Primary healthcare is failing 80 crore Indians. An app may be the antidote


Sometimes it only takes one event in life to spark a business idea and the story behind the team of Kota-based healthtech startup, MedCords, is a testimony of this.

Led by Shreyans Mehta, Nikhil Baheti and Saida Dhanavath, this digital platform’s two-year-old journey started when Mehta’s father, a doctor by profession, suffered a slip disc. Mehta recalls the medical condition severely hampered his father’s movement, limiting his availability to patients, who were based out of far-flung rural areas.

Treating patients was his dad’s passion and it was that instance when Mehta, along with his team thought of coming up with a solution to address this issue. Subsequent brainstorming by the team led to the launch of MedCords — a digital platform to facilitate patients to receive medical consultations, all without the need of physically travelling to a doctor.

The idea did click among the patients who benefitted from Mehta’s innovation that facilitated easy, secure and fast consultations right on their mobile phones. Since then, the trio-led startup has certainly come a long way. Today, with a deep focus on rural India, the cloud backed platform has emerged not just as a platform that connects thousands of rural-based patients with qualified doctors, but as an all-inclusive healthcare ecosystem uniting all key health-related stakeholders: Patients, doctors, pharmacies and laboratories. This enables smooth access and sharing of medical data, thereby eliminating the hassle of storing and maintaining hard copies of medical data.

The companion

The app, available in Hindi and English can be easily downloaded on an Android phone and is fairly simple to use. The patient can press “E-Consult” after which he or she has to choose the category that best describes the ailment. The categories range from issues like acidity, breathlessness, common cold, ear discomfort, fever, headache, insect bite, joint pain, loose motion, skin infections among others. The patient then needs to answer some questions to narrow down the problem, before he or she is connected to a doctor. The app also aims to provide digital doctor consultation and medical records digitization in remote rural and semi-urban areas for patients. The consultations have been designed in a very interactive way so that the user feels that questions are asked by a doctor, claim the founders.

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The founders

What helps is the fact that the app closes the loop for the patients by connecting them with not just the doctors, but also medical stores to procure medicines. For medical stores to facilitate users in remotest parts, the platform offers what it calls Sehat Sathi Android App. The app enables medical stores to get online and chat with their customers in semi-urban areas.

“For doctors and hospitals, we have a web application, wherein they can see intelligently-organized historical information related to a patient’s health profile and the patient can simply walk into the clinic paperless. The doctor needs to be given access by the patient from the patient’s phone. Our data science platform securely organizes the medical data of every patient and streamlines medical information about the patient to help the doctor efficiently understand the health issues,” says Mehta.

He adds that this significantly reduces misdiagnosis and even reduces the burden for the patient in describing the problem to the doctor, since all the relevant information is already present before the doctor.

Currently, the platform also offers an annual subscription plan for remote consultation on the MedCords platform at the lowest cost. Through its another app, called ‘Aayu’, patients can be provided with doctors consultations, digital medical records, preventive health management tools, health insurance, blogs, videos and everything concerning health and well being all at one place.

The opportunity

“The opportunity to solve the this [lack of a digitally enabled personalised doctor-patient connect] problem is huge in the country as more than 80 crore people live in rural India and end up spending at least Rs 1000 per year on travelling for consultations.”

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According to Mehta, technology and digitisation of health records in the most efficient and scalable way is the big opportunity, as the availability of doctors in rural areas will always be an issue and data-driven decision making is very necessary for better health outcomes.

What MedCords does is significant at another level. The app and its offering are targeted at primary healthcare, which is highly deficient in India. With a population of almost seven crore, the state of Rajasthan has about 1600-1700 primary healthcare centres (PHCs). This means every centre caters to about 41,000 individuals, when ideally there should be one PHC for every 20,000 population. For the state of Madhya Pradesh with a comparable population of seven crore, there are about 1500-2000 primary healthcare centres. This would mean one PHC is again catering to about 41,000 individuals.

The story is the same across different states in India, which means India’s first line of healthcare and treatment is severely incomplete. Because of the weak primary care system, the tertiary care system in the country is also severely overburdened leading to shortfall of resources. Problems are compounded as research shows that most rural practitioners have no medical training and the quality of care is poor and correct protocols are often not followed. It is then not surprising that according to the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) in the US, India has shortage of an estimated 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses.

According to the team, the knowledge platform has been designed to cater to every citizen who has a phone connection. The healthtech startup leverages data science to connect and use the existing network of medical stores to facilitate doorstep delivery of medicines. “We even make the patients’ medical records digital so that they could be managed from anywhere and even provide e-consultations to them from the best doctors on our portal,” says Mehta, adding that the USP of their venture lies in its being the country’s first health ecosystem designed for the families.

Pink of health

The initial days of the startup were not a smooth ride. After two failed pilots and a journey of 75000 km and 800 plus villages across the four states of Rajasthan, MP, UP and Bihar to find the actual healthcare challenges, Medcords was finally started in May 2017. It initially started operations in Kota and since then the platform has reached over thousands of villages, registered 15 lakh plus patients, connected 1500 plus medical stores and 2000 plus doctors.

“The lack of benchmarks that we had to follow and the unavailability of the smartphone users have been our biggest bottlenecks so far. Even if the users had one, they were unaware of the operability, but they were in dire need of our solution,” says Mehta.

He adds that the entire healthcare system is extensively fragmented across India and stitching it together for the users was a big challenge. “To help them, we came up with an ultra-simple solution, thereby addressing the major pain point affecting about 80% of India’s population,” says Mehta. Notably, the AI-enabled healthcare startup has also won a grant of $50,000 at the ‘WhatsApp Grand Startup Challenge’ organized by the messaging major in association with StartupIndia – the Government’s flagship initiative.

Mehta says for now the startup focuses on rural and semi-urban healthcare as they are deprived of even the basic medication and access to doctors. The startup is also developing a data science platform robust enough to determine the disease symptom-relationship and identify health risk patterns of families.

The firm’s existing revenue model primarily revolves around charging money from patients for consultations and subscriptions. “MedCords has plans to expand in Rajasthan by March 2020 and then move to other Hindi speaking states and plan to touch more than two crore users by March 2021. The company does have some more revenue channels which will evolve soon,” Mehta adds optimistically.





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