What can you do if you are faced with a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment from a super-specialist? MediAngels marries medicine with technology—to deliver a doctor on call via the Internet, report Disha Shah
Many lives have been lost because the correct medical treatment was not delivered on time. In urban India, a number of households have Web connectivity. But getting through to a medical expert anywhere in the world, who is ready to help you out at that crucial juncture, can prove to be an impossible task. That's the gap that an entity called MediAngels is trying to bridge. Here's the story of how the business was conceptualised.
In 2008, Dr. Debraj Shome (63), an ENT surgeon, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He also suffered multiple-organ failure and the chances of his survival were slim. But his son, Dr. Debraj Shome --- a super specialist in facial plastic surgery-was able to get opinion at the right time from Dr. Katherine Pisters, a US-Based oncologist who does research in rare forms of lung cancer. Thanks to the medical advice provided by Dr. Pisters, Dr. Debraj Shome survived. He is alive due to the prescription which was provided on time. Debraj, being a medical professional himself, could avert a tragedy. But he realised that not everyone could be as lucky.
Debraj wanted to start an entity which could give more people easy and timely access to expert medical help from professionals across the globe. He founded MediAngels, a healthcare service which uses technology for delivery, along with Dr. Arbinder Singal, a super specialist in paediatric urology.
Debraj says, "At MediAngels, the world's first e–Hospital, our website (www.mediangels.com) is a small part of our complete healthcare delivery mechanism. We also provide help over the phone and utilize interactive doctors-driven call centres along with other centres on the ground. MediAngels also uses software which allows a doctor to provide consultancy over the Internet. A patient can store medical record on an online basis. "Medical records can also be downloaded on your phone, to boost accessibility. MediAngels has helped more than 1,500 consumers globally over the past two months. Since a lot of work is done via the Internet, MediAngels regularly goes in for technology upgrades.
For protecting the medical privacy of patients, MediAngels follows HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act 1996, passed in the US) guidelines which help the entity to maintain client confidentiality and develop trust with consumers. In case a patient wants the opinion of his own doctor, MediAngles allows him to do so. It has 21,000 accredited labs across India. Debraj says, "If you are on the Indo-China border at Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), you may not get drinking water, but you will have two MediAngels labs within 4km from where you are."
An 'e-consult' session with an Indian doctors costs Rs.500; an international doctors charge $100. MediAngels accepts payment via credit, debit or cash cards, over the Internet and in cash. Once a patient pays the application amount, the online software identifies the closest accredited lab using the postal pin-code. Next morning, a lab professional makes a house visit and collects a blood sample which is taken to the central processing central. The reports are delivered to the patient’s house. The profile includes a personalised account which can be accessed via a password. After the information is uploaded, a mobile text message is sent to both the selected doctors and the patient. This ensures that the end-to end consultancy cycle is completed with the use of technology.
Debraj and Arbinder managed the initial funding from their own saving, with help from their family and friend. After two year of planning, MediAngels started its operations. It now has access to more than 300 doctors from 22 countries- the Us, Singapore, Norway, Australia, China, Japan, Middle East and other countries, proving their services to patients across the world. The MediAngels panel of doctors is chosen by a stringent process of accreditation by a neutral 'Health Quality Assurance Committee' (comprising Dr. Hayes Gladstone from Stanford University; Dr. MSR Ayyangar from Andhra Pradesh; Dr. Anna Stratis from Canada) to maintain quality standards. The committee selects and appoints doctors for MediAngels thorough a rigorous process. This Committee selects the best doctors across the globe. The process is rigorous - typically, it takes between six and eight weeks to verify the credentials of a prospective doctor. MediAngels has a policy: it selects specialised doctors, choose those who are the best in their fields.
Debraj's belief is that it will not be difficult to garner capital for MediAngels expansion, if an investor is convinced about the idea behind the mission and plan of execution. Private equity (PF) firm HDFC Holdings Ltd performed due diligence over a period of four months before providing seed capital of Rs3 crore. Debraj says, "HDFC noticed us because of our innovative approach." MediAngels started with a team of seven people in 2008; it now employs 35 people. Because most of the work is done online, it does not require the kind of manpower that a brick-and- mortar hospital has to employ. Despite this, Debraj says that due to its expansion plans, MediAngels may employ 150 people by the end of this year.
Physical proximity should not necessarily dictate the choice of a hospital. "What if the doctor who is in your particulars area is not the best for the treatment of your disease? Are you ready to suffer the consequences of not going to the doctor with the best training and the most expertise to treat your particular problem? The advantage of an e-hospital is that we are able to hire the best doctor for you, no matter where he is located physically," says Debraj. If you are based in Mumbai and the most qualified doctor for your ailment is based in south India, MediAngels uses the most advanced technology tools and allows consultation with the identified doctor facilitates uploading of all medical report and seeks an opinion on the illness- without the patient having to leave his residence.
But innovation comes with its fair share of risk. Debraj says, "A concept like MediAngels requires a change in the uses' mindset. People need to understand that healthcare can be delivered through a revolutionary process." With healthcare becoming a basic need all over the world, Debraj believes that MediAngels has an expanding horizon. He says, "The evolution of MediAngels is a concentrate on driving the best quality healthcare to the most distant parts of the world."
"What if the doctor who is in your particular area is not the best for the treatment of your disease? Are you ready to suffer the consequences of not going to the doctor with the best training and the most expertise to treat your particular problem?"