This doctor dumped US job to build integrated medicine platform SyncremediesVishal Krishna
The startup melds practices from various disciplines to provide holistic medical intervention to patients.
Arjun Rao graduated from Kuvempu Vishwavidyanilaya in 1998 as a young doctor. However, he soon left for the US to practise medicine, and also finish his MBA. But after 16 years, he realised that there was something amiss. He wondered why modern medicine provided treatment after a patient fell sick, rather than helping them see ways to prevent or reduce their ailments in the first place. “Some people suffer from the same problem for life and the same medicines are given, with little emphasis on the outcome,” says Dr Rao.
In 2013, he thought of the possibility of combining the best of global medicine with the traditional and time-tested methods of treatment to achieve healthy living. He returned to India in 2014, set up Syncremedies, and began experimenting with the concept of 'integrated medicine'. Dr Rao had spent the last three years validating the concept and also building the technology.
He began to experiment with the concept in the most traditional of places in Bengaluru -- Basvanagudi, known for its filter coffee, mom-and-pop stores and a conservative society.
He found a doctor who championed his cause. Every Wednesday, at a clinic in Basvanagudi, doctors from different streams (allopathy, homeopathy and ayurveda) consult with patients on how to 'combine' medicine for effective treatment.
They are using an evidence-based approach along with appropriate therapeutic measures to achieve desired healing. For example, if a patient is suffering from long bouts of stomach congestion, the ayurvedic doctor will discuss with his colleagues from other streams about detoxifying the body with appropriate food and exercise for the first month before the allopathy and homeopathy doctors take over for the next leg of the treatment. So, over the course of six months, through applications, such as managing diet, medicine and a change in habits, the patient is cured.
Dr Rao met 28-year-old Pooja Prakash Rao in 2016 through an acquaintance, who came on board to scale up the business across the country. Pooja, a graduate of RV College of Engineering from the 2010 batch and an IIM-B alumna from the 2015 batch, was initially looking for employment after her MBA. After meeting Arjun, she decided that becoming an entrepreneur was a risk worth taking. She came on as the co-founder and chief operating officer of the company.
At the heart of it, Syncremedies uses the internet as a channel of communication between patients and doctors. It is also an Electronic Medical Record platform, as it collects data of every patient and knows their history of treatment. Once a patient wants to be treated with integrated medicine, he needs to get onto the website of Syncremedies.
The consultation happens online, but patients can choose to meet the doctors. Once the appointment is fixed the doctors connect with the patients through video and they spend close to 40 minutes with them to create a treatment plan. Once the plan is set, the prescription and the medicines are sent to the patient’s home. Syncremedies has 21 doctors signed up on its platform, with four Syncremedies-powered clinics. The company does not own any of the clinics; instead, a doctor with a clinic signs up with the Syncremedies platform and begins to share his knowledge with doctors from other streams. The company is scaling up the number of clinics and hopes to increase it to 20 in Bengaluru, 10 in Pune and five in Hyderabad by the end of the year.
“We are vested on outcomes, and we can scale faster because it is an online model,” explains Dr Rao, while pointing out the advantages of harnessing the Internet or the smartphone to follow up with the patient and ensure that the treatment plan is seen through.
Syncremedies offers preventive care with exercise and diet strategies, curative care in the treatment of common and lifestyle diseases, and wellness services.
The company is also signing up with private clinics in the US and UK to have a wellness-based approach to common diseases. The clinics in these regions will use the Syncremedies platform to provide preventive and wellness services. In the UK, the startup wants to be a consultation platform using telemedicine.
The challenges and the opportunity
The only way the company can scale up is to find doctors who know that integrated medicine helps patients. Explains Dr Rao,
“There are enough doctors who like this as a revenue stream. With information people are looking for outcomes and want to be part of effective treatment plans.”
The company has invested Rs 50 lakh, and currently clocks a revenue close to a crore. The business model for the company is to take a percentage out of the treatment plan price suggested by the doctors.
Apart from having to convince doctors from different disciplines to work together, the problem lies in the industry itself. It is dominated by allopathy. According to Indian Brand Equity Foundation, the pharmaceutical industry is $55 billion in size. However, there is a need for integrated medicine, which is recognised by the WHO.
The organisation recognises both traditional and complementary medicine as important but often underestimated parts of healthcare. The treatments are found in almost every country in the world, and the demand for them is increasing. Many countries now recognise the need to develop a cohesive and integrated approach to healthcare that allows governments, healthcare practitioners and, most importantly, those who use health care services, access these disciplines in a safe, respectful, cost-efficient and effective manner. A global strategy to foster its appropriate integration, regulation and supervision will be useful for countries wishing to develop a proactive policy towards this important, and often vibrant and expanding, part of healthcare.
Technology will go a long way in bringing traditional medicine to the latest decade. “Technology should be the focus to make these outcome-based businesses successful,” says Naganand Doraswamy, CEO of IdeaSpring Capital.
For Dr Rao, all his hard work and efforts of studying to be a doctor and then working globally to understand why patients need to be helped have come to fruition. The only thing that needs to sync now is the patient’s belief in integrated medicine and a doctor’s belief in it too. If both converge, then he has achieved his outcome.