Necessity spawns innovation. In an exponentially growing population like ours with increasing life expectancy, affordable healthcare innovation emerges as a prime area of focus. In India, the doctor to patient ratio is heavily skewed with only one doctor for every 30, 000 people in rural areas. Further, rural India accounts for 50 – 70 per cent of non-communicable diseases, the economic burden of which is likely to be ~$6.2 trillion for the period 2012-30 (Harvard School of Public Health).
Our fragile healthcare economy is grappling with multiple barriers – lack of disease awareness, trained staff, inadequate screening and diagnosis facilities and lack of timely intervention to name a few. To tackle these, innovators are introducing newer mechanisms that are enabling inclusive healthcare and making diagnosis as well as therapy quicker, more accurate, remotely available and affordable.
With the current technologies and advancements, we at Unitus Seed Fund believe these four sectors will have the potential to play a disruptive role in the course correction of healthcare delivery in India –
Low-cost devices have the potential to decentralise healthcare, eliminating existing inequities of absolute absence of care in more than 70 per cent of the country. A great example is our investee, Mumbai-based UE LifeSciences’ flagship product iBreastExam, which is an ultra-portable and radiation-free device that accurately detects breast lesions with sensitivity higher than 85 per cent in under five minutes and a low false alarm rate of less than 6 per cent, not causing any pain or discomfort.
UE LifeSciences’ has tied up with private hospitals, diagnostic labs, non-profits and state governments, offering the scan at a very low-price point of ~INR 100, as opposed to a traditional mammogram that can cost a few thousand rupees. With one in every two diagnosed women dying of breast cancer, UE LifeSciences’ vision to make breast cancer screening less than $1 and a model that doesn’t require expert clinical manpower is noteworthy. The company, also backed by Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has already screened ~20,000 women and has financial commitments to screen 600,000 women in 2017.
Affordable point-of-care devices like iBreastExam are displaying tremendous potential, by filling critical gaps in the entire care delivery value chain, while ensuring care is accessible at a low cost. The medical device industry in India alone is expected to grow to approximately USD $4.8 billion by 2019. The VC industry backing players such as UE LifeSciences, Neurosynaptics, Forus, Tricog and Achira Labs among others is a testimony to the potential this sector has.