Ebix Inc. has not ventured into the Indian healthcare market to convince or compete but to create, build and pioneer a new trend in healthcare, says Robin Raina, CEO Ebix in a conversation with Prathiba Raju of Elets News Network (ENN)
What are the opportunities you see in the health insurance space in India?
Overall, the Indian healthcare market is young right now with many of its sections in a nascent stage. One of these sections is the health insurance market, which is primarily governmentdriven. I believe the health insurance sector in India will start evolving soon, and the sea change that this sector needs will eventually be brought about.
Compared with the west the health insurance market in India is miniscule. As I see it, many vital pieces of the puzzle are missing. First and foremost, the technology aspect is not well-defined at all. Secondly, the sector badly needs a Customer Relation Management (CRM) system to be able to better market data from consumers. Consumer data will not only help the players in this sector trace the history of a typical consumer but will also help them define market trends. Thirdly, people who buy insurance should ideally have multiquoting information so that they can make informed decisions. In India, this is hard to come by.
It is very important to ensure that there is a real-time connection between the carriers and the consumer. The consumer has to be empowered; he has to have enough information on the best insurance services available. Ideally, the consumer should not only get to compare rates but he should also be kept abreast of the trends in health insurance in general. For insurers, it is very important that they have a health tracker, but in India this is a challenge.
On the data side, I believe all insurance related data of a person should be online. Of course, it should be completely secured, and one should even have walled mails. Again, the brokers and Third Party Administrators (TPAs) in India need a complete back end system, something akin to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Tell us something about Ebix’s health care solutions.
What we offer is a holistic umbrella of solutions. Right from health care enrolment, CRM, portals, multi-quoting order and trade, policy creation and policy administration for brokers to insurance company TPAs, commission handling between the brokers and union issues related to manufacturing, we offer the entire range of solutions. Apart from this, Ebix has the largest encyclopedia of health content covering the entire health spectrum including the human body and disease management. Our content is used by the U.S. government, Google, Yahoo, Reuters and many others globally.
How is Ebix contributing to health care delivery set-ups around the world and in India?
Globally, some governments have made it mandatory for doctors to obtain continuing education credits. This means if you are a practicing doctor, it is mandatory for you to keep abreast of the latest trends in your field. Ebix offers continuing medical education solutions to practicing doctors to help them obtain credits. Typically, these are three hour online tests approved by top medical bodies like Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins, which can be taken thrice a year. In India too, a few states like Jammu and Kashmir have started adopting this model.
There is a real need for governments across India to adopt the continuing medical education model, and make it mandatory for doctors to take regular tests to keep themselves updated. With the Jammu and Kashmir government we have a good start. In India, where the immense pressure on health care delivery system means that the quality of care has to suffer sometimes, putting this system in place should really help.
What is your take on universal health coverage in India?
Universal health coverage in India, if it ever happens, would be a ‘dream come true’, but before this dream does come true, the challenges to be surmounted are enormous. A country of 1.2 billion needs to invest billions of dollars before it can even begin to think of universal health care. To say that our ambition is to provide universal health coverage in this country is all very well, but we have harsh realities to deal with in this country. I work in some of the slums around Delhi, where I often see these realities playing out. Although the conditions here have improved over the years, and people now have access to dispensaries and basic health care facilities, I would say we have a long way to go.
The pressure on the health care delivery systems in India is huge. In government hospitals like the Safdarjung hospital in Delhi, you have a single doctor attending hundreds of patients in a day. We need to put a system in place urgently to ease some of this pressure. I would say the socialist system of health care delivery needs to be overhauled. Free medication and treatment should be available only to those who cannot afford to pay. We really need to exclude the haves and focus completely on the have-nots. I say, give the underprivileged free care and only provide subsidized care to others.
How well would you say is Ebix placed to redefine the healthcare market in India?
Ebix is not here to convince or compete but we have ventured into India to create, build, change and pioneer a new trend in healthcare. We have now started working with various state governments across the country; we are working with chief ministers and health ministers across these states.
To understand what Ebix has to offer, think of us as a toll booth. We provide software platforms and get paid for our utility services. For health insurance alone we have more than 50 service applications. We call these interlinked applications the Ebix Enterprise Solution.
How do you think will the Digital India initiative boost the healthcare industry in India?
As far as the Digital India dream goes, think of me as a big believer. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put the spotlight firmly on the power of the digital medium. He has been really smart about drawing international attention to India’s capabilities as a soft power. He knows he has to get the international community to invest in his digital dream for this dream to turn into reality.
Although we are in the early stages of India’s digital journey, India is poised to go places. It is important for us to understand that the digital medium has the potential to solve so many of India’s problems. As Indians, we need to support our Prime Minister and back his vision, but sometimes people are impatient and do not understand. Prime Minister Modi is doing a great job and the present government has brought in a refreshing change. I have also been interacting with many state governments and I would say the mood is upbeat. I would also say that companies across the board will be interested in doing business with India if the policies are transparent.
What are your plans for India?
Ebix Inc. has huge plans for India, particularly in the healthcare domain. There has been a string of acquisitions in India; one such acquisition was Via Media Health through which we are now trying to reach the Indian market. Via Media Health’s acquisition will also aid the process of developing customized solutions for the Indian market. Overall in India, we have about 2000 employees right now. Two years from now I expect this figure to be 5000. We are looking to invest about 100 million dollars in India in the next two years. I would say we are pretty optimistic about India and see a great opportunity here.