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For a few bucks more, now get healthcare at your doorsteps

Entrepreneur Brij Sethi could not save his father, but says he is glad he opted for professional home care because of which his father could spend “his last days with the family at home.”

Written by Sanghamitra Mazumdar | Updated: December 25, 2015 11:55:11 am
Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors strike, MARD, MARD strike, Maharashtra doctors strike, maharashtra news The Indian healthcare market is growing fast and so is the cost of medical services at hospitals.

When doctors decided to discharge Rima Bhattacharjee’s father, she and her mother, though relieved, were sceptical. The retired senior executive with a steel major had undergone a surgery after a blood clot in brain that left one side of his body paralysed. While the mother-daughter duo was not sure if they could take proper care of the patient at home, Rima decided to get professional help at home. Seven months on, Rima, who works with an IT firm is more than happy to see her father walk.

Entrepreneur Brij Sethi could not save his father, but says he is glad he opted for professional home care because of which his father could spend “his last days with the family at home.” He is thankful to the doctors and the healthcare attendants who looked after his father for two years, ever since he underwent a coronary artery bypss surgery.

With both sons working in the US, the octogenarian Pai couple in Bengaluru had no one to look after their medical needs at home. Homecare services came to their aid and they now have a qualified nurse visiting every fortnight doing the regular checks and guiding them on medicines. “Having her come home and check on us has made a huge difference in our lives,” says Mr Pai, 84.

The Indian healthcare market is growing fast and so is the cost of medical services at hospitals. Amid the rapidly increasing burden of chronic diseases, and the demand for quality medical care, especially for the elderly, the market is now opening up for home-based healthcare services.

Start-ups such as Portea Medical, Health Care at Home India, Homital, India Home Health Care and a few others are now taking medical services ranging from home nutrition to ICU, post-surgery care, oncology, physiotherapy and everyday healthcare to doorsteps. According to accounting and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), India’s home healthcare industry, which consists of home-based medical devices and home services, is worth $2 billion and growing 20 per cent annually.

Portea Medical, which claims to be India’s largest home healthcare provider, handles 60,000 visits a month across 24 cities in India, and 60 per cent of its customer base comprises those above 60 years of age. While it does not handle emergency care, Portea focuses on general primary healthcare, post-hospitalisation care, chronic disease management and allied services.

Established in 2013, Noida-based Health Care at Home India (HCAH), a joint venture backed by the Burman family (promoters of Dabur, India) and the founders of Health Care at Home, UK, claims to carry out roughly 5,000 visits in a month, offering services in the range of Rs 500 to Rs 20,000 per day.

HCAH says its ICU and oncology-based services are 50 per cent cheaper than those provided in hospitals. With regard to long-term care, readmission rates and hospital-acquired infection, home care is roughly 90 per cent cheaper than hospital care, it claims.

Currently providing its services in Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Mumbai, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, HCAH also has presence in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad and it plans to add a new section, which will be maternity-based services, in Delhi.

Apollo Hospitals group, too, has introduced such services in Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi, looking at elderly care, domestic and NRI dependents, non-communicable diseases, chronic kidney diseases, post-discharge and post-surgical care, and preventive care for people aged 40-60 years. “Earlier, a family needed to go to several doctors across different locations for geriatric care, basic primary care, post-operative care, routine check-ups etc, however, we have consolidated the management of all of this,” says Meena Ganesh, MD & CEO, Portea Medical.

Sabeena George, 52, was almost immobile due to severe pain in her knees. Unable to move out of her house for treatment, she signed up for Portea. After full physiotherapy sessions at home, she says, she can now lead a normal life again.

Dr Gaurav Thukral, vice-president and business unit director, Health Care at Home India, believes the concept of home healthcare will transform healthcare delivery in India. “From reducing the pressure on the hospital infrastructure to ensuring smooth transition from hospital to home and reducing chances of re-admissions,” he said.

Thukral hopes the health industry will align its services and offerings with the concept of home-based healthcare in the near future. He also feels that HCAH will reach most of the Tier II and Tier III cities in the next two years. “Healthcare at home is not just affordable, but comfortable too. Home-based healthcare also saves patients and their families from the problems arising out of the psychological stress because of frequent hospital visits and stays. Also, for hospitals, the most important benefit of home-based healthcare is that it helps reduce their burden,” adds Thukral.

Will it impact business of hospitals?

Dr Mahesh Joshi, CEO, Apollo Homecare, does not think so. He believes homecare is an industry that will see a big boom in India in the next decade. “This business is complementary to the hospitals in ensuring brand continuum, care continuum… It also enables them to reduce the average length of stay and ensures efficient utilisation of existing bed capacity. They can also improve the average revenue per occupied bed if they work out the synergy in the right manner with the homecare providers,” says Dr Joshi.

Portea CEO Meena Ganesh feels the existing healthcare system is overburdened and India urgently requires a robust home healthcare delivery mechanism to deal with the massive need brought on by the country’s rapidly greying population and growth of chronic diseases.

“People are living longer and are living with illnesses that are chronic in nature and need recurrent visits to doctors. Homecare is an initiative to reach beyond hospitals, to patients and their families, to not just add years to the lives but also add life to the years that are ahead of us,” Dr Joshi sums up.

*The patients mentioned in the beginning of the copy are HCAH and Portea clients

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