Accessing basic healthcare amenities is a real pain in rural India. One has to travel to a nearby town or city for even minor ailments and health assessments. “I retired from the army and settled in a remote village near Midnapore (West Bengal). I am suffering from chronic disease and require medical checkups at regular intervals,” says Subhodip Sarkar (62). Like Sarkar, many elderly citizens residing in villages have to deal with the ordeal of travelling for health checkups as existing facilities in rural areas are poor.
While technology has the ability to change the status quo of basic healthcare facilities in rural areas, it also has a limitation. Human touch is critical to delivering healthcare, and technology has to play the role of an enabler rather than that of a replacement to doctors or hospitals. Exploring the mix of technology and manual facets, Dhilly Babu, Shreyans Gandhi and Arpit Mishra floated YOLO Health.
The company’s offering is an 'ATM for Healthcare', borrowed from a banking model where all basic banking services are now delivered in an ATM without the need to walk to a branch.
Dhilly and Shreyans are alumni of IIT Bombay, while Arpit graduated from IIIT Kharagpur. Earlier, Dhilly founded Beans & Intellect Financial Technology, which was later acquired by Miles Software in 2013. Shreyans worked with Fujitsu Labs of America and Samsung R&D, USA. He also holds five patents in the US. Arpit had stints at Nomura and Microsoft.
Why an ATM-based approach to delivering healthcare facilities?
We thought that a similar concept (on the lines of bank ATMs) could work for healthcare, where all basic and primary healthcare services can be delivered in an ATM-like concept, targeting communities who don't have access to a hospital or doctor.
With the ability to screen patients, capture vital health parameters and provide access to quality healthcare within reasonable proximity, YOLO Health is able to deliver complete primary care.
Advantages of an ATM-based approach in delivering healthcare facilities in rural areas
With a unique ATM-based approach and removing the dependency for high-skilled expertise (a model can be operated with an 8th or 10th standard pass trained paramedic/health worker), YOLO Health is able to deliver affordable care to the remote and rural communities for whom access to basic healthcare is a challenge. Dhilly points out,
Rural areas are our primary focus; we believe we are solving a large problem of ‘access’ here and will be able to deliver bigger impact targeting rural communities. Our strategy has been to closely work with hospitals, CSR foundations and state governments to deliver our health ATMs.
Delivering healthcare in rural India: Human touch is a critical component
Human touch is critical in delivering healthcare in remote locations. This includes understanding local culture, behaviour and languages. “Our health ATMs are primarily driven by local entrepreneurs/assistants. We are able to deliver care with a human touch,” says Dhilly.
YOLO Health’s first critical learning has been to understand the importance of the human touch in delivering healthcare aided with technology. The role of technology as an enabler rather than a replacement to doctors was an important lesson for them to build trust with the end-users. “We found that rural consumers demand and expect higher value to be delivered at affordable costs vis-a-vis their urban counterparts. Delivering healthcare that is accessible and affordable will always remain our critical challenge,” adds Dhilly.
Traction and major features
So far, the company has installed 17 health ATMs across Karnataka (Kolar District), Chattisgarh (Sukma and Dantewada Districts), Kolkata and Mumbai. It also plans to deploy ATMs in New Delhi and Bhopal.
Institutions like Glocal Health (Kolkata), Essar Foundation (Chattisgarh), Narayana Health (Karnataka) and the respective state governments have been supportive of YOLO Health’s initiative. “These government bodies have given us the opportunity to validate and deliver healthcare facilities through our health ATMs,” adds Arpit.
These ATMs enable live tele-consultation with doctors via high definition video conferences. A suite of integrated digital medical devices allows hassle-free and automatic capturing and streaming of vital health parameters. It also provides on-the-spot health reports, summaries and prescriptions post tele-visits.
Challenges and market opportunity
Healthcare has always been hospital or doctor-driven in India, and a doctor’s visit seems to be warranted only when the situation is critical. “Our challenge has been to make things consumer-driven, empowering the consumers to choose what, who and when they want to access for healthcare needs,” adds Dhilly.
80 percent of India’s population have no direct, physical access to specialist healthcare. Estimates suggest that the telemedicine market is made up of at least 800 million Indians. Even if half of these 800 million need to consult a specialist once a year, that still amounts to 400 million specialist consultations per year. According to McKinsey, the Indian rural healthcare market is expected to expand at a pace of 44 percent by 2015, totaling its worth at $8.8 billion.
Expansion and future plans
YOLO Health aspires to set up the largest network of digital health touch-points (through its network of connected health ATMs) across the country to deliver accessible and affordable healthcare for everyone. Arpit says,
We are targeting the setting up of 10,000 digital touch-points across the country in the next five years.
The company is also targeting primary healthcare centres, community health centres, railway stations and common service centres (CSC's) to deliver and distribute their health ATMs.
YOLO Health competes with the likes of Lybrate, SeeDoc and JustDoc on the web and mobile fronts. On the digital medical device space, it competes with Swasthya Slate. While attempts to deliver primary healthcare through networks along the lines of bank ATMs make sense, it requires deep pockets. YOLO Health’s model looks like an interesting solution in rural areas, where access to basic healthcare facilities is a daunting task.