Forget the commute, the long wait at the hospital or even the lack of the best specialist in your area – with MediAngels, one can overcome these at the click of a mouse. Touted as among the first online hospitals in India, MediAngels helps its customers connect to some of the best doctors in the world, consult them within 24 hours, and order for diagnostic tests and medicines – all from the comfort of their home. Founded by doctors and friends, Debraj Shome and Arbinder Singal, Mumbai-based Angels Health (parent company of MediAngels) was setup in 2009 but became functional in February 2011 after the initial groundwork.
Dr. Shome (34) believes technology is a great leveller in making sure people, who don’t have access to the best specialists, can now connect to one from as far as Italy. The healthcare panel consists of 350 doctors (200 from India and 150 from other countries) spread over 93 specialities and from 15 countries. According to Shome, a typical hospital in India would house about 40 specialties.
A click away
MediAngels was among the finalists at the Manthan Awards and Sankalp Awards 2011 that recognises best practises in e-content and noteworthy social enterprises respectively. Ninety per cent of its customers are from India. Though it was initially aimed at those with Internet access looking for a second opinion or are new to a city, now more than 50 per cent of its users are from rural and semi-urban areas relying on their mobile browsers. “We will be seeing a major movement to voice in FY ‘13 since mobile penetration is higher than Internet penetration in India,” shares Shome.
Presently, users can visit MediAngels website and browse through the various doctors’ profiles. They can either choose a doctor or let a team of general practitioners (GP) choose for them. Once, all medical data has been uploaded, it is sent to a specialist with a turnaround time of 24 hours for 85 per cent of its cases. The user can choose to interact with the doctor either through video or phone call. A consultation can cost anywhere between Rs. 250 – Rs. 5000 depending on the doctor and type of consultation. The company shares a portion of this revenue with its doctors. Users can make payments using cash coupons that are equivalent to cash-on-delivery or through tie-ups with various GPs and cyber cafes. They can also order blood tests from the 21,000 accredited diagnostic centres MediAngels is tied up with and order medicines as well. “Everything except a surgery is taken care of, which can also be arranged in one of our partner hospitals,” adds Shome.
Close to heart
MediAngels was born out of Shome’s personal experience. In 2008, Shome’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer and was given six months to live. Having worked at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas, Shome was aware of Dr. Katherine Pisters, a cancer specialist who had recommended a medicine not available in India. “My father went on to live productively for three more years before he passed away last year. But the whole experience taught me how connecting with one best doctor for a specific ailment can improve the quality of life.” Shome also realised that technology can help bridge that gap. With an initial investment from both the founders, the company was registered in 2009.
Considering that the doctors on its panel have an average practice experience of 10 years and often head their respective departments at hospitals/universities and have completed fellowship training; one of its toughest challenges was to get them onboard. For this, it helped that both Shome and Dr. Singal are specialists in their own right and could tap into their network. Shome is a facial plastic surgeon who headed aesthetic surgery department in Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad and trained in the U.S. He also completed his MBA in hospital management from Vanderbilt University. Singal (37) is a paediatric neurologist, who had trained in Ohio University.
Another challenge was developing the technology to ensure that medical data is secure and MediAngels is now HIPAA-compliant (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, U.S.). “The first two years were spent on establishing the supply side of doctors, processes and a quality control cycle,” says Shome. The founders were also particular that a high standard of healthcare is practiced at MediAngels. To ensure this, it setup a panel, headed by Dr. Hayes Gladstone (associate professor and director of the division of Dermatologic surgery at Stanford University), that makes the final call on the doctors that can come onboard. Now, Shome says the tide has reversed – MediAngels receives about 5200 resumes of doctors wanting to join the panel, of which 5 – 7 are selected. Its management team comprises of 20 members and he hopes to add more in the coming year.
The right diagnosis
Though MediAngels is among the first movers, Shome is unfazed about the rapport patients build through the physical presence of a doctor. “It’s a consumer behavioural change that will see more people adapt to. They have access to the best doctors from all over the world without spending time or energy in travelling. Even from a business point of view, the high capital cost to set up hospitals that cater mostly to its closest residents is often not feasible,” offers Shome. He hopes to ramp up their marketing efforts, which have been “minimal” so far, through web-based marketing and tie-up with doctors to help with customer acquisition. Eight per cent of its traffic is repeat customers but 50 per cent of its total users have already signed up for annual membership.
MediAngels also runs a programme that targets corporate companies to help track its employees’ health. “MOUs have already been signed. This will give a significant jump in our consumer base and form a major revenue generator in FY‘13,” discloses Shome. With three offices for different operations in Mumbai, it will soon setup regional offices to take this forward. He is also keen on improving marketing for its global consumers and by FY‘16 is looking to generate 40 per cent of its revenues from abroad. “FY‘13 is going to be a major year for scaling up. I’m confident that there will be a 10x growth.