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Pristyn Care’s Approach Is Rooted In Patient-Centricity: Cofounder Dr Garima Sawhney


The healthtech unicorn enables elective surgery through its network of 300+ partner hospitals

Its patient care co-ordinators undergo extensive training for 30 to 40 days for communicating effectively with patients

Pristyn Care is building patient trust to ensure the best possible outcomes

The healthcare sector in India has taken significant strides in the past two decades. The country boasts 1.34 doctors per 1,000 people, past the WHO recommendation. The homegrown healthcare market has reached around $372 Bn and is growing at a CAGR of 22%, while the global market is worth $10 Tn. Despite the huge growth, surgery is less expensive at home, around one-tenth of what it costs in the US or Western Europe.

These numbers are important, but some ground realities in the Indian healthcare sector are equally so. Consider this: A 2019 EY survey revealed that 61% of patients felt hospitals did not prioritise their best interests. Those surveyed cited poor hospital responsiveness, long wait times and a disregard for patient feedback. In essence, local healthcare services are still fraught with challenges. But new-age Indian startups are increasingly making forays into this space to address the obvious and the not-so-obvious healthcare issues.   

Pristyn Care, a healthtech unicorn launched in 2018, aims to address issues related to patient care. Founded by the husband-wife duo Dr Vaibhav Kapoor and Dr Garima Sawhney, along with their friend Harsimarbir Singh, the company enables elective surgery (non-emergency procedures) through its network of 300+ partner hospitals.

“Vaibhav and I had set up practices at the time and experienced patient problems firsthand. Harsh [Harsimarbir], too, had a close encounter as his mother had to undergo surgery,” said Dr Sawhney, explaining what motivated the founders to address this gap.

Inc42 spoke to Dr Sawhney to understand how Pristyn Care enhances patient experience, the role of AI in improving patient engagement and how her journey as a doctor has shaped the startup’s core philosophy. Here are the edited excerpts from the interview.

Inc42: What motivated you to launch Pristyn Care? Were you moved by patient pain points? 

Dr Garima Sawhney: As a doctor, I have had a 360-degree view of the healthcare system. I practised at several hospitals and experienced their strengths and weaknesses firsthand. These experiences became a wellspring of knowledge for me.

During that period, the patient’s perspective became quite evident. For instance, long waits for doctors’ appointments and surgeries across government hospitals were a constant cause of frustration. Similarly, transparency could be a big challenge.

When I started my practice, it allowed me to connect with patients directly. I noticed that they craved more time with their doctors. They needed easy access and clear communication. A diagnosis and treatment plan were often handed over without delving deep into what would happen during and after treatment.

It was not an ideal situation. So, Vaibhav, Harsh and I brainstormed solutions to improve the healthcare experience. We recognised a significant gap in the system, wanted to build trust among patients and ensure a smooth surgical experience. That’s how Pristyn Care was born. 

Inc42: As a medical professional, you have a thorough understanding of patient requirements. Did that help you usher in the successful patient-centricity at Pristyn Care?  

Dr Garima Sawhney: I have always tried to see things from a patient’s perspective. Surgery is rarely a pleasant experience, and it can be incredibly stressful for patients and their families.

At Pristyn Care, we recognise their emotional state. Our patient care coordinator team is the first point of contact, and they undergo extensive training for 30 to 40 days to communicate effectively with patients. While speaking to them, the coordinators gather detailed information about their medical conditions, symptoms and needs. This creates a sense of trust and comfort, as patients know they can soon visit a doctor at a clinic close to their place.

The entire procedure is well-planned and detail-oriented. During the one-to-one consultation, the doctor examines the patient, listens carefully and explains the diagnosis and treatment options. If surgery is required, Pristyn Care manages the insurance process and our patients don’t have to navigate complex insurance websites or visit different hospitals for insurance approvals. Our coordinators handle all formalities on behalf of our patients and connect them with the most suitable partner hospitals.

Inc42: What’s done next?

Dr Garima Sawhney: Unlike traditional hospital booking, we arrange a week’s stay in advance, doing away with the additional stress of finding a room on arrival. More importantly, we have established partnerships with these hospitals for the highest quality care throughout the surgery.

Post-surgery, our team monitors everything related to patient care so that families do not face delays and uncertainties. We clearly communicate discharge processes and update status at all times.

Since its launch, Pristyn Care’s net promoter score (NPS) has never dipped below 68% and it is currently around 72%. However, we constantly strive to improve the patient experience.

Inc42: Hospital experience is bound to impact a patient’s well-being. What do you do to ensure the best possible outcomes?

Dr Garima Sawhney: I often cite this example to explain what happens when we perform surgery: We have to transfer patients from a waiting room to an operating theatre (OT). But OTs are not the kind of theatres where movies are featured. Surgery is a necessary procedure, but no one enjoys it. 

In healthcare, we operate within a specialised surgical ecosystem, and ensuring the highest patient safety level is paramount. The hospitals where our patients are treated must adhere to the highest safety standards, as we prioritise patient safety during every surgical procedure.

We have set up a dedicated 20-member team to assess the quality of hospitals where our patients are treated. Their role is crucial as they make sure that each hospital is fully equipped, has all necessary licences and fully complies with all regulations. Plus, all essential equipment must be in place to perform surgeries safely. The comfort between the doctor and the patient is also crucial for a successful outcome. Only hospitals that meet our stringent criteria are approved to partner with Pristyn Care.

Inc42: How does Pristyn Care build patient trust? 

Dr Garima Sawhney: Absolutely! When we built this company on the understanding that undergoing surgery is a critical decision. Patients don’t simply book appointments, meet doctors and schedule procedures. They need reassurance and we are building that confidence among patients. 

Understanding a patient’s requirements is crucial for any healthcare provider. By knowing their fears and expectations, you can take steps to gain their trust and guide them through the entire process. In essence, this is the core foundation based on which patients come in for treatment.

I think healthcare staff should be especially attuned to patient needs. It takes time and hands-on experience to understand the complexities of healthcare terminology and patients’ concerns.

We have developed a comprehensive training programme called Mira AI for our care co-ordinators that combines AI modules with self-learning activities. The AI modules delve into specific diseases, explaining symptoms, common patient concerns, appropriate communication strategies and available treatment options. This holistic training equips co-ordinators to engage confidently with patients and address their needs effectively.

Our focus is not on technical skills or communication basics for doctors. We emphasise the human touch, their empathy, to be precise. While doctors naturally possess this quality, we offer support through our SOPs (standard operating procedures) to ensure they connect with patients effectively. The focus on empathy often leads to a better patient experience. 

Inc42: As a woman leading a healthtech unicorn, what are your key takeaways and advice for aspiring women leaders in this field?

Dr Garima Sawhney: Well, I will be honest. It is not a walk in the park. But here is what I have learnt. You need to understand your unique value proposition. Why are you here? What problem are you solving that needs addressing? That is your focus.

Now, whatever you are doing, understand it inside out. Develop a risk management strategy for everything you do. That is the cornerstone of building a strong organisation.

As a woman, you will likely know how to manage your personal and professional life (and often excel at it). But when you are at work, achieving balance is the key. So, delegate at home, raise your family, but manage everything simultaneously.

Also, surround yourself with those who can help you learn; they can be your mentors, peers or colleagues. Build a network of people who can support your growth on this journey.

And finally, do remember that good things happen along the way. Be transparent with your family and share your dreams. Also, build a work family, a team that feels like an extension of your own, and enjoy the small wins together.

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