Just when the providers took the first few steps towards the continuum of care and asset-light models in India; COVID 19 enhanced the customers’ desire to access health beyond the hospitals/clinics. Suddenly it seems that the providers need to do significant catch-up and technology adoptions to cater to this rise in demand.
Most of the providers were in the process of creating patient-centric ecosystems that included the launching of apps, patient education /engagement campaigns (video, blogs, AI-based chatbots, etc.), unique IDs/ single truth applications, electronic health records, etc.
In parallel, the med-tech and digital health platforms are working on self-monitoring devices, e-commerce, uberisation & aggregation of diagnostic labs, virtual consultation, etc. There is also an attempt to integrate all the offerings through a common platform to attain greater patient stickiness in this competitive environment. For instance, Apollo 24X7, myFortis, Max Myhelp have been attempting to bring all infrastructure under one umbrella.
Several start-ups engaged with providers to work on one or many components of this new model. The focus of most of these start-ups was B2C business models. Providers /physicians were only seen as influencers, resulting in an unclear operating model. A majority of the start-up failures can be attributed to this gap in the product/service offerings. Many companies also tend to underestimate the B2B marketing efforts, referral commissions, partnership requirements, usability, etc.
In addition, several players in the wellness sector are also trying to get a share of this pie by trying to align peripheral products and services to the clinical space. Some of the med-tech players like Curefit, Goqii, Wellthy, etc are trying to position themselves as providers of holistic care. These companies are struggling with the clinical acceptance of their products and services.
Even though the preventive market itself is growing rapidly, the lack of integration on the provider side is refraining them from their ultimate objective of providing holistic care. As a result of all these factors, there are several unused med-tech apps in every smartphone and most of the start-ups are restricted to local or provider-centric markets (with the exception of a few).
The convenience of the home is restrained by incomplete and inefficient care.
Home care has been broadly classified into pre-primary care and after care. In the pre-primary care segment, most of the leading innovation is focused on self-monitoring, home sample collection, symptom checkers, appointment aggregation, virtual consultations, and electronic health records. Many providers are currently engaged in creating enabling platforms and partnering with technology and device manufacturers for providing pre-primary care at home. Some of the aggregators are also trying to assist clinics and small hospitals in enhancing their access through digital engagements (e.g. Practo).
After care sector on the other hand is far more evolved, as patient’s information, enabling equipment, nursing facilities, business models, etc are already available. Both large MNCs and local start-ups are creating devices portable and easy to use products for home use.
With the COVID 19, the reluctance to visit hospitals has significantly increased the demand for home care.
However, there are serious gaps that need to be addressed for complete care. In addition, platforms are not available to small and medium-sized hospitals/ clinics are not available. These hospitals form the core of primary care in India, where Doctors are still the decision-makers.
Challenges: How to provide clinic level care within a home environment?
In order to provide quality care in a home environment, all the components must adapt to the new normal. Currently, the virtual consultations and treatments are ineffective and inefficient because of the following key missing elements:
Access to equipment
Most of the equipment available in the market is designed for the hospital environment. While the point of care revolution is currently underway, the efficacy of these devices does not meet the clinical gold standards. Hence, in most cases, these devices are used as an additional tier. Further, most of these devices are not user friendly and require significant training.
Since, several players are selling products in a B2C environment, their efficacy and usage are in-consistent, thereby making the diagnosis and treatment difficult for the doctors. The patients also are confused about the efficacy of the products.
Most of the equipment and service providers do not have a well thought out business models on the impact of new offerings on providers. For instance, the Virtual consultations only provide a fraction of revenue for the providers (it’s a small fraction of fee charged for consultation, diagnostics, referral income, etc.)
In India, electronic health records are not yet available to the doctors in a different hospital. Hence, integrating the information provided by home care devices into the system is a major operational challenge.
Physicians’ perspective is ignored
India continues to be a B2B2C dominated market. However, the home care market is currently focusing largely on B2C. As a result, the doctors’ perspective in terms of revenue, usage, diagnosis, etc is ignored.
Hence, Home Care especially in pre-primary set-up needs to develop significantly to cater to its rising demand. Recently companies have been successful in providing complete solutions for pregnancy care at home (refer use case), long term arrhythmia, dialysis, etc. that can address the above-mentioned challenges.
Need of the hour: Complete solution for a particular therapy
These industry challenges also present a lucrative opportunity for innovators. An ideal solution would focus on a particular therapy area and comprise three qualities:
- A complete platform that has clearly defined business models and outcomes for all stakeholders (doctor, hospital/clinic, patient, etc.).
- Enabling links with providers keeping physicians/doctors’ perspectives in mind. The enabling platform must cater to the specific/customized needs of each provider category.
- Portable and easy to use equipment that requires minimum or no training.
Pregnancy care at home by CareMother is a good example of a complete service offering that addresses the requirements of all stakeholders.
Pregnancy care at home by CareMother
CareMother’s pregnancy care at home is an ideal commercial platform that provides portable kits that can be carried by trained nurses. In addition, the nurses are equipped to educate patients, collect samples, and link virtual consultation remotely.
It not only assists in increasing the fee revenue (5x revenue in comparison to virtual consultation) but does not lose out on the potential referral income.
Doctors are able to provide better pregnancy care at home; while being more productive (lower time spent on addressing minor queries as well as marketing additional services). Patients on the other hand get comprehensive care while enjoying the convenience of home.
Upcoming Blog in The Series: Opportunities for Innovators in the Home Care segment in New Normal.