The responses have been given by Rahul Narang, Co-founder and CTO, Lybrate
All around the world, people are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As InnovatioCuris (IC), we are always on a lookout for healthcare innovations that are affordable and provide quality care. Most governments across the world have lifted restrictions or limitations imposed on telemedicine to provide home-staying patients with remote access to healthcare. The US, for example, allowed Medicare payments for virtual visits, while India’s Ministry of Health issued new guidelines permitting registered medical practitioners to use telemedicine services. In the wake of this, InnoHEALTH magazine scouted and interviewed some innovative telemedicine providers/startups to build an army of health transformers to mobilize and address this global health crisis.
Disha Soni and Prateek Malhotra interviewed, Rahul Narang, Co-founder and CTO, Lybrate, on behalf of InnoHEALTH magazine to bring out some virtually perfect telemedicine solutions available during the Covid-19 crisis, also to understand challenges and opportunities posed by such a situation and how our startup ecosystem is tackling it.
What are the objectives and your vision to start this organization?
Mr Rahul Narang, the co-founder and the CTO, shared with us that they noticed that people were consuming medicines just on the advice of chemists and making severe compromises with their health, unintentionally. The chemists were prescribing medicines without requisite skills and expertise. This was rampant in Tier 1 cities where people had time constraints and skipped visiting a doctor because of waiting time at clinics and traffic jams.
Those in Tier 2 & 3 cities faced a different issue, which was non-availability of quality doctors. We found out that the core problem of Indian healthcare delivery was the huge crunch of doctors in the country, which was causing their severe scarcity. So while finding a doctor was easier, communicating with them was a big challenge.
So, with a thought to connect patients with doctors, they came up with a platform that would enable them to communicate with each other, and thus solve the real problem that plagued the Indian healthcare system.
With Lybrate, they are on a mission to fix the huge shortage of doctors in the country and democratize healthcare delivery.
What do you think needs to change in the health sector?
The adoption of digital medium is very low in the healthcare sector in India. Digital has immense potential as availability of high-speed internet and smartphones in every nook and corner has changed the landscape drastically over a decade. Smart use of digital medium, machine learning and artificial intelligence can greatly impact healthcare delivery outcomes in the country, improving overall healthcare scenario.
Can you share about your business model?
There are multiple ways in which Lybrate serves its users, both doctors and users. The focus is on communication and that remains the core of all their solutions, says Rahul. Users can use the platform either through the free mobile app available on Android and iOS, or web. Majority of the platform is free for users and doctors to use but there are a few ways in which the platform makes money:
- LybrateAdvice – gives a seamless and frictionless way to communicate with a doctor. It enables users to talk to a doctor via text, audio or video. Users can consult their choice of a doctor privately by paying a consultation fee online. On top of the doctor’s consultation fee, the user has to pay an internet handling fee to the company which makes up for the company’s revenue.
- Lybrate GoodKart – It brings together authenticated health and wellness products that are delivered to people at their doorsteps.It is similar to an e-commerce platform.
Share with us about your technology that powers this company?
Machine learning is the technology being used to provide customised solutions to the users. A huge amount of data has been generated since the launch of the platform- January 2015. This made them use machine learning to suggest customized healthcare solutions to the users.
Machine learning facilitates learning of users’ interest and preferences over time to create a customized Health Feed, consisting of health tips from doctors themselves and free answers by doctors to questions asked on the platform. This prevents users from getting bogged down by information not much of their interest.
Besides, when users ask queries on the platform, they do not know which doctor is best suited for them. Machine learning fixes this issue by deciphering users’ query across more than 15 parameters in real time and helping them get answers from relevant doctors. In the times of information overload, customized solutions are important for patient engagement.
What are your strategies to deal with your competitor and what makes you different from others?
According to Rahul, unlike other platforms, Lybrate is not doing things in bits and pieces. They have committed themselves to fixing the root cause of the country’s healthcare delivery problem. The platform, thus, focuses on communication and multiplying the presence of doctors.
Once people are on the platform and are able to communicate with the doctor, they experience the convenience it provides and other valuable services being offered on the platform. Giving users a worthwhile experience and convenience is imperative for building engagement. This has led to a high repeat traffic on the platform.
What were the challenges you faced in initial days and how are they different today’s scenario, especially during this pandemic and what is your role in that?
The initial challenge that the company had to face was the low awareness about telemedicine, both among users and doctors. Another was hesitance. Over the last couple of years, the situation changed for good. Especially now after the coronavirus outbreak, the perception of people towards has changed in a very positive way. Basically, there existed two categories of people. One which had little or no idea about telemedicine services for want of awareness, while the second category of people not talking to doctors online was the hesitant lot who considered touch and feel to be a must.
During the lockdown, the awareness of telemedicine grew remarkably as even governments pushed for the use of platforms like Lybrate owing to social distancing norms. Thus the platform has seen a jump of over 120% in online doctor consultations post the announcement of lockdown.
Certainly, it is a positive development for the entire telemedicine industry because it has huge potential to improve healthcare delivery outcomes.
Do you see any major growth opportunity in the post COVID-19 world?
Because of the lockdown, the physical activity of people has come almost to a halt while screen time has risen. Owing to that, patient consults relating to wellness issues have risen significantly on the platform. Apart from that, consultations around mental problems have also increased.
It will be very optimistic to say people will depend upon telemedicine services for healthcare-related issues like they are doing now. Certainly, there will be a section of people which will go back to the traditional ‘in-person’ way of consulting doctors. While the trend would see a decline when the situation would begin normalizing, it would settle at a point which will be notably higher than the pre-crisis level.
What are your Future plans and any message for our readers?
“In the short term, we are focussing on meeting the demands of online consultation on our platform that has spiked significantly on account of the coronavirus crisis,
In the long term, we will continue making healthcare accessible to the people of the country and fix the issue of shortage of doctors by multiplying their presence, which is only possible when they are online and begin consulting remotely from where they are.” says Rahul.
Interviewed by Disha Soni & Dr Prateek Malhotra