Digital India brings better healthcare services, products to non-metros, villages

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on May 15, 2017


Mahatma Gandhi once said India resides in its villages. The ‘Digital India’ campaign, launched as a flagship programme of the Centre in 2015, is spreading mainly towards the non-metros via healthcare services and products, as an increasing number of people from smaller cities and villages with Internet connectivity get doctors’ advice and medicines on their smartphones or computers.

Healthcare startup DocApp serves more people in the rural areas than in the urban areas, CrediHealth is helping villagers reach out to the best hospitals, and has even created websites in regional languages, while NetMeds gets more orders for delivery of drugs from smaller towns. Penetration of IT and the Internet is the force-multiplier in this expansion.

DocApp Founder-CEO Satish Kannan told BusinessLine that the app had received over 7 lakh queries from rural areas so far and had facilitated 90,000 consultations. The ratio of urban-rural patients is 60:40. “We provide consultation across 17 specialties. DocApp has over 8 lakh downloads on the PlayStore and has served over 5 lakh people across India."

In view of the problems faced by rural patients in making payments online, he said DocApp had set aside a number especially for such patients to recharge and pay for consultations. “In less than two months, we had over Rs 50,000 in mobile recharge balance on that specific mobile number.”

The app also came up with the idea of ‘mobile payment’ in collaboration with the top network providers in the country. DocApps users who cannot transfer money online, can pay for consultation charges using their mobile recharge balance. All they need to do is recharge their mobile number with the required consultation fee and DocApp automatically deducts the amount from their mobile balance.

California and Vadodara-based DocApp, an online platform for appointment booking, patient engagement with doctors 24x7, provides around 1,000 consultations every day. “About half of these are from semi-urban or rural areas,” D Enbasekar, CTO, said. Some of the patients are also from overseas.

Gurugram-based CrediHealth, which virtually connects patients with hospitals, gets about 35 per cent of its patients from smaller towns and villages. “We have an in-house team of 20 non-practicing doctors on our rolls to connect these patients with hospitals for treatment in eight categories. Besides English and Hindi, we are also creating websites in Bengali, Malayalam and Tamil to facilitate patients from those areas,” Ravi Virmani, Founder-CEO, said.

To maintain quality of services, CrediHealth has engaged the better hospitals, not with standalone doctors or their clinics, he added.

The start-up has set up virtual centres across eight cities and plans to add to this to facilitate interaction between patients and hospitals in a ‘Shatabdi Radius’, that is with patients who can reach a hospital in six hours (the time taken by a Shatabdi Express to reach its destination). “Around 20,000 visitors with chronic illnesses approach us daily and many of them are from rural areas.” He said CrediHealth does not charge the patients. It gets its revenue from subscriptions and the market development fees of the hospitals on its rolls.

NetMeds, an online pharmacy delivering drugs in 850 towns and cities, currently gets 60 per cent of its orders from semi-urban and rural areas and 40 per cent from metros and Tier-I and 2 cities, said Pradeep Dadha, the founder of the site.

In March 2017, for instance, NetMeds got 88 per cent of its orders from the non-state capital areas of Punjab, followed by 87 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, 82 per cent in Jharkhand, 79 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and 78 per cent in Chhattisgarh.

NetMeds currently has eight fulfilment centres across India for quicker deliveries and plans to add more once issues such as GST are sorted out.

Published on May 15, 2017
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