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healthcare | IST

MFine and myUpchar discuss how to make India's digital health mission a success

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Over the last two years, India's health tech startups have used technology to bridge the healthcare access gap. How can these health tech startups partner with the government to take quality health care to the underserved? To discuss this further, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Rajat Garg CEO, myUpchar and Ajit Narayanan CTO and founding Member MFine.

India rolled out its ambitious healthcare programme Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission last month, the mission seeks to provide an efficient and affordable digital ecosystem where patients can access quality health care. Under the mission, every Indian will get a unique 14-digit health identification number that will be generated through Aadhaar or through a mobile number.
The key features of the scheme will include a health identity card and mobile application, and an account where personal health records can be accessed. The account will be a repository of the registries for all healthcare professionals and facilities.
What it means is that patients can connect with doctors, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies for appointments and tele-consults as well as place orders for medicines and book ambulances. However, there are concerns on data storage since Ayushman Bharat will not store the data, the data will be stored with health care providers as per their own policies.
This is especially important because the data protection law is still in the works we don't have. So while the idea is to build equitable healthcare infrastructure for all, the questions we want answers to are can we enable India's digital health mission to solve issues such as poor accessibility, affordability, and quality that currently plague India's healthcare delivery system?
Over the last two years, India's health tech startups have used technology to bridge the healthcare access gap. How can these health tech startups partner with the government to take quality health care to the underserved? To discuss this further, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Rajat Garg CEO, myUpchar and Ajit Narayanan CTO and founding Member MFine.
Narayanan said MFine is an on-demand healthcare platform and at the outset, it set out to solve the problem of access to quality healthcare for all of India. He said the company offer solutions, like teleconsultations, for consumers to book online lab tests, and order medicines and the entire spectrum of healthcare is what we cover.
"We always believed in the fact that India can solve its problem of lack of quality healthcare access only through digital media, and which is why we launched telemedicine as the first solution. So, 18 months have been extremely exciting, we've seen quite a bit of growth, almost 5 to 7x growth during the COVID times. It was driven largely by necessity, but the fact is also that people now have gotten used to the fact that the same quality healthcare can actually be accessed digitally as well. Imagine that somebody in remote parts of the country is able to get to the best specialists in the country. This previously, although there was a small section of people using it, it became mainstream, pretty much after COVID hit us. And that momentum luckily for India, and for the people in general, is continuing," he said, adding that they are extremely bullish about how things have been going so far and with Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission things will only get better from here.
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MFine did the last round of fundraising in September of 2021 and raised about $48 million in a Series C round with the aim of building India's largest virtual hospital. So when asked what the true ambition there was? Narayanan said, "Think of it like this -- a hospital today is a one-stop-shop for you to access all touchpoints of healthcare. So, you walk into a hospital, you get your basic vitals measured at a nurse station, then you walk into a doctor for any acute or chronic conditions. The doctor might give you a care plan based on what your condition is, he might ask you to get a diagnostic test done or prescribe medicines, after which you perhaps walk into a pharmacy or get your test done at the diagnostic Centre and if the condition is serious, then you probably have to go into a procedure or surgery and things like that. So this is what a hospital today as a one-stop-shop offers."
“Imagine if you are able to virtualize all of these touchpoints except surgery because it cannot be done virtually. But everything else, if it is accessible virtually for a lot of India, it's possible and that is what we mean by a virtual hospital. So everything from measuring your vitals, using your mobile, to consulting a doctor on the mobile, getting digital prescriptions on the mobile and from there moving to get either your medicines delivered to home or getting diagnostics, test organised, visiting radiology lab, all of this today can be done virtually, and that's what we call as the virtual hospital,” he said.
"Our belief is that these touchpoints of healthcare are virtually accessible and our ambition is to become India's largest virtual hospital in the near future,” said Narayanan.
Garg said, fundamentally, MyUpchar’s mission is to solve for healthcare, awareness, and access in part Bharat. For that, we create really high-quality health content in six Indian languages Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, and English. This drives a lot of traffic to our properties, website, YouTube channel, etc. We actually had the best month last month, which was around 65 million visitors across our platforms. This leads to a lot of consultation requests, over 150 consultations came in last month and we have been doing a lot of work in terms of trying to improve the consultation experience, Garg added.
"We faced some challenges with our particular audience which is not comfortable with video doesn't have a good bandwidth connection, don't have doctors available there. So we have different types of challenges compared to what other platforms typically have to focus on tier I audience."
“We have built a product where you can connect with doctors instantly like you can see the doctors live, you can click on the call button right next to them and get connected to them talk to them instantly. It is literally a dialer to connect to your doctors. Second, we are doing daily live shows with our doctors, so we get like your 10s of 1,000 users coming in every day listen to doctors and ask few 100 questions to the doctor. But this is very useful because you are able to resolve a lot of questions of these users who are in remote areas, are consuming content remotely and are able to get good advice from the top-notch doctor in India. Our focus has been more on content and consultations because we believe that's where the basic challenges in India are."
For the entire discussion, watch the video