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We expect IOT in healthcare to be one of the biggest applications at a very affordable cost- K Ganesh

At- home healthcare segment is growing big as brands are expanding and venturing into various verticals for the best of the consumers.

By Tanvi Jetly Feature Writer

With the rising needs of the consumers for a better life, the healthcare segment is now moving towards other options. At-home healthcare services are rising and gaining attention for all the right things. They provide hospital services in the comfort of one’s home which saves all the time and energy spent in the process of going to a hospital. In a conversation with K Ganesh, Chairman, Portea Medical, he explains to us about the at-home healthcare industry, the role of IOT and AI and much more.

Kindly brief us about your brand, Portea Medical.
We started Portea Medical about 4 years back. In India, we have great hospitals and doctors. The healthcare in the hospital system was world class but outside the hospitals, there was nothing- no brand, standardisation or quality. So, Portea Medical is everything for the consumers outside the hospital care. From providing nurses, doctors, physiotherapists to providing diagnostics at home or office, medical equipment, medicines, Portea Mecial provides everything for care outside the hospitals. Our focus is on healing a person after he gets cured and also to avoid a person from going back to the hospital. We work on delaying the onset of the need for hospitalisation by taking preventive steps for health and wellness.

How's  been your entrepreneurial journey?
We have a platform called Growth Story where we promote multiple companies. We have Big Basket, Blue Stone, Portea Medical and three education companies. We also have a company called Grow Fit that does Wellness and Nutrition for the consumers and a food tech company called Fresh Menu. Basically, we are trying to read all the core points that a consumer needs like food, shelter, education and now entertainment. We are providing these facilities with the help of new age tools like technology, internet, digital media etc.

What are your views on the Indian Healthcare Industry?
The Indian Healthcare industry is hugely challenged because we lack a good public healthcare system. Government funded healthcare is almost non-existent, and that less than 30% of the people are really insured. Insurance only covers hospitalisation; it doesn’t cover outside of hospital care. This puts an enormous burden on healthcare for every individual. You literally start praying to God to not get a chronic disease because heaven forbid, then there is a very little support system available. The other point is that doctors and specialists, obviously for their own reasons, want to work in metros and major cities. Healthcare does not reach the tier III towns, villages, rural areas where more than 2/3rd of our population lies. So, especially for non-metro cities, access, lack of public funding and insurance in healthcare puts a huge burden on the industry. People are now living longer. Our generation is expected to live up to 100 years and the next generation will be expected to live up to 110 years. So, the last 10-20 years of geriatric care is required and we are very ill-equipped to deliver that.   

What role is IoT playing in uplifting the healthcare industry?
It’s still in very early stages. The potential for IoT connected with Wi-Fi or connected to a smartphone and then with a Wi-Fi and from there going on to the Cloud can be transformative in trying to address some of India’s healthcare challenges. For example, we are already piloted continuous diabetes monitoring for patients by using simple IOT type of devices. Everyone has a smartphone these days. If we can have a small IOT device that can send signals to a smartphone, the marginal cost will be the cost of IOT. Therefore, at a very small cost, it’s possible for me to monitor a patient’s condition and take corrective actions before anything drastic really happens. So, proactive healthcare can be enabled by IoT at a very low cost, thanks to the fact that rest of the hardware and software devices required already exist with the patient. We expect IOT in healthcare to be one of the biggest applications at a very affordable cost. It also helps in addressing the challenges in the remote areas that through IOT data can be captured, sent to metros or hospitals where specialists exist and they can, over call or video conference can actually solve the problem.

What are some of the points to remember while venturing into the at-home healthcare segment?
One of the biggest challenges in the at-home healthcare segment is it’s highly distributed. So, how do you standardise quality when healthcare is being delivered at home? When you are doing it at a hospital or in a nursing home, it’s all under the supervision of a doctor, senior doctors, surgeons, hospital administrators etc. But when it is done at home, there is only one person from the healthcare company. With that one person, how can one assure that standardisation exists in this kind of treatment? This has been the number one challenge in this business. The second problem is how do you solve for scale? In Portea Medical, we do 125000 visits every month. So, as we speak, 4000 visits are taking place. So, how do you standardise that much number of visits? How do you ensure when the quality has been maintained in a distributed fashion? The third challenge is hiring people. At-home health care, people are just not available. Nursing attendants, caregivers, even nurses to work at home are too hard to find. We have to do a lot of work in sourcing, training and in the supply chain for the human resources that exist. These are the three main challenges in this business.

With technology taking over the industry, how is AI revolutionising the healthcare market?
It’s a major topic of debate that has been going on. One school of thought says that AI will actually replace doctors because ultimately, a doctor is relying on all his experience and certain facts that he has learned over periods of time to be able to bring that in and solve the problem. Now, if we can teach the same to a machine, they can actually replace the doctors. To prevent fundamental mistakes and errors, to help like the doctor take better decisions with all the data that they have, to be consistent and keep on learning without being distracted by emotions or fatigue, these are some of the things that the machines can do really well.  

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