Ratnesh Pandey, Co-Founder, Healthkhoj.com

Anil Mascarenhas, IIFL | Mumbai | April 16, 2016 16:06 IST

“Out of pocket expenditure in India is as high as 61% of the total medical expenditure, where as in Low and Middle Income countries it is 37%. There is a vicious cycle of health-care debt.”

Ratnesh Pandey, Co-Founder, Healthkhoj.com
Ratnesh Pandey, Co-Founder, Healthkhoj.com worked in multi cultural International business environments in Europe and US. He has executed complex engagements with globally distributed teams and vendors. He possesses domain knowledge on B2B IT marketing, Lead progression, Campaigns, Branding and Promotions.
 
Healthkhoj is changing the way healthcare services are delivered and consumed. We are doing this by bringing different service providers in the patient care cycle together, which means that the people will be able to access everything they need through healthkhoj.
 
Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of India Infoline, Ratnesh Pandey says, “Out of pocket expenditure in India is as high as 61% of the total medical expenditure, where as in Low and Middle Income countries it is 37%.  There is a vicious cycle of health-care debt.”
 
Connected healthcare and artificial intelligence are all making waves in healthcare. What are some of the interesting bits you are seeing in healthcare?
There are a lot of interesting things happening in healthcare segment.  
  • Connected Healthcare is on the rise. This will be driver primarily through mobile applications and devices communicating to each other over Internet. 
  • Tracking of patients post discharge, constant monitoring of the patient through wearables, 
  • Anytime, anywhere access to the personal medical data 
  • Return of the family doctor concept in big cities. 
  • Use of Artificial Intelligence in the care cycle. At the individual patient level, players like HealthKhoj are working on it. At the Industry level IBM Watson is one example
  • Rise of affordable, smart equipments available to the hospitals. These include ECG machines and opthalmology equipments
A host of medical decisions will be assisted by players like HealthKhoj, which means that patients will not be flying blind.
 
What prompted you to choose the healthcare segment for your start-up venture?
On the personal front, we have witnessed the snuffing of young and promising life of one of our friends due to misdiagnosis and lack of timely intervention that out health-tech at the forefront of our consideration set. 
 
The healthcare system in India has been under severe pressure for a really long time now. Availability of only 0.6 doctors per 1000 people, and 0.9 hospital beds per 1000 people tell the story of this grim situation. On the patient side, due to  misplaced understanding of their health conditions, 70% of the time they go to the wrong healthcare provider, thus elongating the care cycle, misdiagnosis, increased out of pocket expenditure, anxiety to the family and loss of productive time. 
 
We aim to help both the sides of the system by providing a more relevant matching of condition to the care provider. This will bring down the cost of care and time taken for care on one hand, and benefit hospitals by freeing up their capacity to treat more relevant patients, thereby easing the overall burden of diseases in India.
 
What is the business model of healthkhoj? What is the investment done so far?
ON the investment front, we are bootstrapped with a comfortable runway. The business model is assisting the users to make informed choices as the core. We focus on the diseases which have longer care cycles such as Cancer, Diabetes, Respiratory Illnesses, Mental Health and so on. The patients get value in the decision making tools that we provide, the conversations with healthcare providers that we enable and enabling their access to the whole care cycle.
 
Have you achieved break-even?
We are few months away from break even.
 
You say India has a high out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare. Could you elaborate on the same?
According to WHO data, Out of pocket expenditure in India is as high as 61% of the total medical expenditure, where as in Low and Middle Income countries it is 37%.  There is a vicious cycle of health-care debt. According to the NSSO report, one in every four households in the country have taken loans to pay medical bills.
 
With technology advancement and better connectivity, do you think there is still a huge gap in providing quality access in healthcare in tier 3 and 4 cities?
Yes, there is a huge gap. The patient doctor ratio is further skewed when it comes to tier 3, 4 and rural India. The issue becomes two fold here: The quality is sub-par, and access is also sub-par. To make it a double whammy, there is insane amount of quackery and superstition.
 
You aim to increase awareness and educate through articles and video chats with experts. Is this going to remain a free service? Self-medication seems to be a new trend as people think they are qualified enough to take the doses after surfing the net or listening to others. Do you find this disturbing or will this be the way forward in many cases.
This service is going to remain free for the patients.  On self-medication front, it is a dangerous trend. We should leave it to the experts who have spent time in studying researching about medicine, human body, diseases, their causes etc. 
 
Tell us about your medical advisory board.
We have a panel of qualified doctors who guide us on all things medical, be it preparing tools, curating content or issuing health advisories.
 
What are the upcoming features expected on your website?
We are going to launch the Hindi version of HealthKhoj within a fortnight. This will increase the demographic depth for us as well as address some of the issues we discussed. 
 
How many downloads do you have and what is the level of engagement?
Downloads is not the right parameter as lot of engagement happens over website as well. The right metrics here include the screens per session and time spent as well as stickiness. We observe some excellent stats on our website. Our visitors are viewing about 2.5 pages per visit and spending 3 minutes on the average on the website. Close to 40% are returning visitors which means they find value in what we have to offer.
 
Could you cite any interesting anecdotes any of your users have experienced through your app?
There is this person, whose mother reported lumps around her breasts.  He used the HealthKhoj symptom checker to understand those lumps. The app guided him to different possibilities, what needs to be done and what kind of doctor to meet.
 
His mother, meanwhile had gone to her gynaecologist. She also suggested the same course of action. This whets the efficacy of our app.
 
You have been involved with a Fraud Management Company. Any learnings you are able to put to use in this venture?
There is no direct application of the Fraud Management domain yet, however, I leveraged the business understanding and relationships formed during those years.
 
What is the ownership pattern of the company? What is the common thread among the founders?
We are three Co-Founders. I am an IIM Lucknow alumnus, second one is an IIT Kharagpur alumnus and third one is IIT Mumbai-XLRI alumnus. All three of us are from Sainik School Rewa in Madhya Pradesh.
 

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