Access to elective surgery, also known as non-emergency or planned surgery, can vary depending on a number of factors, including a person’s geographic location, income level, and insurance coverage. In some cases, access to elective surgery may be limited due to a lack of availability of specialized surgeons or facilities, or due to long wait times for procedures.
India is currently facing a dual dilemma in healthcare where the patients need more access to quality and affordable hospitals and doctors need more patients. With only approximately 40% of hospitals providing high quality and advanced treatments, the new-age healthcare providers are filling this gap by bringing high standard health treatments to patients.
As far as elective surgeries in India are concerned, their high cost often puts them out of reach of a large segment of the population, which constitutes a large gap in the healthcare system. While the conditions necessitating an elective surgery are usually not life-threatening, they can lead to complications if the surgery is not done on time. For example, if a patient puts off surgery for removing gallbladder stones, it might lead to infection, and in some cases may trigger an emergency situation.
India accounts for 20% of the global disease burden because an overburdened public health sector is simply unable to provide treatment to all those in need. New-age healthcare providers are filling up that healthcare gap and making the entire process of going for elective surgery easier, affordable, and accessible. With their patient-centric approach, these new-age healthcare service providers, which are still relatively a recent phenomenon, are democratizing surgical care in India with their unique patient-care models.
Leveraging tech, surgeons & equipment
In a way, elective surgeries are becoming the healthcare equivalent of plug-and-play digital platforms that dominate retail shopping, transport, and hotel bookings. Digitization has improved access to top-class healthcare, including elective surgeries, and has obliterated geographies that earlier divided urban and rural locations. New-age healthcare providers can potentially cut surgical costs by more than 50% by circumventing the reasons that raise costs of private surgical care, such as the distant location of large hospitals, fragmentation of the ‘affordable’ healthcare infrastructure in smaller towns, and underutilization of surgeons and OT spaces.
These companies provide access to an online network of hundreds of specialist doctors that facilitates transparency in the healthcare ecosystem. They provide access to elective surgeries from a range of ambulatory and daycare surgery providers. They also take care of the patient through the treatment journey starting from the first OPD visit, diagnostics, admission, surgery, discharge process, and follow-ups with the surgeon.
Medical advances have made surgeries for conditions like hernia, prostate, piles, fibroids, and kidney stones possible with daycare instead of longer and more expensive hospital stays. This plug-and-play model enables all those who use such a platform to benefit from the model by increasing operation theatre (OT) utilization, substantially enhancing the earning potential of surgeons, and slashing the expenses of patients. These new-age healthcare providers follow an asset-light model that benefits both surgeons and patients.
Elective surgeries do not have an urgency, but patients demand a higher level of service at a price that is cost-effective. Many of these new-age healthcare service providers establish smaller facilities for elective surgeries and have a panel of surgeons as well. Unlike a large hospital, new-age healthcare models need not always invest to set up an expensive OT but can rent one from smaller hospitals which brings down operational costs. Because of low overhead costs, these companies are able to do these surgeries at a competitive rate. However, they do invest heavily in upgrading the idle, unutilized space in hospitals in smaller towns, and setting up systems, including establishing strong IT infrastructure in those facilities.
In a nutshell, they are changing the scenario of elective surgeries with a business model that blends medical excellence with the services of highly qualified surgeons, and top-class equipment and provide affordable service to patients in their own towns, and eliminates the need for patients to travel for surgeries.
New-age healthcare providers attach high importance to patient-centric policies to boost growth. Many of them use AI-enabled tech platforms to make general and short-stay surgeries affordable and safe. From zeroing in on the best doctor and process for diagnosis to admission to discharge and post-surgery care, these tech platforms make the treatment journey smooth and affordable.
End-to-end services mean companies offer an array of solutions for every medical, financing, insurance, and recovery need of their customers undergoing surgery. Such services take care of the challenges of pre and post-surgery patient care and encourage secondary care surgeries.
Many of these healthcare providers are also collaborating with insurance companies to enable single-window clearance for patients for their healthcare financing needs. The hospitals that these startups leverage also provide no-cost EMI options, allowing patients to pay for treatments in monthly installments without incurring interest costs.
According to a Niti Aayog report, only 30-35 % of patients undergo surgery in India as compared to 60-65% globally. With a high disease burden, India is expected to see a huge number of short-stay elective surgeries, although these are yet to become a priority for those who need them. But that situation is slowly changing and is likely to pick up speed with new-age healthcare providers truly democratizing surgical care in India with patients at the centre of it all.