The Rise of the Digital Doctor: Practo Technologies and 21st Century Indian Healthcare

Digitization of access to healthcare specialists and patient records on a robust, cloud-based platform that facilitates collaboration between doctors and patients was a concept largely unexplored by India’s healthcare system. That is, until Practo Technologies was founded. Practo is the first company to envision a business model that aims to create a full stack health-tech solution which connects the fragmented medical community with millions of patients who have limited, and often distorted, access to information.

Practo Makes Perfect

The traditional operating model of India’s healthcare system is encumbered by primitive information flow about doctors and medical treatments through word of mouth and personal experiences of family and friends. Inability to verify references, lack of accurate health history[1], and difficulty in securing appointments has created challenges in receiving necessary care and compounded trust issues.

Practo was conceived to solve these challenges. It brings stakeholders currently operating in silos onto an integrated, tech-enabled digital platform,[2] making healthcare more accessible and growing the addressable market. India’s largest online doctor discovery platform, it is estimated that over 40 million appointments with healthcare practitioners, specialists, diagnostic centers, and hospitals have been booked through Practo across 35 cities[3].

With $125 million raised from marque investors Sequoia, Tencent, Sofina, and Google, Practo has focused on developing an integrated technology platform of healthcare software systems, search engine capabilities, electronic records, and a preventive healthcare marketplace[4]. The network benefit from building scale on both ends of the spectrum has potential to disrupt the delivery of, and access to, quality healthcare.

India – An Ideal Launch Pad for Digital Healthcare

Consumers have grown accustomed to the convenience of booking cabs and food delivery through mobile. Practo aims to offer the same convenience, and more importantly trust, in healthcare appointments and digitizing records. Ironically, India’s healthcare ecosystem is among the latest sectors to be disrupted with technology innovation[5]. 71% of healthcare expenditure is out-of-pocket which makes the need for digitization a compelling argument[6]. With India expected to become the second largest smartphone market[7], Practo stands to benefit from rising smartphone penetration among one billion mobile subscriber base[8].

Practo for Patients

Patients have access to reliable information flow that promotes doctor patient connectivity[9]. The portal provides a customizable search function, experience, consultation fee and patient feedback details on doctors, and records doctor visit history (dates, billing, prescriptions and test results)[10]. Features include appointment reminders, transportation options and location tracking. This has made the decision-making process seamless, transparent, and convenient.

Practo for the Medical Community

Practo digitizes operations, offers better treatment delivery, and enhances patient engagement. By partnering with Practo,  hospitals and clinics can increase brand awareness and expand their addressable market. Its operating model is a portfolio of startups within a startup in order to retain nimbleness as it scales its offerings[11]. This DNA has facilitated seamless integration of several bolt-on acquisitions that have strengthened its products and services: (i) subscription-based practice management software to manage patients and digital health records [12] (ii) solution for hospital outpatient departments to manage patient traffic and online bookings (iii) cloud-based hospital management information solutions (iv) hyper-local targeted ad platform for medical establishments. Practo ensures regulatory compliance with the use of fact-based banners[13] (v) on-premise patient engagement tablets.



But, One Wonders…

Practo’s value proposition is clearly well-defined and has been effectively implemented till date.  However, as it refines its business model and operating capabilities, nuances of Practo’s value share are likely to come under regulatory scrutiny over data integrity and ownership and monetization of electronic health records. As Practo works towards making healthcare digitization more mainstream, it needs to prioritize patient privacy and protect from security breaches to ensure there are stringent internal controls and systems in place.

The ability to demonstrate tangible contribution to revenue maximization and bottom line goals of medical professionals and hospitals can get challenging. With continuous investment in its platform, launch of innovative software solutions, and data analytics, Practo can identify various avenues to bolster relations with the medical community. That said, Practo should monitor its patient feedback portal as it could deter practitioners from engaging on the platform. A patient-centric approach is crucial, but doctor buy-in remains key for any form of digital transformation[14].

Given the fairly local nature of the healthcare ecosystem, benefits from network effects are restricted to individual cities which exposes Practo to execution risk. That said, Practo should still maximize its first mover advantage and capture disproportionate share of the land grab opportunity through rapid geographic expansion – trading growth over profitability in the short term to defend against long term sustainability.

So it’s clear, that while Practo has identified a meaningful gap and equipped itself with the right gear crucial to its endeavor of disrupting India’s healthcare system in a meaningful and sustainable way, it is likely to face an uphill climb as it looks to build scale.

 

(800 words)

 


Citations

 

Description  Section: Khedekar, Naina. The Practo Story: Building Full-stack End-to-end Online Health Solution for India – Tech2. Tech2. TechFirstpost, 19 Sept. 2016.

[1] Sangwan, Sujata. Practo Brings the Entire Healthcare Ecosystem on One Tech Enabled Platform. BW Disrupt. Business Worls. 23 Oct. 2016.

[2] Sangwan, Sujata. Practo Brings the Entire Healthcare Ecosystem on One Tech Enabled Platform. BW Disrupt. Business Worls. 23 Oct. 2016.

[3] Practo in Digital Healthcare Expansion. India Inc. India Global Business. 21 June 2016.

[4] Raghavendra, Sumantha. Is Practo in the Pink of Health…or Suffering from Gluttony? The Ken. 16 Nov. 2016.

[5] Sangwan, Sujata. Practo Brings the Entire Healthcare Ecosystem on One Tech Enabled Platform. BW Disrupt. Business Worls. 23 Oct. 2016.

[6] Healthcare in India Whitepaper. Columbia University.

[7] Rai, Saritha. India Just Crossed 1 Billion Mobile Subscribers Milestone and The Excitement’s Just Beginning. Forbes. Forbes Magazine. 6 Jan. 2016.

[8] Singh, Prashant. Smartphones Are Keeping Users in India Plugged In. Nielsen. 2013.

[9] Puri, Roma, and Amit Kumar. Practo Technologies: The Online Way of Life! Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies 3.7 (2013).

[10] Chauhan, Roma, and Kumar Amit, Cloud Computing for Improved Healthcare: Techniques, Potential and Challenges. International Conference on E-Health and Bioengineering. Romanian Society of Medical Bioengineering. 21 Nov. 2013.

[11] Interview with Shashank ND, Co-Founder and CEO of Practo, Challenges, Funding and Evolution of the Company and the Healthcare Industry. Your Story. 18 Aug. 2015.

[12] Sangwan, Sujata. Practo Brings the Entire Healthcare Ecosystem on One Tech Enabled Platform. BW Disrupt. Business Worls. 23 Oct. 2016.

[13] Arakali, Harichandan. Meet Practo, An ‘Uber For Doctors’ That’s Revolutionizing Healthcare On The Indian Subcontinent. International Business Times. 01 Jul. 2015.

[14] Lee, Thomas, and Toby Cosgrove. Engaging Doctors in the Health Care Revolution. Harvard Business Review. 03 Dec. 2014.

 

 

Images

https://blog.practo.com/

http://appolicious.com/practo-a-healthcare-app-bridging-the-gap-between-patients-and-doctors/

http://www.iamwire.com/2015/02/clinic-mangement-software-developer-practo-raises-30m-series-led-matrix-partners/109987

 

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2 thoughts on “The Rise of the Digital Doctor: Practo Technologies and 21st Century Indian Healthcare

  1. Personally I find this topic very fascinating and have been mulling over it for quite some time now. I really do feel that the healthcare access systems are very antiquated! Till this date we rely on word of mouth to find a good doctor in our city or just open the website of the nearest clinic and choose the appointment which is most easily available. I agree with your concerns over regulatory scrutiny and privacy. However, I have also experienced that it is a challenge to get the doctors to maintain health records. It has been implemented in some countries but with limited success. Practo will have to come up with an innovative solution to really capture the health records to really take this solution to the next level.

  2. A great example of a technology working to bridge some of the (numerous) gaps in the healthcare system!

    As I read this I immediately thought of the US-based company, ZocDoc. Many of the product features are similar and perhaps there are some lessons to be learned between the two operating platforms. Other than the issue you cited re: patient data and privacy, there is also an ongoing challenge of having reliable reviews to inform patients’ decisions. As the product expands, it may need to look beyond simple patient reviews by incorporating other ratings systems (e.g., hospital-wide reviews). Once people lose credibility in the system, it’s easy to lose them to another platform, so it will be important to keep this in mind as other technologies enter the market.

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