This 18-year-old entrepreneur’s startup is changing healthcare in rural India
Aryaman Kunzru’s PolyClinic is a cost and resource-effective healthcare platform that digitises medical records in rural medical centres across India.
Go to a doctor and chances are, you’d first be asked your detailed medical history. They would want to know your allergies, previous illnesses and treatments. Now that may not normally be too difficult with urban dwellers as hospitals and doctors themselves keep records, but in rural India, the challenge is very real.
Eighteen-year-old Aryaman Kunzru saw this problem and came up with an answer.
The teenage entrepreneur founded PolyClinic – a platform to digitise medical records in rural medical centres across India.
Born in Japan, and raised in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, Aryaman decided to travel across India after his graduation. Ever observant, he saw most people in rural India did not have the means to keep track of their medical records, and decided to do something about it.
Using PolyClinic, doctors can manage appointments, enter progress notes in real-time, either by typing or through the speech-to-text input feature, keep track of follow-up appointments and upload health reports. Patients can also login to PolyClinic's user-friendly interface, and access their data.
In a conversation with YourStory, Aryaman explains how PolyClinic came about, and what kind of future he envisions. Edited excerpts:
YourStory: When and how did the idea of founding PolyClinic come about?
Aryaman Kunzru: I volunteered at clinics in the summers, helping out with logistical tasks, paperwork and geriatric patients. I saw the problems patients and under-resourced clinics faced when storing medical records. Despite patients filing their details, there were almost always papers missing, forcing patients to verbally recall their medical history. This makes diagnosing and treating patients difficult, and at times, even risky.
Most clinics don’t have adequate resources to install systems that can capture medical history and this impacts the quality of diagnoses. After conducting some research on my own, I identified a few ways in which a basic software can be created for clinics that cannot afford expensive systems.
YS: Have you faced any challenges because of your age?
AK: Fortunately, I haven’t faced any challenges because of my age. I’m subjected to the same rigour and assessment that any other individual is. People who work with me want to know if I actually understand the problem, have the technical expertise to address it, and the resolve to power through the obstacles.
I find that if I’m able to convince my peers of these three things, my age doesn’t get in the way of my work.
In some cases, my age has actually been an advantage. I find people are especially receptive towards younger innovators — they’re more likely to listen to and connect with us, and potentially even mentor us. This has made it easier for me to gain guidance and expertise from those in industry.
People recognise that younger people are more adaptable and eager to learn. We don’t have the knowledge or the experience to have “our own set ways”, so I would say we are more likely to genuinely consider the advice we’re given — unlike more seasoned professionals with years of experience.
YS: What kind of support do young innovators like yourself seek?
AK: I look for all the help I can get. From the building blocks of any project I’ve worked on — ideation, design, iterative testing strategies — to finer execution details, I try speaking to as many people as possible to learn as much as I can.
Even if a piece of advice does not apply to my work now, I know it will help me somewhere down the road.
I frequently ask for help with iterative testing strategies, because unlike at school, where I rarely had the opportunity to work on projects with more than three to four stakeholders, with PolyClinic, I get to hear many more perspectives, have to consider a lot more feedback, and naturally, have far more complex decisions to make.
YS: How do you visualise the future of PolyClinic?
AK: In the short term, I plan to conduct additional rounds of testing and iterating for PolyClinic, making sure my prototype has been used enough so I can confidently consider a more widespread use of the system.
I want to ensure that this testing phase is as robust as possible, though I’m wary of the software changes that may be required at various stages. I’m currently focusing on digital pens that automatically sync a doctor’s notes on paper with the software.
When it comes to the ‘big picture’, I think PolyClinic is a small part of a much larger movement that is happening nationwide. Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are a competitive space with many government and corporate players, and it’s only recently that the general public has recognised the importance of such systems. The challenge is in the consistent and standardised implementation of such systems across the country.
YS: Based on your experience, what would you like to tell other young innovators today?
AK: There’s more to your middle or high school education than going to class and scoring well in exams. Academics are important, but only real-life adventures and projects (like PolyClinic) will teach you about the strengths and the limit of your skill set. I’ve learnt far more outside the classroom than I have from any test, textbook, or lecture.
Experiences teach you to be more independent and resourceful and that you have to overcome obstacles by yourself. You need to talk to people, do research, take online courses, and do just about anything that brings you closer to your goal. What matters is that you put yourselves out there, explore something new, and learn what can’t be taught in a classroom.