Why these robotic engineers decided to venture into in-patient services with healthtech startup Alpha Care
When 27-year-old Pranay Agarwal visited a relative who had delivered a baby in hospital, he was shocked that hospital processes remained unorganised in this digital age. His technology background led him to realise that the problem could be addressed by an innovative yet simple IoT-based solution. In 2017, this led to the birth of Alpha Care, an in-patient services system that streamlines operational processes and enables standardisation of services.
The Bengaluru-based startup, started with Pranay’s MIT college mates and friends Kritarth Mohan, Saakshi Agarwal, and Daniel D’Souza, aims to redefine care with an operational tool that provides real-time tracking of in-patient requests.
Their first product, Alpha Care, is an in-patient services management system that focuses on improving the overall in-patient experience and optimising nursing workload by segregating patient requests at source and routing them to the concerned department directly.
“We began our product development journey with a couple of interactions with veterans in the industry, and developed the beta version of our product. During our pilot phase, we kept on improvising, adopting further requirements, and filling in more gaps to strengthen our product,” Pranay says.
The founder says it took them a little more than a year, Rs 15 lakh, and multiple iterations for the product to evolve into what it is today.
“We constantly improved our product based on user feedback, hospital infrastructure/operational issues, and user diversity,” he says.
Alpha Care is the four friends’ second entrepreneurial venture. In 2014, they had built an online marketplace that sold components needed by colleges and companies to build IoT devices. However, they were keen on product development, and decided to start up again.
The co-founders sourced the money for their operations from their first startup and from friends and family.
What does the product do?
The in-patient services management tool segregates requests into clinical and non-clinical, at source. The team places a plug-and-play device at the patient’s bedside, which can be used to directly place a request with the concerned department (housekeeping, F&B, etc), rather than contacting a nurse for every task.
The service turnaround time is recorded to assess the quality of service provided, and escalations are reported to the concerned supervisors and HoDs (based on breaches of Service Lease Agreement defined by the hospital).
“Our system generates business intelligence reports, using which hospitals can take patient-centric decisions and a proactive approach rather than the current reactive one. This redefines the in-patient experience and can also predict future trends and behaviour,” Pranay says.
“We use IoT for the communication between the patient device and staff systems. We are currently working on using wearables to upgrade the product and cater to additional requirements,” he adds.
The team claims that using Alpha Care has reduced requests that were directed to nurses by 40 percent, ultimately saving nursing hours and reducing operational costs.
Challenging the mindset
While developing a product dynamic enough to be adopted by hospitals for different needs and requirements had its challenges, getting the initial meetings for a product demo was a Herculean task.
“Also, their long sales cycle was something that we weren't prepared for. Being a critical industry, multiple stakeholders were involved at every step. Moreover, the product requires a behavioural shift for the staff, and a strong upgrade in the way in-patient interactions happen. It is very difficult to convince hospital management to change something that has been deep-rooted into their operations. It took us a very long time; we held repeated training sessions and had discussions to make them comfortable,” Pranay says.
Going from a traditional system to a tech-based one also meant that the product needed to be used by the housekeeping department, often not as tech-savvy as others (due to age, lack of exposure, and opportunities). The team consistently worked to ensure that their product was “easy to use”.
Traction and the market
The platform was launched a year back and since then team has on-boarded Manipal Hospitals and Rainbow Children’s Hospital as clients. Alpha Care is also looking to expand to global markets and has an ongoing PoC at Royal Bahrain Hospitals in the Gulf.
The market for B2B healthcare is fast growing. According to Research and Markets, the diagnostic services market is expected to continue growing at 27.5 percent in the next five years. This growth is likely to be driven by improving healthcare facilities, medical diagnostic and pathological laboratories, private-public projects, and the health insurance sector.
With proprietary concepts such as CoolSure, Health Karma, SmartPrik, Health Tracker all looking at digitisation of reports and bringing in a touch of AI into healthcare, the focus of Alpha Care remains in-patient care and management.
Pranay says most startups/corporates in the healthcare industry are working towards improving clinical services (in terms of online consultation, medical devices, wearables, EMR etc).
“With the Alpha Care Inpatient module, we optimise operations in a hospital using IoT-based plug-and-play hardware that is easy to use,” he says.
Plans for the future
The startup, currently bootstrapped, follows an enterprise B2B model. The charges range from Rs 30,000 to Rs 45,000 per month, for a 100-bed hospital.
Speaking of their plans for the future, Pranay says, “We are focused on healthcare operations and plan to develop a suite of products that will help hospitals optimise operations, standardise processes, and improve staff efficiency.”
Alpha Care is keen to become a one-stop solution for hospital management and bring down hospital OPEX costs. “This will eventually help them bring down the cost of healthcare. We also plan to begin consultancy services for hospitals,” Pranay says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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