Across the world, healthcare facilities focus on the disease and not the patient. Think about it — hospitals and healthcare centers are designed and organized in a way that is optimized to handle a certain type of disease rather than providing a frictionless experience to the patient. Given that patients visit hospitals only when in dire need of help, the hospitals and healthcare centers have no incentive to improve patient experience and they continue to lack empathy. So across the world healthcare has an inherent problem of lack of design thinking which will move people towards health seeking behaviour. Country like India is far from this but if we have to solve this problem for India we need to build a solution with this mindset otherwise it will break down again at some point of time.
Traditionally healthcare in India is very regulated and mostly a push market like the rest of the world. There is another problem endemic to India — the huge population of 1.4billion people coupled with a massive shortage of doctors and healthcare workers. The COVID pandemic has brought some of these issues in the healthcare sector into sharp focus and hopefully would act as a catalyst for major overhauls to the healthcare sector in India.
The sector is clearly in need of disruptive innovation — the regulatory approval for Telemedicine in March 2020 came just at the right time as it removes a major barrier to innovation in the Indian healthcare space.
A combination of a raging pandemic and a regulatory environment conducive to innovation is a rare opportunity for Indian healthcare sector to turn the corner.
The next question is — is Telemedicine alone enough to solve the problem? I think not, allow me to explain.
A traditional healthcare marketplace consists of 2 sides — patients on one side and doctors on the other.
A 2 sided marketplace will not work in the case of India because 70% of the Indian population lives in the rural part of India and they face multiple issues which makes the reach of 2 sided marketplace almost impossible to reach. To understand more about the issues with rural people read the previous article “Healthcare problem of Bharat — the next frontier”.
So what is the solution then? A truly holistic solution is to create a
- 3 -sided marketplace for healthcare
A 3-sided marketplace introduces a third vital piece into the ecosystem — paramedics. Paramedics (ideally from the vicinity of where the patients are) administer the treatment to the patients as per the instructions of the specialist doctor. They would be the vital cog that can help address the unique challenges presented by rural India I alluded to in my previous article). Now to make this model work there are 2 major problem for which we have to solve:-
- How to build the trust between the 3 sides?
- How to ensure the quality of healthcare services?
To find the answer to the first question we need to understand about the fintech enabled marketplace.
What’s a Fintech-enabled marketplace?
Generally speaking, a Fintech-enabled marketplace is a technology-powered marketplace for services or products. Technology facilitates execution of the transaction and financial services provide the liquidity for the transaction.
Why do we consider this 3-sided marketplace to be Fintech-enabled?
Fintech will be an important piece in solving this problem for the masses to build trust and also make the transaction frictionless. Especially in India with 60% of transactions still paper based, bringing the trust between all 3 sides needs innovation on the fintech side to make the transactions seamless (i.e. Prepaid cards and insurance). The second side ( nurses and paramedics ) will need financial support (i.e. credit facility) to bring standardized infrastructure to deliver consistent patient experience 3 sided marketplace for healthcare, it will bring the focus on the patient rather than the disease. This model will not only facilitate dramatically faster, more efficient cost-effective treatment, it will also shift the focus towards preventive care.
Obviously, building a 3-sided marketplace is very tough, but it provides defensibility to investors in the long term. The first challenge of “which side to bring first?” is a chicken and an egg problem, One can build traction from either side — doctors as well as patients. Incumbents would be well advised to start from the patient side to keep the focus on the patient. Also the doctors’ side should be ‘managed’ initially (i.e. full-time doctors on payrolls rather than freelancing consultants) to ensure the instant availability of doctors for consultation and maintain quality control
Indian healthcare infrastructure is in urgent need of a complete overhaul to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for everyone. At Aaspatal we are empowering the Doctors and nurses with the right technology to deliver primary care to the next billion.