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#StartupsVsCovid19: As Covid Overburdens India’s Hospitals, Home Healthcare Startups Look To Fill The Gap

#StartupsVsCovid19: As Covid Overburdens India’s Hospitals, Home Healthcare Startups Look To Fill The Gap

Under such dire circumstances, several public health advisories have suggested ramping up telemedicine and at-home doctor consultations to mitigate against the shortage of hospital beds

Bengaluru-headquartered mFine has claimed that online doctor consultations on its platform have grown by 100% week-on-week as Covid cases spiral across the country

Besides telemedicine startups, other players offering healthcare at home services have also come to the fore

This month has seen India’s healthcare infrastructure crumble under the weight of Covid-positive patients. Often acknowledged as the pharmacy of the world, India has also been one of the world’s leading destinations for medical tourism. These accomplishments notwithstanding, the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the flaws of our healthcare system. The last couple of weeks have seen India’s Twitter turn into an SOS forum, with people complaining about an acute lack of hospital beds and essential medicines. Hospitals, in turn, are having to approach courts to secure an unhindered supply of oxygen for their patients.

With India’s daily new Covid cases continuing to rise, peaking at over 3.5 lakh on Sunday (April 25), the medical crisis shows no signs of abating. Moreover, as Covid infections spike in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the uneven spread of tertiary healthcare facilities in small towns and villages poses the risk of more patients succumbing to the virus. 

Under such dire circumstances, several public health advisories have suggested ramping up telemedicine and at-home doctor consultations to mitigate against the shortage of hospital beds.

Member of Parliament from West Bengal, Derek O’Brien, on April 24, shared a tweet with a list of doctors available for free telemedicine consultation for those facing mild Covid symptoms. Twitter user Aditi Singh who had first shared the list of doctors has claimed that the free-of-cost service has fielded more than 600 calls this month, and continues facing an overwhelming response as patients look to treat their Covid symptoms at home. A similar list has also been shared by the Indian Medical Association. 

Meanwhile, as experts continually advise against seeking hospital treatment for mild to moderate Covid symptoms, several healthtech startups have come to the fore to plug the gaping hole in India’s healthcare system with their telemedicine offerings. 

Bengaluru-headquartered mFine has claimed that online doctor consultations on its platform have grown by 100% week-on-week as Covid cases spiral across the country. 

Another Bengaluru-headquartered healthtech startup MediBuddy has also claimed a 2x growth in customers seeking online consultations. The company has also launched a 24×7 helpline where Covid-related consultation is provided free of cost for 30 minutes to all. The company claims to have mapped and assisted over 60 Lakh health checkups since the outbreak of Covid-19 last year. 

Home ICU Services On The Rise

Besides these telemedicine startups, several other players offering healthcare at home services have also come to the fore. 

Bengaluru-based healthtech startup Portea offers the full range of healthcare services, from critical care to lab tests to even medical equipment, at the patient’s doorstep. The company launched a Home Isolation Program last year, which consists of medical care and advisory services for Covid patients for a duration of 10 days or the quarantine period.

The company claims that so far it has served more than 100K Covid patients, with 80K patients cured. It also claims that less than 3% of its patients needed hospitalisation besides the home isolation services, with 2K+ registrations per day. 

Similar services are offered by companies such as Care24, which provides elderly companion care, nursing services, physiotherapy, infant care and post-operative care, all at the patient’s home. 

Besides this, Bengaluru-based Dozee is also helping reduce the burden on the hospitals with its healthtech platform that converts normal beds into a mini ICU bed. The startup offers artificial intelligence (AI) enabled sensor sheets that are placed under the patient that needs constant monitoring. The sheet measures vitals such as breath rate, heartbeat, sleep, stress, among other things.

Speaking to Inc42 last year, Dozee cofounder and CEO Mudit Dandwate said that the data is sent to a mobile application that can be accessed by the people close to the patient. Further, a doctor from Dozee’s team also keeps an eye on the reports for every patient on a dashboard in real-time. 

Emoha Elder Care, which offers healthcare services at home for senior citizens, is also providing its customers with Covid-19 vaccine-related assistance, from the registration process to accompanying elders to the vaccination centre, waiting in long queues for the vaccination and also staying for the 30-minute post-vaccination observation period. 

Emoha Elder Care is also making regular health monitoring calls post-vaccination; arranging doctor visits and calls if it is requested by elders and closing all the booking formalities for the second shot of vaccination. The platform claims to have assisted over 500 elders residing across Delhi NCR in getting vaccinated. The company is also setting up Covid isolation hubs across Delhi. 

According to Inc42 Plus, India’s healthtech market is estimated to reach $21 Bn in 2025 on the back of telemedicine and preventive healthcare growth. Further, the report revealed that preventive healthcare in the country is expected to reach a market size of $170 Bn by 2025, primarily driven by fitness and wellness apps and diagnostics solutions.

Some positives for the sector in 2020 included the government’s decision to roll out the National Digital Health Mission and telemedicine guidelines which helped healthtech startups to come up with online accessibility of quality treatment for both Covid and non-Covid health issues. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) too issued a notification advising insurers to allow telemedicine to be covered under health insurance programmes. The telemedicine facility could help Indians save about $10 Bn by 2025

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