Bridging India's healthcare gap through technology

Technology can be used to bridge the gap between patients and doctors by enabling them to talk to each other. In an interview with Enterprise Innovation, Saurabh Arora, Founder & CEO, Lybrate explains how his healthcare communication and delivery platform facilitates the connect between India’s medical fraternity and users.

Tell us the story behind Lybrate.

On a visit to India while I was working with Facebook in the United States, I noticed that people were consuming medicines just on the advice of chemists and making severe compromises with their health, unintentionally. The chemists were prescribing medicines without having the requisite skills and expertise. This practice was rampant in Tier 1 cities where people had time constraints and avoided visiting a doctor because of the long queues at the clinics and traffic jams on the streets.

Those in Tier 2 & 3 cities faced a different issue altogether, such as non-availability of quality doctors. We found out that the core problem of Indian healthcare delivery was paucity of trained doctors across the country. Also, while finding a doctor was easy, communicating with them was a big challenge.

At Facebook, I connected SMEs and large advertisers to their customers using Facebook Ads. We used the experience to connect patients with doctors much in the same way through a platform that would enable them to communicate with each other, and thus solve the real problem that plagued the Indian healthcare system. This led to the inception of Lybrate in 2014.

What does Lybrate do?

Lybrate's focus is on communication and that remains the core of all our solutions. Users can use the platform either through the free mobile app available on Android and iOS, or web. Majority of the platform is free for users and doctors to use but there are a few ways in which Lybrate makes money:

Lybrate Consult - enables users to talk to a doctor via text, audio or video. Users can consult their choice of a doctor privately by paying a consultation fee online. On top of the doctor’s consultation fee, the user has to pay internet handling fee to Lybrate which makes up for the company’s revenue.

Lybrate Lab+ – In the diagnostic cycle, Lybrate Lab+ enables services such as having lab test initiated during an online consult, to sample pick and automatic sharing of reports with the doctors, it allows for further consultation without breaking the loop of online consultation. The service is also available for users who only want to book tests. So the solution is both user and doctor initiated.

Lybrate Cube – It is a practice management solution for doctors which goes beyond offering basic services such as management of appointments, electronic medical records and electronic prescriptions, among others. Lybrate Cube provides doctors essential tools that multiply their presence, helps them manage follow-up patients online and focus on patients who need their physical presence more.

What is the innovation Lybrate brings to India?

Lybrate uses technology to bridge the gap between patients and doctors by enabling them to talk to each other, thus democratizing healthcare in the country.

The huge data we have generated since we launched the platform in January 2015, made us introduce machine learning to suggest customized healthcare solutions to our users.

Machine learning facilitates learning of users' interest and preferences over time to create a customized Health Feed, consisting of health tips from doctors themselves and free answers by doctors to questions asked on the platform. This prevents users from getting bogged down by information not much of their interest.

Besides, when users ask queries on the platform, they do not know which doctor is best suited for them. Machine learning fixes this issue by deciphering users’ queries across more than 15 parameters in real time and help them get answers from relevant doctors.

In the times of information overload, customized solutions are important for patient engagement. The platform allowers users to get quick opinions, and detailed opinions from doctors, address small health concerns as well as health problems involving super-specialty, or for general health and wellness

What are the plans for the future?

We have been witnessing good traction in Tier 2 and 3 cities in India. We have identified that bridging the language gap will further drive adoption. Towards this end, we will introduce language options on the platform so that becomes easier for patients to communicate with doctors in regional languages, and benefit from Lybrate’s unique Health Feed.

Your analysis of India's startup ecosystem?

These are interesting times when environment for entrepreneurship in India has become so positive, like never before. This points to an economy which has a plethora of opportunities, which is open to embrace risk takers, provide all possible support to them in finding solutions to problems that are unique to India and let them contribute in the development of the country in their own way.

It is the very reason that a number of start-ups are mushrooming in almost every sector in India, trying to solve different problems. Being an entrepreneur today seems much easier compared with a few years back as anyone can take a plunge in the sea of opportunities available now.

The support of the government towards startups has also played an important role in the creation of a conducive environment.