wasted during discharge.
- For the doctors: the biggest issue centred around patient compliance – follow ups, timely and regular intake of prescribed medicines, bringing complete health records post procedures.
- Reduction in average length of stay (ALOS): Contrary to popular perception, hospitals want the patient to leave sooner than later as the money and margins are in the procedure (generally performed within the first 24 hours) and not in the convalescing period. Hence, even if the discharge time is reduced by 30 minutes, they stand to gain immensely from the reduction in ALOS, thereby increasing the occupancy rates and margins for the hospital.
- Inability to fill the beds due to asymmetry of information/lack of information for the patient. It is commonly believed that there is shortage of beds in India, but on the contrary even the best managed hospitals run average occupancy of no more than 70 per cent.
It’s interesting to note that there were minimal issues regarding medical care, but most of the concerns/complaints were centred around administrative issues.
Usage of the app
Thus, myCOL or Circle of Life Healthcare Private Limited aims to deliver a synergistic suite of services through a mobile application. The biggest differentiator for myCOL according to Mudit is the personalised free ‘assistant’ service. On booking an assistant through myCOL, the company immediately assigns an assistant for the patient and the caretaker to take care of all administrative formalities at the hospital of their choice.
The various aspects of the app include:
- A comprehensive data base of all medical facilities and practitioners, irrespective of size, resolving bed unavailability.
- Instantaneous assignment of a personalised assistant to each user requiring hospital admission.
- Insurance coordination, discharge, and post discharge assistance.
- Electronic health records (portable, available all the time).
- Focus on continuum of care (reminders, OPD appointments, and disease management centres).
- Help in establishing contact with the user to kick-start the admission process, assistance in coordination with third-party administration.
- Utilise the intensive contact hours with the patient and the caretaker.
- Digitise the healthcare records of patient/caretaker(s).
- Recommend health insurance plans to patient families.
- Upload medicine reminders into the patient myCOL account before discharge.
- Begin with discharge activities on behalf of patient/caretaker, thereby providing convenience to them and also effectively reducing the time taken for discharge (assistant knows the system inside-out).
The major challenges according to Vaibhav were in setting up included getting buy-in from the hospitals with respect to the assistance service at their premises and ensuring appropriate go-to-market strategy to foster user adoption.
Mudit adds that they found that while hospitals are good at managing patient centricity, they fail at customer centricity. Hence, there is a need for such a service, which not only helps provide information to patients but also improves their overall hospital experience.
"Having secured interest from the large branded hospitals, the task of getting the smaller hospitals is relatively simpler, as the need of such a service to the smaller hospitals is more pertinent from improving occupancy levels and gaining market recognition and popularity," says Mudit.
Traction and future plans
Within the first week, myCOL got over 2000 views/downloads and a registered user base of 500 active users. "Being in the initial launch phase, we are currently focussed on creating the awareness about our product amongst the upwardly mobile individuals who are the early adopters of technology," says Vaibhav.
myCOL intends to rollout its service in Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru by March 2016 and then Mumbai, Kolkata, and Pune by September 2016. It targets to launch its Medical Tourism business by March 2016 with an initial focus on the Middle East and Africa.