Access to healthcare is a major problem in India, especially as one moves further into the hinterlands of the country. The reasons range from lack of good doctors to poor healthcare infrastructure and cost of treatment.
According to a KPMG report on healthcare access, only 37% of rural India has access to in-patient department facilities within a 5-kilometer radius. Also, 60% of hospitals, 75% of dispensaries and 80% of doctors are located in urban areas. What is extremely skewed about this is that these hospitals, dispensaries and doctors service only 28% of the countryâ€™s population.
The rising cost of healthcare is another major issue. The country has no strong healthcare program that can insure the costs. Repeated visits to a good doctor, even in urban areas, means shelling out several hundreds or even thousands of rupees each time.
This has resulted in a number of consultation apps being launched. These apps solve the issues of accessibility and rising costs, while providing convenience.
One such app is Medimetry founded by Krishan Tyagi and his wife Dr Bhawana Tyagi. It all started as a blog aimed at helping couples during pregnancy and in dealing with issues of post-pregnancy care, which Krishan and Bhawana themselves struggled with, post the birth of their daughter. An IIT, IIM graduate and his doctor wife then combined their skills to launch an app that hopes to transform healthcare in India.
Over the years, Delhi-based Medimetry grew from being a blog to an online consultation app. It now covers over 10 specialties, including sexual health, mental health, oncology and homeopathy.
One set of customers Medimetry is also targeting is those who are embarrassed about discussing their health issues with a doctor face-to-face.
So when you have a medical query, all you have to do is download the app and enter the problem you have with the basic symptoms. You will then have access to qualified doctors.
The user can then connect directly with the doctor over chat, phone call or a video call. â€śThe rest of the conversation is between the patient and the doctor. They can share pictures, scans with the doctor, who then suggests medicines or a further course of treatment. In most cases, there are follow up consultations as well. We offer complete privacy to the patients,â€ť Krishan says.
However, like a lot of other similar apps, Medimetry is not free. A consultation fee is charged depending on the specialization the user is looking for. It starts with around Rs 200-250 for a general physician to around Rs 400 for a more advanced consultation with, for example, an oncologist or a psychiatrist.
Medimetry takes around 20% of the consultation fee paid by the patient. But this can vary depending on how qualified the doctor is.
In the process of growing the blog into a full-fledged online consultation service, the duo invested nearly Rs 25 lakh, which was bootstrapped. It is also now looking at raising more funds in the next few months.
The company currently has 50 doctors on its platform and over 10,000 users. Medimetry sees about 500 consultations on a weekly basis and around 2,500 every month.
Though Medimetry is based out of Delhi, it has users and doctors from all over the country.
In the evolving online consultation space, Medimetryâ€™s next step is to grow and differentiate itself by integrating more services onto its platform.
The company is now working on integrating diagnostic labs and online medicine delivery into its app. â€śCurrently, we only give prescription. The next step is to partner with third party players to provide more services. For example, if a doctor prescribes a medicine to the patient, he/she should be able to find it on our app itself and order it, subject to availability. Also, depending on the tests prescribed by the doctor, we want to be able to suggest the nearest diagnostic labs for the patients to visit,â€ť says Krishan.
For this purpose, Medimetry is currently speaking to diagnostic labs, dispensaries and online pharmacies. The plan is to start with those in New Delhi and eventually extend it to all cities and towns. And if this works well, Krishan hopes to break even by late 2018.
In the long term, Medimetryâ€™s goal is to solve the problem of accessibility and convenience in smaller towns and rural areas. Most villages do not have a hospital and residents have to travel quite a distance to access healthcare. â€śWe want to educate these markets so that their problems can be solved through a medical app and they donâ€™t have to travel. So the aim is to expand not just to tier 3 but rural areas as well,â€ť Krishan says.
Another trend Krishan has noticed in his business is that more and more customers are wanting to be able to communicate with doctors in their local languages. He says that they will definitely add more local languages to Medimetry to make it more comfortable for all users.
The real challenge for Medimetry will be to grow and survive in this evolving space. And while Medimetry is not the first or the only app addressing the gap in access to healthcare, the fact that this space is seeing traction is great news for the ailing healthcare sector in India.