Just a fraction of Covid home isolated patients hand-held by us had to move to hospitals later: Portea

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on June 26, 2020

After a brush with controversy when Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal wanted to discontinue Portea Medical’s services for Covid-19 telemedical care, Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical, spoke to Businessline about why Covid-19 can be a favourable business opportunity for end-to-end home healthcare services. Excerpts:

What issues is Portea facing while providing home healthcare services during an extended lockdown?

Even though we were a part of the essential service, when the lockdown first started, there was no clarity on the part of the police and other law enforcement people. So our staff going about meting out medical services were not able to go about their jobs.

We provide services for long-term nursing of sick patients and those for elderly. We tried to move caregivers into patients’ homes so that they don't have to commute. We also provide medical equipment on hire, and so moving of our pharmaceutical products was difficult until the end of April.

In terms of courier and transportation, it was very challenging. Also, people were not in a position to take physiotherapy as communities didn't allow such service providers to come in. People decided to postpone their procedures which were elective and not critical. This impacted business in April, and May, too. Even now, hospitals don't have elective surgery, so the business requirements we get out of hospitals for support tend to be lesser. Physiotherapy though has now started to revive as people have realised — how much longer can you ignore your back pain?

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority had put out a letter asking for discontinuation of services outsourced to Portea services for telemedicine support to Covid-19 patients. Is Portea still on board with Delhi?

As far as Delhi is concerned, you will have to talk to the State government. I will not comment on the Delhi situation, it is not my place to talk about this.

We are working with at least three State governments on home isolation for patients who are Covid positive and mildly symptomatic, or asymptomatic. A fourth State will join shortly, but I cannot reveal their names.

Of 25,000 Covid-19 home isolated patients that we hand-held through telemedicine, only 700 were later admitted to hospitals. Home isolation programmes work very well and very few people need to go to hospital. The patients are on board with detailed calls on how to isolate, sanitise, manage masks.

We make daily calls to check how they are doing and if they feel ill then doctors consultation is set up. One needs an extra room with a bathroom in which a patient can be isolated, and a family member has to take care of their food and laundry. We only talk to people who are infected to find out how their health is, but we do not talk to family members.

How do you see Covid-19 as a suitable business opportunity for home healthcare services?

Now, there are tailwinds — people don't want to go out, they want services through technology, they are more conscious about their health, so outside-of-hospital care becomes important and is a larger part of the centre-stage in healthcare. We have up to 3,500 professionals on Portea's rolls for service provision. A lot of pharma and insurance companies and doctors have asked us to carry out various procedures at home, like chemotherapy, or different types of care for cancer patients, including drug delivery for which patients would earlier go to doctors clinics’.

Senior citizens are vulnerable, especially if they have co-morbidities, so telemedicine offerings, and elder care subscriptions are picking up. Patients are taking much greater care of their chronic diseases like diabetes and lung illnesses, so demand for medical equipment has gone up multifold. There is robust growth for pulse oximeters, oxygen concentrators, ventilators and so on. Now, insurance companies are asking if we can do infection control and home care as a part of insurance cover.

Do you support critical care for Covid-19 at home, too?

We don’t support critical care in Covid-19 set-ups as the government allows only mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic persons to be managed with us. All others have to go to Covid care centres or hospitals. We set up ICUs with doctors and clinical monitoring equipment for patients who are critically ill in non-Covid settings. We can manage 250 patients a month, and the expenses for each patient may be ₹8,000-15,000 a day, about a third or fourth of what they will be spending in hospital.

Published on June 26, 2020

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