Home as a virtual hospital – that’s the future. The market for home healthcare in India is projected to reach $6.2 billion by 2020 at a CAGR of 18 per cent from $3.2 billion in 2016, according to a report by Cyber Media Research. One of the reasons is that India has just 0.7 beds per 1,000 people.

“We have so far served over 4-lakh patients. We have various services that are a mix of post-hospitalisation care and direct care. One of our biggest selling service and biggest differentiator is ICU@Home. We have the capabilities to set up ICU at homes,” said Vivek Srivastava, co-founder and CEO, HealthCare atHOME (HCAH), which is backed by the Burman family (promoters of Dabur), and the founders of HAH, UK.

Delhi-based HCAH, the biggest player in this field, raised an estimated ₹250 crore from PE firm Quadria Capital. It started its India operations in April 2013. “We currently have about 1,500 employees. We plan to increase the count to about 4,500 employees,” said Srivastava, adding, “it will take a couple of years for us to break-even at a company level.”

Bengaluru-based Portea Medical is another player which has raised massive funding – $72 million (₹470 crore) since its inception in 2013. It has huge scale – managing 1.2 lakh patient visits a month and working with 50 leading hospital partners, 15 pharma majors and insurance companies in 16 cities.

It provides for primary care, chronic disease management, elder care and post-operative care.

Geriatric population

India is home to the second-largest geriatric population in the world. “Kerala has a large number of households with just elderly as the sole occupants. So, home healthcare is becoming mandatory here,” said George Kurien Muthoot, Managing Director, Muthoot Healthcare. “This special group of people have different set of needs, which cannot be provided within the traditional limits of curative provider-hospital,” adds Harish Pillai, CEO, Aster Medcity, Kochi. According to Capt Harsh Kumar Singh, Director and CEO of Eldercare, India is home to some 87.6 million people above the age of 60. Since the country’s health infrastructure is bursting at the seams, home healthcare has emerged as the imminent solution to India’s elderly care woes, he says.

Bengaluru-based multi-speciality cancer hospital, Cytecare, plans to support patients at home.

“India has 1.7 million new cases of cancer every year and 800,000 deaths due to cancer. Since cancer treatments can be long drawn out, there is a need for a more holistic approach. We need to support patients at home,” said Suresh Ramu, co-founder and CEO, Cytecare Hospitals Pvt Ltd.

To this end, it has tied up with Bengaluru-based healthcare service provider, Nightingales. It provides services such as wound management, colostomy bag management and administering enema for Cytecare patients; all this, using its home-grown mobile app. “The home healthcare industry faces challenge from the unorganised sector, which provides sub-quality care and untrained professionals,” says Swadeep Srivastava, Managing Partner and Chief Belief Officer at India Virtual Hospital.

The government needs to take strong action to regulate this segment through accreditation and standardisation, he notes.

Rajiv Mathur, founder & CEO of Delhi-based Critical Care Unified points out an interesting fact. “The Dubai Health Authority has laid down norms for players in home healthcare, both for entry and for operations.” India could take a leaf out of this experience, he says.

One big sticking point is that home healthcare expenses are not covered under insurance. Portea says it is talking to insurance firms in this regard.

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO says: “Most insurance policies only cover tertiary care after the patient has been hospitalised for 24 hours. We are working with some insurance companies under exclusive agreements to help them to cut costs.”

Much, however, needs to be done in this area.