The Indian healthcare sector has been in need of a transformation for a while now. The low numbers of graduating doctors and paramedics create a concerning situation. WHO recommends 1 allopathy doctor per 1,000 people, but India is still a little behind at 0.82 doctors per 1,000. The situation worsens when it comes to radiologists. With only one radiologist for every 100,000 people, it has put serious stress on the limited workforce in the sector
The next problem in line is the lack of infrastructure, which makes things even more complicated. According to Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organisation, India only has 0.55 beds per 1,000 population, which is abysmally low.
The problem stockpiles on the higher end of the infrastructure where the number of diagnostic tools and machines is severely lacking. At present, India has only 290 units of MRI machines. The accumulated effect results in a lack of proper healthcare facilities for many. Even those who can avail of these facilities can only do so at higher costs due to lack of supply. The ultimate stress of the situation falls on the medical professionals due to their overburdened position.
The pandemic has highlighted areas within our present infrastructure that would greatly benefit from building an intelligence-based health system. Technology in healthcare can help improve efficiency, make healthcare more precise and lower the overall cost, widening access to serve more patients.
There exists a high opportunity for healthtech startups to make a difference with their innovations as the digitalisation of Indian healthcare is still in its early stages. The scope to build a new era of tech-based healthcare in the Indian ecosystem is a lucrative proposition and needs to be explored to usher the nation towards a higher quality of medical facilities.
One of the major players in the healthtech sector has been GE Healthcare, a locally-global medical technology company that has been providing medical equipment and technology solutions across the Indian market for more than three decades.
In mid-2019, the medtech giant launched its India Edison Accelerator Programme. The company stated that the intention behind the programme was to improve patient outcomes and patient experience. With this initiative, the company wants to form strategic partnerships with growth-stage startups working in the healthtech space. The accelerator programme, unlike its name, is a collaboration programme with startups to develop new healthcare applications, services and AI algorithms.
The India Edison™ Accelerator Programme has completed its first cohort and is about to complete its second cohort. The initiative’s framework functions so that during the six-month-long programme, the accepted startups receive mentorship from GE Healthcare’s team of scientists and engineers to refine their products in terms of accuracy and efficiency. The startups also receive a zero-equity cash grant to cover basic costs during the programme and get access to the Edison platform in order to deploy solutions on the platform and jointly take them to the market.
After the first cohort’s graduation, GE Healthcare continues to work with those alumni startups to co-develop and commercialise healthcare solutions facilitated by the former’s infrastructure and resources.
Regarding the soon-to-be-opened third cohort, the global medtech company has said that any Indian startup working in the healthcare space can apply. However, startups leveraging cloud technology, IoT, AI/ML and big data and advanced analytics will be in an advantageous position.
In the past two years, GE Healthcare has worked with 11 startups in two cohorts to integrate products/solutions with some effective technical and business hand-holding. Outside of product development, the platform also helps startups with customer discovery opportunities and mentoring sessions in business development to build a comprehensive understanding of the target markets for their products.
GE Healthcare’s India Edison Accelerator: 2 Cohorts, 11 Startups Supported
The accelerator launched its first cohort in 2019 and incubated five startups — Synapsica, Predible, 5C Network, Orbo and Deeptek. The companies got ample help with tech upgradation, product improvement, sales and marketing tools and financial grants.
The second season of India Edison Accelerator Programme started in September 2020, with six startups taking part in the programme. These include AarogyaAI, BrainSightAI, Fluid AI, InMed Prognostics, Wellthy Therapeutics and Onward Assist.
These shortlisted startups were provided mentorship during the cohort period to integrate the partnering startup solutions with GE solutions. During the programme, the startups are presented with the opportunity to co-develop and marketing products with GE’s branding validation, which is then taken to the market jointly.
How India Edison Accelerator Programme’s Startups Are Boosting India’s Healthtech Game
Synapsica, an AI-based radiology startup, was part of India Edison Accelerator’s first cohort. The company has created an AI-driven product that analyses radiology reports of the spine and can diagnose the problem at the first level.
According to Meenakshi Singh, cofounder and CEO of Synapsica, there is a need for the healthcare and the tech communities to come together and develop mutual trust and respect. “Technology has evolved at a massive scale in the past decade, and there is still some catching up that the Indian medical community has to do to have a complete understanding of the technical infrastructure that is being used globally. Innovations in shared server infrastructure, security protocols and deep learning have the potential to reduce IT expenditure, take away grunt work from our radiologists and allow them to focus on clinical correlation.”
Globally, the healthcare sector has seen that more alignment with technology results in better precision and accuracy in diagnosis and treatment. The future of Indian healthtech lies in the same direction. The key is to nurture healthtech startups at an early stage and point them in the right direction when it comes to building solutions. What they need is a systematic approach to interact with healthcare companies, understand their pain points and jointly develop solutions to address these pain points.
Suthirth Vaidya, the cofounder of Predible, an AI-based radiology startup from the first cohort, talks about the role India Edison Accelerator plays in helping early-stage startups build credible products and find the right markets.
“Being part of the India Edison Accelerator gave us visibility in the healthcare ecosystem and helped us forge multiple new collaborations. Our LungIQ solution recorded 18 times rise in operational volume compared to last year as we processed the radiology reports of nearly 150,000 patients,” he adds.