With government push for sector, Shashank explains Practo’s insurance foray
In the last week of January, Practo and ICICI Lombard launched its insurance app IL TakeCare. On Feb 1, the government announced the National Health Protection Scheme, which aims to cover one billion Indians.
The government’s push towards insurance comes as no surprise and according to a Fintlex report, the size of the health insurance market is said to touch Rs 21,904 crore by 2022.
Practo, when it stated out 10 years ago, got the first mover advantage in the digital healthcare space, and has raised four rounds of funding totalling $179 million. It is backed by marque investors like Tencent, Sequoia, Sofina, G Capital, Matrix Partners and several others.
Born out a personal frustration of the healthcare system in India, Practo had, by 2015, forayed into the Southeast Asian market. In late 2016, it ventured into Brazil and Latin America. Last year, the company raised Series D funding, and rebranded itself as a complete healthcare platform that focuses on appointments, consultations, health records, and most recently, insurance.
The push towards a National Healthcare protection
Interestingly, days before Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed the National Protection Scheme or Modi Care as part of the Union Budget, Practo announced a foray into health insurance in partnership with ICICI Lombard.
It launched health insurance app, IL TakeCare. The app covers outpatient expenses of customers and works in sync with Practo’s ‘Trinity’ technology, allowing customers to make cashless visits to doctors, including those who operate stand-alone clinics. It also allows customers to buy medicines at discounted rates.
The government’s National Protection Scheme plans to cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families with up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care. The government will extend this plan across different segments.
In a statement post the Union Budget, Shashank ND, Co-founder and CEO, Practo, said on the government insurance plan:
“This is a big step forward and will help millions of people afford healthcare for themselves and their loved ones. Implementation of the scheme would be central to its success. I believe successful implementation will depend on optimal use of private healthcare providers and technology to make it seamless, convenient and transparent for the consumers.”
In a quick chat before the Budget, Shashank explains why Practo believes health insurance was an important gap that needed to be addressed.
YS: Why health insurance? And why a separate app with a rebranding exercise?
Shashank: So far, in Practo, we have built technology for providers, we have built technology for consumers. This technology is specifically built for payers. In India, outpatient care is not covered well under insurance, while it is not so in other countries. Practo aims to change and solve that problem.
If you look at the numbers, close to 24 percent of hospitalisation is because patients haven't had timely interventions. Insurance, rarely covers prevention, it covers hospitalisation, and medical expenses. In short, it focusses only on the in-patients.
And that is why IL TakeCare facilitates real-time viewing of personal health records as well as benefits, billings, and transactions for service providers.
It comes with a one-time password for all transactions through mobile or email, and provides multiple access points for family members. The solution will be made available to customers with due consent from the regulator. ICICI Lombard is among the largest insurance companies in India, and are a pioneer in the space. The tie-up, therefore, was a no-brainer.
YS: How long did it take for Practo to build IL TakeCare, and the underlying technology?
Shashank: We have been planning towards venturing into health insurance, and have taken a year to build the technology.
The effort of building a complete healthcare platform for 10 years has made it easier for understand the complexity of building technology for insurance. Apart from this, the Trinity technology will also help patients get cashless and a paperless experience for everyday healthcare needs like medicine purchase, online consults, diagnostic tests, and doctor visits.
YS: How does the collaboration with ICICI Lombard work?
Shashank: For retailers and individual consumers, ICICI Lombard provides different kinds of insurance products. Now IL TakeCare will be an option available on ICICI Lombard for different kinds of individual consumers.
The focus currently is towards building a long-term relationship with ICICI Lombard as the objective is to ensure that outpatient insurance becomes an important segment in the healthcare ecosystem of India.
Five years from now, we are hoping that the healthcare ecosystem is completely cashless and paperless, and this is one step towards that objective.