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#StartupsVsCovid19: Public-Private Partnerships Show The Way In Healthcare Innovation

#StartupsVsCovid19: Public-Private Partnerships Show The Way In Healthcare Innovation

The government need to reimagine its procurement process for public-private partnership, said 1mg’s CEO

Experts believe the healthcare business model has to become more customer-centric rather than business-oriented

When the markets are relatively shallow, bundling works, said Sequoia India’s GV Ravishankar

The coronavirus outbreak has unleashed the need for better healthcare facilities in India. Most importantly, it has opened doors to multiple possibilities in terms of public-private partnership (PPP) in telemedicine, online doctor consultation services, development of low-cost medical supplies, mobile apps and other social impact initiatives.

While the idea of public-private partnership is not new, companies have had to jump through hoops to work with the government in any project, let alone healthcare. However, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the game and the central and state governments have embraced startups and their tech products and services to support the healthcare effort.

For example, Practo has partnered with Thyrocare to conduct coronavirus detection tests, which has been authorised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Healthians is conducting drive-thru testing in parts of North India, and similarly, the likes of MyLab and others have improved the access to testing kits.

Additionally, several smart cities in India have decided to tackle the coronavirus situation by leveraging technology and innovation in the healthcare space. For instance, Agra Smart City recently introduced a video teleconsultation facility for local residents. This has been developed in a public-private partnership with Azael Manufacturing.

Bengaluru-based home healthcare startup Portea Medical in collaboration with the Karnataka government launched a telemedicine service to diagnose Covid-19.

In addition to this, cab-hailing unicorn Ola has offered 500 Ola cars to the Karnataka government for pandemic related work. It has also launched the Ola CONNECTS initiative to support the efforts of the government and public service organisations to tackle Covid-19.

In Delhi and Maharashtra, drones run by Redwing Aerospace and Indian Robotic Solutions have supported quarantines, lockdowns and Covid-19 safety measures around India. In the times of crisis, drones have come up as an effective and simple alternative to limit human contact for things such as crowd dispersals, sanitisation, deliveries of payloads and essential goods.

Speaking to Inc42’s CEO Vaibhav Vardhan, in the fourth edition of ‘Ask Me Anything’ AMA series under #StartupVsCovid19 programme, Prashant Tandon, the cofounder and CEO of 1mg said that the government needs to reimagine its procurement process for PPP to work in technology.

Further, Tandon said that the tenders may be valid for big-ticket purchases or physical products, however, it becomes redundant for mobile apps or healthcare technology platforms. “How do you issue a tender for that because it is not a full-stack product,” he questioned.

As technology products go through multiple iterations and changes on a weekly basis, it becomes crucial for the government to come up with a new model of PPP. At the same time, entrepreneurs also need to focus on developing new technologies, instead of making government contracts the primary go-to destination.

Vertical Vs Horizontal Approach In Healthcare 

Besides working with the government on public-private partnerships, the need in healthtech is an integrated and horizontal approach that builds wide expertise since the need of the market is such.

Clearing any doubts, Tandon told Inc42 that the integrated approach is a much better option compared to standalone services and products as it includes pharmacies, lab test consultations, records and much more. Most importantly, he believes that the model has to be customer-centric rather than business-oriented, which is why the horizontal approach is more challenging.

On the other hand, even if it is business-centric, the solution has to make sense for healthcare providers, customers and individuals. “You can not just address 50% of the pain points and leave it at that. It has to be 100%,” asserted Tandon. At the end of the day, it comes down to customer focus design.

Citing the example of Ali Health (Alibaba’s healthcare subsidiary) — an integrated player in the healthcare industry — Tandon said that the horizontal approach will always be superior rather than a vertical model in the healthcare space, since healthcare is more holistic.

Similarly, Sequoia India managing director GV Ravishankar also said that when the markets are relatively shallow and things are early, bundling (an integrated and horizontal model) works as the consumer wants everything in one place. However, as the market gets deeper (a vertical approach) unbundling makes sense.