India Needs A Healthcare Revolution: Vimal Prakash
In an exclusive interaction with BW Healthcareworld, Vimal Prakash, CEO & Founder, Cartula Health India, speaks about the firm and more.
COVID-19 pandemic has brought a spike in the development of telemedicine applications to enable patients to get doctor’s consultation from their home itself. In rural India, where majority of the population lives, it has always been a challenge to provide healthcare service to them. They have always been deprived of the required checkups, medical assistance and adequate hospital infrastructure.
It was only during the pandemic, when people were locked inside their house and everything else were brought to a halt, posing challenge to the essential and daily functionalities, the necessity of telemedicine was realized to allow people access to proper healthcare services even during the toughest conditions. Telemedicine services would enable to provide healthcare assistance to the grassroots level, reducing the geographical barriers.
BW Healthcareworld caught up with Vimal Prakash, Founder and CEO, Cartula Health India, which is one such telemedicine service provider, to understand how the process works and what kind of assistance does it brings for the patients. Excerpts:
How do you plan to become accessible to the rural areas of the society?
We are glad we will be able to use the growing digital infrastructure to reach hitherto inaccessible areas in rural India. Yes, there are still some challenges that wireless phone networks and internet bandwidths pose when working with villages, where 70 per cent of our population lives. But we are constantly working with our tech teams to overcome these irritants and do our best to connect the villagers with our quality medical healthcare and diagnostic services via telemedicine. We have started creating awareness amongst the villages of UP, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu by organising more than 1800 on ground health camps. The idea is to deliver effective tele & video consultations, reliable diagnostic services available and also create a reliable network of care for the people, at an affordable price. Currently, Cartula Health India app has 7,00,000 downloads in and around rural areas.
One of the things that I would like to highlight is that we have people in the remote areas who are not ready for transformation due to lack of knowledge. They still want to access the old method of treatments. That’s the intersection of Cartula Health India. With the help of health workers and full government support, we were able to provide better access and improved medical facilities via our app. So far, we have covered over 150 villages. We have also come up with Cartula Janani - an app that acts as a complete guide on pre and postnatal care since the research indicates that India has one of the highest mortality rates during childbirth.
How much investment you'll have to make to provide service to the most deprived individuals?
We all know, building infrastructure and networks is both expensive and time consuming, but we are committed to bring healthcare within the reach of masses and that too at their doorstep. As the internet and digital economy is growing, it is unleashing a greater potential for telemedicine in India. Which is why, we at Cartula, envisage scaling up significantly. At a rough estimate, we could see fresh investments over the next 2 years to grow the medical services delivery mechanism to the next level. We started the project with an aim in mind to serve every rural area with the required healthcare primitives; we have prepared long-term as well as short-term plans. From a long term goal perspective, we possibly want our services to reach every mile and serve every individual. Not just with doctor consultation, but we want to offer better medical plans that are affordable for all. For short-term, we are currently focusing to provide easy, accessible healthcare in just one click. We have nearly covered our short-term plan but to support our long-term goals, we need investments to increase our product line backed with state of art technology. We are trying to partner with investors around the world, who share the same vision as ours – to make healthcare affordable and accessible to the last mile. India needs a healthcare revolution, and we are heading towards it.
What are the facilities that Cartula Health India provide, that are different from other platforms?
We at Cartula Health India offer a bouquet of health and medical services and have perfected and harnessed efficiency in services:
- We offer the cheapest services in the Indian market when it comes to teleconsultation. It is as low as Rs.100 to ensure affordability by anyone to the group of doctors globally.
- The strong tech used to make the app extremely user-friendly taking into account the target markets.
- There is the availability of international coaches for conducting webinars, knowledge sessions and live to coach for the Indian market.
- It has 7+ multi-language support and 24*7 healthcare resource access to all non-emergency health services.
- Cartula Health India has empanelled 4500 diagnostic centres across 100 cities.
How does the platform function, what's the entire process of delivering the service to the patients/clients?
Technology that went into making our platform makes it easy to use. If you are a patient, all you have to do is to download the app on the phone, and these days almost everyone has a mobile phone, and clicking the app icon opens up tabs for Health diary, Video consultation, Health forum, Share with doctor, View profile, set up appointments, COVID vaccinations etc and what is more important, is that the services are available in seven languages, so that its use can be widespread. One chooses the service one needs to avail, and then everything happens at the press of a button. Now, with diagnostic centres and doctors and experts available and connected through the app, the patient and the doctor interact once the app establishes the connection. And then, it is an absolutely seamless experience, of consultations, and if need be, examination through videos. Drugs and medicines prescribed by doctors are also available on the app, as the platform has tie ups with pharmacies with a pan India presence.
What are the challenges for a telemedicine service provider?
Technological glitches often present the biggest challenge for us in the telemedicine arena, as also the technical skills of patients in remote villages, where people often are technologically challenged. So, the moment we are able to create awareness among the people about our services and get them to believe that it is possible to be treated without visiting a hospital physically through on ground events and campaigns, then more than half the battle is won. At the same time, training staff in proper use of telemedicine technologies is another aspect that we must give utmost importance, if our services are to be efficient, and successful
Rural people have not been majorly exposed to technology or internet. How according to you will it suffice your objective?
It is true that internet services, on which our telemedicine depends, is still patchy in some areas, but the good news is that the digital infrastructure is getting strengthened with each passing day, benefitting the rural masses in a variety of areas – for availing banking, digital payments, online trading, marketing and selling. Our technologists have factored the locally available infrastructure and made it possible for us to use rural telephony to reach our services to the masses. The benefits of easily accessible and cheaper healthcare are motivating the rural audience to learn to work their phones. User-friendly navigation helps people with little technical knowledge also to use it with ease.
What are the health diseases that you deliver service for?
Well, as we have a panel of medical experts and specialists, our services include diagnostics and treatment of the entire range of ailments, from mild to moderate to the serious - whether it was a common cough or cold to high fever, or any of the assorted ailments that require the attention of the doctors. If our specialists so recommend after examining and analysing the patient’s condition, they may visit hospitals for advanced treatment and healthcare.
As mentioned earlier , we have 10,000 plus doctors board including physicians, specialists, Ayurveda experts, etc. We are prepared for patients with any medical history. In the past one year, during the 1st and 2nd wave of COVID, online consultations have been increased to almost 1/3rd. We have seen people are now shifting towards technology that helped us create a better place in the market. Our online platforms are marketed in such a way, that people with a low salary can also afford and can connect through a click. Well not just for consultation, Cartula Health India is also growing because of the services we offer online. We have Special Discounts going on every week, we serves Free Medical Camps for villages, NGOs, and even we are trying to help corporates to develop a healthy atmosphere in parallel to heavy workloads.
What are your future plans to expand in the market?
We have seen, in the recent past, how pandemic exposed the shortcomings of the medical health infrastructure all across the world, and even in India. In our case the majority of the people, some 70 percent, are living in rural India and have poorer access to quality healthcare. Given the need to reach access to a greater number of people, our expansion plan targets rural India and tier 3 and tier 4 cities and towns. And, now digital diagnostics, telemedicine and consultations with qualified experts in different fields of medicine, are becoming the new normal, post pandemic. As this unleashes a huge potential for medial health practitioners, specialists, surgeons and medical technicians, we would like to look and increasing our engagement in this area as well. We started with a single aim in our mind to convert the nation into a ‘Swasth India’ that is surging ahead in the industry by offering the best affordable and accessible health care solutions to the people. Our goal is to build a one-click solution that connects individuals to a healthy future. As mentioned earlier, our long-term goal is to serve each and every individual through affordable and accessible healthcare services across the country.