Having worked in the healthcare management consulting industry for 11 years, Nitthin Chandran, Co-Founder and CEO, MedPiper Technologies, is aware of the industry’s bottlenecks and regulatory barriers that prevented or slowed down efficiency in serving care. By looking deeper, he figured he could provide a solution for this, by enabling doctors to profile themselves better and more transparently, thus creating an open platform for healthcare practitioners and industry. So, he teamed up with his old college mate, Pranay Suyash, to create MedPiper Technologies. An engineer by education, Nitthin is a YCombinator & SLP (Startup Leadership Program) alum 2020. Before MedPiper, he also co-founded another startup, that he exited in 2014, post which he led BD & growth department at QuickRide.
In 2016, post completion of his MBBS, Dr. Satish Kumar took up a stint back in his town in Chikmanglur to fulfil his inherited, life-long dream of bringing care to his neighbours, family and friends with his own clinic. A quaint town with seasonal tourist thoroughfare, he is well equipped with his MBBS to deal with most of the recurring investigations in his hometown. With a hassle-free walk-in of 10-12 patients per day and his consultation at a local hospital nearby, Dr. Satish earns about ₹45,000 ($600) per month, with income going up to ₹70,000 ($900) on a good month, for about 2 hours of engagement per day, out of his total 8-10 hours available every day. Unfortunately, between the EMI on his loan to set up the clinic, bills and expenses, Dr. Satish is struggling to make progress.
Observing a growing pattern of Diabetes Mellitus in patients at the private hospital he consulted at, he decided to pursue a 6-month course online, recommended by an ad he found on Facebook, paying over $2500 for a fellowship. With this, his hourly rate could go marginally higher, and he’d see more specialised patients, drive deeper engagement and improve his current merge engagement hours.
Today, over 2 years into an expensive fellowship, Dr. Satish is still nowhere ahead. He has not seen a major uptick in engagement; his wages still remain fluctuating at the private hospital; and COVID has all but sealed the operations at his private clinic. On a good day, he sees about 20 patients. On a bad day, he’s left drumming his fingers, waiting for the calendar to fill up.
Dr. Satish is one among 4,20,000+ such doctors in India, who record active engagement for less than 20% of their daily allocated time to work. Forget the medical staffing shortage in India, we have a problem of mass underutilisation of resources in healthcare, driving an already anaemic system further to its knees.
Urban vs. Rural Divide
At over 12% of the GDP, healthcare is one of India’s largest industries in terms of people employed or revenues generated. Standard economic models should have suggested a parallel growth in wages among the skilled manpower in the sector. Reality says the opposite. Medico manpower wages, for both doctors and nurses, have plateaued.
In Dr. Satish’s case, he was one among the less than a handful of his batchmates who decided to stick with a rural location for their practice. The rest of his batchmates moved to urban, tier-1 centres in search of higher-paying jobs, better coaching centres and access to broader markets. Yet, the average income for a medical graduate hovers around $700 to $840 per month, with most assignments being a gig-economy format, with extreme volatility in terms of pay, engagement volumes and location.
Add to these, the barriers to migration (state licensing, verification checks etc) and fragmented data sources, what we end up with is a free-floating population of medical
practitioners in excess in urban centres, while large hospitals have anywhere from 200- 350 unfulfilled locum stints, denying patient care and hampering revenue operations for healthcare operators.
Could telemedicine be a game-changer?
Over two dozen new funded telemedicine/tele-therapeutics startups have propped up in the last 12 months, but they still do not empower doctors like Dr. Satish. Most platforms go after existing specialists or require mandatory specialisations; engagement is highly erratic; and the technology is not built to optimise for the practitioner.
The huge influx of VC capital has not driven allocative efficiency in healthcare models, be it digital or offline. And when capital does not drive efficiency but is purely spent on acquisition costs and marketing costs, wealth is not created and only transferred across hands, with no improvements for the key beneficiaries, industry or society.
This means installing over a dozen different apps, each following their own code of procedures and engagement, with no guarantees on time spent on any of these platforms converting to assured, recurring income. MedPiper seeks to address and eliminate this information asymmetry and optimise the existing manpower in the healthcare industry with our technology. Being the complete and robust end-to-end solution provider for healthcare practitioners, our tech allows the optimization of the user experience across the entire career lifecycle of a doctor, from the time they graduate and job hunting to updating and improving their medical knowledge in their opted fields of specialization.
Could the aggregation model drive efficiency?
The simple answer is yes. Aggregating supply and demand on a common platform, with a matching algorithm mapping the stakeholders to drive liquidity, could theoretically drive improvements in healthcare outcomes, without having a need for surge in practitioner numbers.
At MedPiper, in the last 3 months alone, we have enabled over 28000 doctors across India to drive over 0.55 million active patient engagements, across both telemedicine and offline hospitals and clinics. We leverage AI and technology for verification of profile credentials by peers, medical educators, and employers, and to match such profiles for job requirements and upskilling opportunities. We have built and are constantly updating a state-of-the-art modern knowledge graph of peer-verified and peer-authenticated healthcare professionals and practitioners.
By expanding their reach, today doctors like Dr. Satish can treat over 30 patients every day, driving engagements that otherwise would have fallen through the cracks during the pandemic, while enabling more income. The average hospital has seen an improvement in patient engagement by 36% while telemedicine platforms have seen a 62% improvement in TAT and a 42% increase in active practitioner availability.