Healthcare in India – A First Mile Problem

Healthcare in India is at a unique crossroad. While it boasts of some of the finest physicians, low-cost treatment, and affordable medications, it is reeling under the pressure of skewed doctor to patient ratio, information asymmetry, and a highly unregulated marketplace. We have made rapid advancements in areas such as banking, telecom, and manufacturing, but, innovations in healthcare, for varied reasons, seem to be concentrated in solving the problem of few while leaving the majority to work their way through without much assistance.

In recent times, there has been an increasing diligence towards improving the standards of healthcare in India. Various initiatives by both Govt. bodies and private players (Established and Startups), targeted at both urban and rural population, are aimed at improving the reach and quality of care. However, in this pursuit to improve on our abysmal health indices, we have concentrated our efforts in primarily improving the last mile issues while turning a blind eye to the equally critical first mile problems.

What is a First Mile Problem?

“I’m too young to worry about heart disease,” “I’d know if I had high blood pressure because there would be warning signs.” “My family has a long history of Diabetes, and I can’t escape it,” myths like these are indicative of the true issues which need addressing. Recently, a leading organization unveiled its non-invasive breast cancer screening device, and the promo carried women walking into a diagnostic center for her annual breast cancer preventive check-up and being screened with this new device. However, what experts failed to question, was, why would that woman walk that mile to the center in the first place? Is she aware that she needs to go for such regular screenings?

This is what, we, at AllizHealth, believe is a classical first-mile problem. A situation where people despite having choices at hand, are unable to select one due to lack of adequate context or a holistic understanding of their body and health. Every year, roughly 5.8 million Indians die from heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. In other words, 1 in 4 Indians risks dying from a Non-communicable disease before they reach the age of 70. Part of this problem is precisely due to this lack of early warnings or inability to put the pieces together and make an informed decision. A person might have an access to the best weight management app or finest of wearable, but, if there isn’t adequate knowledge of the perils of high BMI, why would she act?

The Opportunity

The enormity of this challenge certainly creates as big an opportunity. The proliferation of smartphones, access to the internet and an increasingly “click” friendly population does provide an opportunity to leverage technology and address the first mile challenges. As per Gartner report, healthcare IT spends in India is expected to rise 3.4% to $1.2B in 2016. Same time, the total preventive care market in India is estimated to be over ~$800M. The big opportunity thus lies in coordinating the initiatives in both the sectors to build an ecosystem which starts with the basic fundamental of helping people understand their health better and then hands holding them resources to manage their health effectively.

At AllizHealth, we are building such a health platform which would help people figure their risks early and then use various resources to track and manage the same. By virtue of our association with some of the leading insurance and care providers in India, we are now managing the health of over 500,000 users across India. Using advanced analytics, various medical models, and predictive algorithms, we are able to predict accurately the risk of every individual to various health conditions ranging from diabetes, CVD, CHD to mental and emotional health. Once we have figured the risks, our automated care program ensures that users are encouraged to manage their risks and adhere to their personalized care plans.

Once we have helped our users figure their risks, it opens up avenues to hand hold them to various care management options. Recommending calorie counting apps to wearable’s, reminders on medications, online lab test booking, medical second option, doctor chat to comprehensive condition management programs; the platform has the potential then to tie up various last mile niche service options. Thus the platform, by way of addressing the first-mile issue of risk identification and user health education, helps build the complete preventive care ecosystem.

The Road Ahead

Addressing the first-mile problem would involve unearthing health problems even before they exist. The key to doing so would depend on well we are able to encourage users to provide that information and secondly, how effectively we are able to analyze the same and get back to the user with meaningful interpretations. It would also involve collaboration between all the stakeholders involved starting from insurance companies, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies to various niche providers such as healthcare at home services or wearable device manufactures.

So far, the industry has thrived on a lack of user participation in managing his/her health and relying entirely on the care giver to take the decisions on their behalf. However, if we are to improve on the abject state of healthcare in India, we have to build a user-centric system driven by the core objective of helping users figure their health better and have all the information on their hands to make informed health decisions. We are quite optimistic and believe that the next wave of healthcare innovation in India would be focused on addressing fundamental issues and not try to replicate the solutions from the west.

About AllizHealth

Founded in 2013 and based out of Pune, India, AllizHealth is a health tech venture in the preventive care space. It was founded by Mr. Chinmoy Mishra, Dr. Rasmi Mishra, Mr. Gaurav Vij and Mr. Dhairya Gupta. At present, it is a 30 member team backed by Mumbai Angels and with some of the leading physicians on its board. Through its proprietary health management platform, AllizHealth is looking to address the growing concern of Non-Communicable and lifestyle related diseases in India.