Startups have revolutionised the scenario over various sectors, so why not in healthcare?
It was perhaps with this in view that Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, at the recent Startup India Innovation Week, emphasised how startups can play a very important role to socialise and democratise the availability of healthcare across the world, and suggested five mantras -- Share, Explore, Nurture, Serve, and Empower (SENSE) - for their growth over the years.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which devastated lives and livelihoods, shut down businesses, and dislocated work and workplace, also changed the scenario of the Indian healthcare industry. The lack of access to quality healthcare, a patient-centric approach, and assurance of desired clinical outcomes was more pronounced during the first and second waves of the pandemic in India. At the peak of the pandemic, many were unable to get support like hospital beds, medical equipment, oxygen, doctor-consultations, and so on, even when they had subscribed to medical insurance or healthcare packages from the hospitals and insurance companies.
The last two years have presented healthcare providers with opportunities to proactively prepare for the future. People Matters spoke to startups in the home healthcare industry to gather insights into what the future of healthcare would look like and how planning, doorstep access to care, telemedicine, and remote monitoring will govern the scenario ahead.
The biggest learning from the pandemic is that the existing healthcare delivery practices are inadequate and not optimised.
“While the medical community in countries like India have put in an exemplary performance, the time has come to build a more personalised, supportive, and holistic healthcare management ecosystem,” says Sanjay Vinayak, Founder, and CEO, Connect and Heal, a Singapore-headquartered integrated health-tech company providing end-to-end coordinated care and health cover.
There is a need for a first response system, something that has been predominantly offered by hospitals, he says, adding that it is now time to move on to the virtual first model fronted by family doctors or primary care physicians.
Need for an integrated healthcare management organisation
As witnessed during the peaks, people struggled to get hospital beds, ambulances, oxygen cylinders, and in many cases, even basic healthcare support.
Vinayak says despite paying health insurance premiums and having corporate care plans, not getting the right kind of services when needed, is a major challenge. “What we envisage is the evolution of a standardised one-stop-shop approach where there is care coordination and assurance across a patient’s journey with proper handoffs. Like the good old family doctor, it is time to go back to the basics and provide assured high-quality healthcare support to the public through an integrated healthcare management organisation in India,” he adds.
Focus on portable and digital diagnostic devices
Runam Mehta, CEO of healthtech company HealthCube, says one of the most essential requirements in times like these is quick, accurate, and easily accessible diagnostics. This is an area which gained a lot of attention in recent times as rural and remote areas of India have a severe shortage of the necessary infrastructure.
“To overcome this challenge, the focus is now on making portable and digital diagnostic devices. These can easily, quickly, and accurately enable primary healthcare providers in far-flung areas to run tests and timely identify infections or any other disease symptoms,” she says.
HealthCube is a point-of-care technology-enabled diagnostics service provider. The company’s devices are integrated with eSanjeevani, a telemedicine system deployed nationally for the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme of the Indian government.
Push to domestic development & manufacture of medical devices
Apart from strengthening the existing medical infrastructure and ensuring coverage on a pan-India basis, there is also a need to also develop a preventive healthcare ecosystem. “Diagnostic services are going to be integral to this framework as high-quality monitoring of vitals and routine body functions is key to identification of symptoms or risk areas for certain diseases. We foresee a greater push towards domestic development and manufacture of medical devices in this arena in the year ahead,” says Mehta.
Enhancement of point-of-care based remote monitoring efforts
One of the foremost measures to be taken is to ramp up testing in case of any disease outbreak.
Vaibhav Tewari, Co-Founder, and CEO, Portea, says this is an area where home healthcare companies and diagnostic service providers can prove to be the enablers. “They can not only plan for better outcomes but also ensure that only those who need critical care occupy hospital beds and others are treated and managed at home,” he says.
An outside-of-hospital consumer healthcare company, Portea operates across consumer healthcare segments, including primary care, preventive health care, nutrition, chronic disease management, elderly care, post-operative care, and diabetes management.
Tewari adds that another important strategy is the enhancement of point-of-care-based remote monitoring efforts in a major way, including for the elderly. “Going forward, the healthcare ecosystem will be governed by these aspects and the home healthcare industry is likely to play a huge role,” he says