“Digital healthcare technology is the way to ensure better health outcomes”

Senu Sam

The growing popularity of digital health among consumers has been aided by the embrace of technology by doctors and healthcare organisations in the form of electronic prescriptions, and contact with patients through WhatsApp integrations. Witnessing the acceptance of new technologies in numerous fields, including mental health, imaging, and surgery Senu Sam, Co-Founder & CEO, Mykare Health, had an interaction with Kaanchi Chawla of Elets News Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:

What position do you think Indian healthcare start-ups are in right now, and how are they doing?

There are currently over 3,500 healthcare startups in India, ranging from platforms that help monitor health conditions to apps that use AI to detect illnesses, and diseases, platforms that connect patients with doctors, and much more. Just in 2021, these startups received over 2.2 billion in funding. In terms of revenue and employment, India’s healthcare sector ranks among the top contributors to the Indian economy. Because of digitisation, innovation, and newer hybrid business models with the integration of traditionalists and technology enterprises, the sector has grown rapidly in the last five years.

Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated long-term behavioural changes toward personal health and hygiene, health insurance, fitness, and nutrition, as well as health monitoring and preventive care. The pandemic also accelerated the adoption of digital technologies, such as telemedicine. The focus of healthcare startups is now shifting towards prevention, with several startups developing technologies for wellness, early detection, and disease medical care solutions. With their innovative solutions, technology-focused startups are changing the face of India’s vast healthcare industry. These startups, which are based on cutting-edge technology platforms such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, and data analytics, are addressing longstanding challenges such as making healthcare affordable, accessible, and quality-driven. Building on this, the healthcare sector, along with financial technology firms, attracted the newest investments in the Indian start-up space last year.

Over the past few years, healthcare has seen a dramatic evolution. New developments and trends in the healthcare sector are being developed by start-ups in that sector. Do you believe the healthcare services offered by start-ups to patients are of high quality?

Over the last decade, we have steadily seen care move out of hospitals and closer to patients’ homes using technology. Propelled by the pandemic and increased digital penetration, care is reaching patients’ houses through teleconsultation models, mobile apps helping deliver care programs, use of IoT devices to track vitals, diagnostics at home, rapid self-diagnostic tests, and new age asset-light healthcare models like Mykare Health, which utilise under-utilised small and medium hospitals.

The adoption of technology by doctors and healthcare institutions in the form of electronic prescriptions, social networks for doctors, and communication with patients through WhatsApp integrations have supported the increasing uptake of digital health among consumers.

While there is a long way to go, we are seeing the adoption of new technology in various areas such as mental health, radiology, and surgery. Using virtual reality to train for surgeries is helping providers prepare for new procedures, reduce wet lab costs, and upskill themselves.

Do you believe Artificial Intelligence is making a sufficient contribution to the expansion of start-up healthcare companies in India?

A trend of rapid medical technology adoption and acquisition of MedTech companies by Indian healthcare start-ups, established corporates, and diagnostic chains appear to be settling in. Several companies have struck deals with MedTech firms or formed alliances with such firms to streamline their services and expand their businesses.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is evolving at a breakneck pace. Technology is improving at an exponential rate, and with it, the growth of AI. The expansion of AI usage and development can benefit India’s medical sector in a variety of ways.

When compared to other major economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, India has the highest rate of AI adoption at 45 per cent. The Indian government and medical industries used technology effectively to combat the pandemic. Healthcare operations across the country have increased their reliance on technology to provide faster responses and information dissemination. Medical companies are also implementing AI solutions to improve services such as remote diagnostics, AI-supported radiology, customer support via chatbots, and teleconsultations, among others. The demand for such services is increasing as consumer behavior shifts. Monitoring tourism trends in health tourism can be useful for marketing purposes, as it can be used to promote the factors that can attract foreign medical tourists to the country.

Hospitals and doctors may streamline operations, engage patients, streamline procurement procedures, and more with the help of digital care ecosystems provided by health tech start-ups. What are your thoughts on it?

The patient-to-doctor ratio is far lower than the required benchmark in India, and this gap can only be filled by the use of technology. With the right use of technology, doctors can save time and patients can get more information. Right from the first touch point of patient journey , giving on time and right information on their vernacular languages , integration of ABHA, penetration of HealthTech Insurance segments etc, all these are going to have a great impact in the Indian healthcare ecosystem.

Digital healthcare technology is the only way to ensure better health outcomes in India at a reasonable cost. It can break down barriers to building expensive infrastructure and help level the playing field with better resourced health systems in the developed world.

What opportunities and threats do you think Indian start-ups in the healthcare industry face?

Healthcare has become one of India’s largest revenue and employment generating sectors, thanks to digitalfirst solutions and a government willing to adapt. Healthcare startups in India are playing an important role, and the country’s healthcare sector is expected to grow to $132 billion by 2023, up from $61.8 billion in 2017. Healthcare startups in India have touched every aspect of the industry, from diagnostics to health insurance for SMEs. However, there are significant challenges for these startups to overcome, there are challenges for healthcare startups that prevent many aspiring entrepreneurs from entering this competitive market. These challenges include slow growth, a complex industry, a lack of healthcare mentors in India, standardisation, and interoperability of data.

How did this year go for Indian healthcare start-ups? What are their expectations for the future, and where do they envision themselves as 2023 draws closer?

In the last three years, we have seen $1.2–1.3 billion in investments in the sector, and this year we have seen $1.5 billion in investments in the sector so far. If some of the deals go through, we can see a significant addition to that amount in the next month, and in startups in 2022, healthcare services will receive the highest amount of investment. In contrast, online pharmacies received one per cent of the tech startup investments in India during the same time period.

What do you think about the current state and prospects for your organisation in the digitally driven healthcare ecosystem?

There are almost 44,000 private hospitals in India, and only 10 per cent of these are in the organised sector and mostly centered around tier-one metros, thus preventing people in tier-two and tier-three towns from accessing quality healthcare. Some of the key pain points during an inpatient journey for patients include discovery, placing trust in the right hospital and doctors to get the surgery done, getting an advisor who can provide the right guidance while maintaining privacy, the hassles of dealing with insurance claims, and anxiety through the process. Secondary care surgery is expected to be worth US $20 billion in FY 2021 for the surgery technology player, whose current market share is estimated at 0.1 per cent. However, it is poised to grow by more than 100 per cent, and CAGR over the next five years to reach 5 per cent by FY 2026. Minimally invasive surgery without extensive hospitalisation, which can easily be done by skilled surgeons outside major hospital chains in smaller/mid-sized units, is poised to be $80 billion market in India.

The majority of the estimated 30 million surgical procedures carried out in India every year are conducted in small and medium size hospitals. In such cases, patients often find it difficult to discover and place their faith. By solving this, Mykare Health wants to build a trusted healthcare brand for every common man in India and internationally


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