Digital clinics on WhatsApp? Healthtech startup Paperplane shows how

Founded in 2021, Bengaluru-based healthtech startup Paperplane helps doctors set up their online clinics and digital receptions on WhatsApp.
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Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, digital health platforms providing online consultations have eased many painful aspects of visiting a doctor’s clinic, including getting immediate medical advice and saving on time spent waiting at clinics for their turns.

However, the patient-doctor relationship — built over the years with trust at the core — is one crucial aspect that remains unaddressed, says Devansh Swarup, an entrepreneur and a computer science student at SRM University, Chennai.

He tells YourStory, “People do not always like to use a digital platform to reach out to doctors.”

Devansh, along with his SRM University batchmates, Dhruv Upadhyay, Aryan Pandey, and Varun Goel, are solving this problem through Paperplane — an AI-first digital clinic for medical practitioners.

The need

Before starting in 2021, the team spoke to over 150 doctors to understand their issues, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and found physical consultation could only be done for a few hours.

“A doctor needs to go digital. That is the need of the hour. But no platforms or software would help them go digital on their own terms under their own brand. And, a lot of footfall in local clinics is through social selling, social reference, and the personal brand of a doctor,” Devansh says.

With the last two years of the pandemic necessitating a digital presence, doctors have had to manage offline operations, besides being available on platforms for teleconsultations, which has limited to a few particular slots available during the day.

“They faced signal issues, crowding, and queuing,” Dhruv adds.

Devansh highlights that in most cases, offline management is done through personal chats and calls. In fact, most doctors regularly interact with patients through WhatsApp, taking appointments, seeking clarifications and getting in touch with them during emergencies.

“WhatsApp was becoming a trusted means. While the concept and behaviour already existed, it was manual,” says Devansh, adding that it could help doctors scale and reach out to larger audiences.

Paperplane addresses this gap and combines these ideas and offers a user-friendly technology for doctors and medical practitioners to manage their consultations online.

The product

Paperplane acts as a portable clinic on WhatsApp for hospitals and doctors and aims to help doctors similar to how ecommerce startup Dukaan enables medium and large enterprises to go digital.

“It is a complete digital manifestation of a local clinic, where we provide doctors with their virtual receptions on top of WhatsApp, and they use a dashboard to manage their operations,” says Devansh.

The dashboard — accessed using an app (available on Android) and the website — helps doctors, clinics, and hospital chains, get reminders and manage appointments, manage records of patients, manage staff, expenses, and check their revenue.

In fact, with Paperplane’s easy to use software, medical practitioners can create their websites and market their brands on social media platforms. For the patient, it enables interaction with doctors through WhatsApp.

Journey and road ahead

In January 2021, when the founders started building the product, Dhruv says, “We wanted to build everything in-house and not rely on external sources for tech or business development in the initial stages.”

The founding team built the dashboard, app, and the WhatsApp bot for the product in-house to understand the nuances of the product and the market, so it could scale on every bit of insight it got.

The co-founders have earlier interned with companies and have gained experience in building products. While they always wanted to build a company, the COVID-19 pandemic provided them with the opportunity.

“We had the team, and we needed capital resources and flexibility in understanding how to go ahead with business,” says Devansh. And, being a part of 100X.VC’s fifth cohort in 2021 helped the startup.

100X.VC gave us the initial capital and the learning to run a startup,” Devansh says.

At present, Paperplane has a 15-member team. The platform is used by over 500 medical practitioners, serving more than 100,000 patients across India.

The healthtech startup operates on a subscription model and offers three, six, and 12 month periods packages, ranging between Rs 1,500 and 2,500 every month. It has integrated Razorpay for easy transactions on the platform.

Last month, Paperplane raised nearly $400,000 in a follow-on funding round led by Cornerstone Venture Partners.

At the time of investment, Vatsal Bavishi, Cornerstone Venture Partners Fund, had said, “Paperplane’s vision of building a unified healthcare platform for India is centred around doctors. The platform is extremely easy to set up, automates, and simplifies clinic operations — all the way from appointments to prescriptions to follow-ups. It enables doctors to seamlessly manage patient relationships and engagement.”

He adds, “With no change in behaviour needed on the patient’s behalf, such a platform is exactly what’s needed to deliver healthcare services at scale in India.”

Paperplane competes with startups like CureLink and Prescribe. In the near term, aims to scale up and reach out to more doctors.

Edited by Suman Singh

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