For Ravinder, a resident of Mallan village in Punjab, E HealthPoint has come as a boon that provides health services in the rural hinterlands through videoconferencing. Health services for this village near Indo-Pak border were far away in the towns, at least 30 kilometers away. The company started its services in the Bhatinda district in 2009 and so far has expanded its services to eight health points. The organisation has developed the unique concept of videoconferencing, through which, people get consultations by qualified doctors sitting anywhere in the world. The services are being availed by more than 1.6 lakh people in Punjab.
This health service has eased the problems of the masses in the region, as they had to travel to nearby cities to get their treatments. Commenting on the need of quality healthcare services, Dr. Sumeet Ahluwalia, AVP & Head- health operations, E HealthPoint says, “There’s no accessibility to good quality services in rural areas, and for even small ailments, people usually have to travel around 40-50 kms.” And the poorly maintained government hospitals do not solve problems of the masses, so the role of any such initiative is widely accepted. The concept has won accolades at various domestic and international forums.
The organisation provides three layers of preventive healthcare support to the masses in Punjab. These three are tele-medicine, diagnostics and pharmacy that sell medicines at discounted rates. Says Dr. Sumeet, “we are providing tele-medicine, diagnostics and pharmacy on site in rural areas. In the tele-medicine model, patients get medicinal advice from qualified doctors through videoconferencing. The doctors are seated at the regional centre of the organisation and provide specialised consultations through this technology.”
The technology is run through dedicated high-speed broadband service with multi-camera usage. After consultation with the doctor, the patients, if suggested by the doctor, go for diagnostic tests at the diagnostic laboratory of the centre. There are more than 70 tests, that are conducted at these points and charges vary “as per the tests”. For tele-medicine service patients are charged anywhere between Rs 20-30. Elaborating about the different slabs, Dr. Sumeet says that there are different rates but still the charges of tests are relatively lower than the market prices. The innovative usage of technology has brought a paradigm shift in the lives of people surrounding these eight centres. Now people in the region have access to quality healthcare at a very cost-friendly manner.
As the ‘sustainable business enterprise’, these centres focus on providing ‘high quality healthcare services’ to rural and semi-urban masses. In the three step approach, the organisation provides, consultations with the doctors through videoconferencing that amounts to patients anywhere between Rs 20-30 per consultation; Second is the diagnostic tests, which are also ‘in the budget and low cost medicines are sold through pharmacy as the third step. In the pharmacy, the medicines are sold at the discounted rates. The customers are happy as they have access to modern healthcare facilities at very affordable prices. In the remote villages like Mallan, the service has come as a savior and people are happy that they need not to travel to nearby towns and cities to get treatment.
Even though, through NRHM (National Rural Health Mission), rural masses have gained some access to healthcare services but the fact is that, government hospitals in most of the states are poorly maintained and the scheme has succumbed to big grafts and scams. This service at their doorsteps has come at the right time and people are happy that they can avail quality healthcare services at nominal charges in their own vicinity. Through this service, they are also saved from lackadaisical attitude of government doctors.
EXPANDING ITS REACH
According to Dr. Sumeet, People in rural areas were always in need of good healthcare services and for that and “they are ready to pay”. The pilot phase for Healthpoint appears to be over, as the organisation has started expanding its reach to other parts of the country. Recently, the company has started its operations in Andhra Pradesh. Dr. Sumeet agreed that they are open to extending their reach in other parts of the country and will be doing it ‘gradually’.
The organisation makes most of its profits through its safe drinking water service. The company has more than 110 water points in Punjab, which supply safe drinking water to the rural masses in the region. All these centres are attached to the water points and are catching up fast. However, these centres are still on its way in making profits.