However, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed these companies to fast-track their work to cater to the increasing demand in the sector.
With the lockdown forcing people to stay at home, the homecare services segment has become more relevant. Among the many startups focusing on the homecare segment is Kolkata-based Tribeca Care.
Founded in 2013 by Tamojit Dutta, Prateep Sen, Elina Dutta, Shibaji Saha, and Ritendra Roy, the startup is a subscription-based specialist eldercare platform that provides a range of geriatric care services. These cover medical, para-medical, and non-medical care, including 24/7 emergency response, home safety IoT, home nursing, and telemedicine.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Tribeca Care has now reinvented itself and introduced new services in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
It took the startup 24 hours to move from a centralised office-based culture to a fully distributed model to manage thousands of patients and members in their homes.
In the next few weeks, it launched new products with robust remote monitoring and wellness components, using stronger workflow management tools, more emphasis on mental wellbeing, delivery of essentials, home sanitation, and safety.
“Till date, hospitals were the mainstay of the healthcare industry. However, the pandemic has changed that paradigm. People realised that hospitals are basically disease intervention platforms. Secondly, social distancing and the fear of contracting infections at hospitals means people do not want to go to clinics or hospitals,” Tamojit says.
Tiding over the crisis
Prateep says during the pandemic, his team saw a shift in the customer base, with the demand for services like physiotherapy going down and the number of customers seeking long-term care going up.
“The pandemic has impacted the eldercare/homecare business on many counts. Senior citizens are the most vulnerable and need the most care. With reduced access to their environment, we have seen a huge disruption in many of the traditional ways of providing care, and the birth of new innovative ways to provide care.”
According to Prateep, going forward, doctors and seniors will be open to teleconsultations, which will soon become the norm.
“The confluence of people, processes, and technology will help make the post-COVID scenario the new normal. Some changes are temporary, others will have far-lasting implications, but both will have the same effect,” he says.
The pandemic also brought a new set of challenges for the startup. Its business continuity plans were tested very heavily, and there were other issues like healthcare providers not finding transportation during lockdown. The monitoring team had to transition to a remote work environment, which impacted essential deliveries. The Amphan cyclone affected the internet infrastructure.
“But, we realised it was important to build a good team of people, good processes, and good technology. When one falters, the others take over, and we were able to withstand the onslaught of the lockdown and the cyclone as we had invested in our infrastructure,” Prateep says.
Back to basics
Tamojit says Tribeca Care took up many new initiatives with the economy in flux and with limited mobility. “But the fundamental strategy that allowed us to scale involved focusing on our core – Back to Basics, which involved bringing in solutions that leveraged three primary aspects – people, process, and technology,” .
Tribeca Care gave bikes to care managers and workers to quickly access more homes during the lockdown and overcome transportation issues. It also increased the number of phone calls made to the elderly to check on their mental health and help fight isolation.
It also launched a range of services like Envelope of Care, a service personalised for the elderly with an optimal level of care vs social distance; Dare to Care, a minimal contact delivery of essentials, especially to those over 80 years old; Talk to me, free counselling over the phone; and NIrbhor, an assisted telemedicine platform. Stethoscopes, pulse oximeters, spirometers, and other medical devices were also set up in the homes of the elderly before teleconsultations.
The startup has also started providing COVID-19 Remote Health Monitoring services for those with mild coronavirus symptoms. These services are being provided on behalf of some of the biggest hospitals in Kolkata, and one large national insurance company.
Under this, the startup is providing PPE kits and digital medical devices (thermal thermometer, BP machine, etc.,) to homes. Daily monitoring by a nurse, a weekly doctor teleconsultation, and immediate help with hospitalisation or tertiary support if the condition worsens at home is also provided.
The market and plans ahead
According to a report by Markets and Markets, the global home healthcare market is expected to reach $353.56 billion by 2022 from $237.05 billion in 2017, growing at a CAGR of 8.3 percent. In India, startups including Zoctr, Health Care at Home, and Care24 operate in this space.
Tribeca Care is currently operating in Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, and Durgapur, and claims to have served over 20,000 customers. Its subscription packages start at Rs 8,000 per month, with multiple higher-end packages, depending on the need.
Tribeca claims to be profitable and cash-positive, and is funded entirely by a consortium of NRI investors. Going ahead, the startup will expand to new geographies and introduce newer services.
“Homecare is an operation-heavy model and needs significant delivery consistency. So, we believe growing deep is more critical than ticking off the geographical footprint for the sake of it. Currently, we are evaluating four new cities, two of which we will be entering this financial year,” Prateep says.