Abhishek Tandon, a software engineer based in Delhi, was worried when he heard about his mother's pancreas ailment. His mother lived in their native town Hrishikesh. Tandon had heard about Credihealth through radio advertisements and he decided to reach out to them. It was a seamless ride from there, Tandon recollects. From finding the right doctor, getting advice, second opinion from senior specialists, to hospital admission and surgeries, the Credihealth team stood by Tandon like a friend in need. "We managed to get discounts on almost all the procedures and Credihealth did not charge us anything for these services. More than anything, they were a great emotional support in those trying times," he says.
Transparency, credibility and access to health care are some of the prime challenges that plague the Indian healthcare, says Saurabh Uboweja, co-founder and director (strategy) at Credihealth. "Most patients do not know where to go, especially when it comes to critical care and complex medical procedures." According to Uboweja, before tapping international patients for medical tourism, there existed great potential within India itself, where hundreds of thousands of patients throng city hospitals everyday from the hinterland.
Credihealth gets nearly 50 per cent of its patients from Tier-II and Tier-III cities. "We provide comparisons between doctors, hospitals, treatment packages and help bring parity, apart from consulting the patient on insurance related matters," explains Uboweja. Most of this happens through the website, which gets around 600,000 unique visitors every month, plus the mobile application.
Health care tech start-ups are a mushrooming in India, trying to tap the potential of India's $100-billion healthcare expenditure market. The number of mobile internet users in India is projected to double and cross the 300-million mark by 2017 from 159 million users now, says a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and KPMG released early this year.
"Health care expenditure is still very small in India, at about five per cent of the country's GDP," says Rohan Desai, founder of a networking site for doctors, Plexusmd.com and a doctor himself. Desai adds, "In the US, health care expenditure accounts for nearly 10 per cent of its GDP, which basically means there is huge room for growth in India."
Desai saw an opportunity in the way the traditional job-oriented networking sites such as LinkedIn are operated and how these could not meet the requirements of the medical professional. He already has around 15,000 doctors listed on his website. Desai is now looking to raise funding for his start-up. According to him, investors are now open to investing in health care technology-based start-ups as the sector offers huge growth potential.
According to Gartner, healthcare providers in India are expected to spend $1.2 billion on IT products and services in 2015 - a seven per cent increase over 2014. This forecast includes spending by health care providers on internal services, IT services, data centre, devices and telecom services. Industry estimates peg the health care sector in India to touch $160 billion by 2017 and $280 billion by 2020. Healthcare expenditure in India is growing at 12-13 per cent.
A relatively new entrant in the arena, Ahmedabad-headquartered Godoctr.com expects to touch one million mobile application downloads per month within the next year. About a year since its launch, it has covered 20,000 doctors and 500 hospitals across 230 cities; it aims to take that number to 5,000 hospitals within a year. Founded by Ajay Goel, Godoctr.com is betting on tapping the medical tourism potential and estimates the valuation of the portal would be around $1 million.
Nirmall L Kumbhat, director (sales and marketing) at Godoctr.com, says, "We're looking for venture capital funding and plan to raise $1-3 million. It is all about empowering the consumer."
What are the returns on investment these start-ups offer? Uboweja says there are many ways to monetise such a venture. Credihealth, for example, is not charging the patient. Monetisation happens through a fee on the hospital bill generated, which the institution pays. Credihealth has already raised $1.5 million funds and it is looking to raise another $20 million.
On the other hand, Godoctr.com has plans to sell media space on their application or website, apart from fees from institution.
Then there are those like Practo, an online software that helps clinics and doctors manage patient data, records, payment schedules, etc. With the help of Practo, doctors can share reports, and this product alone earns around 60 per cent of the company's revenues.
It also has Practo.com, a website to help patients find doctors and book appointments. It has already raised $30 million from Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partner and has expanded to south-Asian markets such as Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia.
While Practo did not answer queries in time, market sources claimed the start-up basically works on selling the proprietary software to doctors and clinics, apart from ad revenues on its portal.
These start-ups connect healthcare providers with patients, but in India there is the problem of uneven spread of doctors, who are mostly concentrated in metros and big cities. According to the World Bank, there are only 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people in India, and therefore, there is an acute shortage on the supply side. According to Kumbhat, there are 1.5 million doctors in India and around 28,000 get added every year.
With the paid healthcare applications market estimated to clock a 33 per cent compounded annual growth rate, India is a promising market in the Asia-Pacific zone.