When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the Government of India, among its many efforts to contain the spread of the disease, made telemedicine mainstream. Healthcare became a top priority and many startups began to play a vital role. Information storage of medical records became all the more crucial.
Patients sometimes lose crucial prescriptions and medical reports, and face difficulty in managing and tracking their family’s medical records. Doctors face trouble in handling their patients without complete information about their medical history.
To solve this, Nikhil Baheti, Saida Dhanavath, and Shreyans Mehta founded MedCords, a startup based out of Kota in Rajasthan in 2016. The idea was to solve the problem of accessibility, cost, and quality of healthcare.
The startup interconnects the most important stakeholders of the healthcare segment — patients, doctors, pharmacies, and laboratories — for smooth access and sharing of medical data, and overcoming the hassle of storing and maintaining the hard copies. By making medical records “intelligent,” it provides valuable insights into the patient’s medical condition and ensures better treatment.
According to the ICMR, India faces a scarcity of doctors and uneven distribution. The country has about eight lakh doctors and only 32,000 doctors are serving in the rural regions.
This forces rural patients to travel to district hospitals and subject themselves to poor medical services, where the average wait time is up to three hours to see a doctor, and the doctor in some cases spends only two minutes per patient. India’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for an individual’s personal savings stands at 62 percent.
It was out of a personal experience that led to the birth of MedCords. In 2014, Shreyans’ father, who is a practising doctor, told him that most of the patients who came to him for consultation were from rural areas.
“At that time, we thought of making use of technology, and we visited around 12 villages on alternate days and then went for a follow-up. We helped around 2,500 patients get a consultation in the first visit, of which 2,000 came for follow-up during the second visit, and they were very satisfied,” says Shreyans.
Following this experience, Shreyans wondered if he could create a platform. “We did some more research, and after extensive travel in rural areas, we were finally able to identify major challenges in the healthcare sector and started building MedCords,” he adds.
Shreyans and Nikhil were childhood friends, and they felt strongly about incorporating data into the healthcare ecosystem.
Shreyans came from a family of doctors, while Nikhil stayed adjacent to the biggest hospital in the city, and used to watch the plight of patients every day. Nikhil discussed the business idea with his friend Saida, who was also very keen to build something in the healthcare sector.
Finally, the trio joined hands in 2016, and started implementing the idea by building a basic version and kept evolving along the way.
In May 2017, MedCords started its operations in Kota, Rajasthan. Since then, it has reached 13 states, 25 lakh-plus patients, and have established a digital network of 10,000-plus medical stores and 5,000-plus doctors.
“It is a huge challenge as more than 80 crore people live in rural India, and end up spending at least Rs 2,000 per year on travelling for medical consultation. Use of technology and digitisation of health records in the most efficient and scalable way is actually a big opportunity, as the availability of doctors in rural areas will always be an issue, and data-driven decision-making is very necessary for better health outcomes,” says Shreyans.
He adds that the startup’s solution can help during the COVID-19 crisis as well. Following the crisis, normal OPDs have been closed in most of the places, especially in the private sector and big government hospitals. Patients cannot travel during these times and do not have easy access to medicines.
Shreyans believes that the startup is focussed on real India, and offers affordable pricing. MedCords offers teleconsultation and works with local medical stores. It competes with Practo, Lybrate, MFine, mUpchar, DocsApp, NedMeds, and 1MG.
The startup aims to cater to every citizen in rural and semi-urban areas. It has a SehatSathi App, which is developed for medical stores to facilitate users in the remotest parts of the country. The app helps make medical stores go online and chat with their customers in semi-urban areas, and also to increase their business.
MedCords has also launched an Aayu Card, which is an annual subscription plan for remote consultation on its platform at lower costs. It enables online medical consultation and digitisation of medical records for patients from remote rural and semi-urban areas. The Aayu app offers preventive health management, health insurance, blogs, and videos to the user.
The Doctor Portal allows doctors to view the consultation case file digitally, write e-prescriptions, and engage with patients for a follow-up consultation. “The consultations have been designed in a very interactive way,” says Shreyans.
MedCords has raised $3 million through angel and Series A round from Infoedge, Waterbridge, and Astarc Ventures. It is creating awareness about digital consultation among people. The startup makes money from the consultation fee and the annual Aayu Card subscription.
“During the pandemic, our team members are working day and night to ensure every user gets timely consultation. We plan to hit an ARR of Rs 84 crore by March 2021, and plan to have 20 million patients and one lakh pharmacies under MedCords,” Shreyans adds.
One reason behind the success of the startup is the concept of phygital consultation, which is the closest replication of physical consultation at OPDs.
“COVID-19 has two sides to the impact on our business. It has created a pan-India awareness that digital consultation is the way forward. Even the state government has acknowledged that we are the only solution provider that can solve hyper-local healthcare issues. However, the revenue collection from distributors got impacted due to the liquidity crunch,” says Shreyans.