W Health Ventures, a healthcare-focused VC fund that invests in and grows tech-enabled early-stage healthcare companies, hosted an industry discussion in Delhi, with a panel of investors and operators from the Indian healthcare space.
The discussion centered around the exponential growth of the Indian healthcare industry, which is expected to be a trillion-dollar opportunity by 2030. The panelists discussed the need to focus on patient experience, collaboration with legacy players, omnichannel distribution, the rise of single specialty care and healthcare financing solutions.
They unanimously agreed that the time to scale and accelerate healthcare transformation in India is now, with investors and founders optimistic about the potential of this next wave of healthcare innovation in India.
One key focus of the discussion was the importance of patient experience, with growing access to information leading to increased patient participation in healthcare decision-making. Further, the growing digital adoption and consumerism has led to increased patient expectation where the patient today wants the same kind of user experience in healthcare as they are offered in e-commerce and other online services. The panelists agreed that this has driven legacy players to focus on the empathy-first design of their existing processes to meet patient expectations.
Enhancing patient experience will also make healthcare more continuous and allow for more data point collection, feeding into the customer experience design. According to Sunil Thakur, partner at Quadria Capital, companies need to focus on patient needs and experience to facilitate scale. “Scaling is never easy in healthcare. In the consumer market, the front door experience must be great to attract customers, but it’s equally important to provide a seamless patient experience to be able to retain them,” he said.
Another takeaway from the discussion was the importance of omnichannel distribution and collaboration with doctors. The panelists noted that online-only business models that attempted to eliminate the doctors from the value chain with pure-play technology platforms (digital care plans, telemedicine, etc.) have seen limited traction, and close collaboration with doctors is necessary for real and deeper disruption. Healthcare companies that have doubled down on omnichannel distribution see lower costs of patient acquisition, better clinical outcomes, and better unit economics.
“While technology can play an important role in improving healthcare delivery, attempts to replace clinicians have been unsuccessful. A phygital approach is an effective way to provide a seamless customer experience,” said Rohit MA, Managing partner at PeerCapital and Co-founder, director at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals.
This is expected to play out more in sectors and geographies where technology can facilitate further access, especially chronic care in Tier-2+ India. “Healthcare is trust driven and local. In our experience, healthcare companies that have doubled down on omnichannel distribution see lower costs of patient acquisition, comparable unit economics mainly due to higher AOVs (average order value), significantly better lifetime value given multiple patient touchpoints, and most importantly, better clinical outcomes,” said Pankaj Jethwani, partner at W Health Ventures.
The panelists also discussed the increased need for legacy players to work with startups for workflow and experience digitization, with providers shifting towards tech-first collaboration for value-added services. Additionally, traditional insurance providers have to start to shift towards value-based care in India. There is a growing need for healthcare financing solutions for both inpatient and outpatient procedures, and new-age insurance plans and payers are playing an increasingly important role in the provision of care. Touching upon this aspect of the healthcare ecosystem, Tejasvi Ravi, Lead Healthcare investor at Lightrock India, said, “The healthcare industry is witnessing a transformation with new-age insurance plans and payers. The steps being taken by the insurance regulator and the innovation being driven by insurance providers are positive developments for the industry.”
The rise of single-specialty care was also highlighted during the discussion. With medical science, pharmacotherapy and technology evolving further, there are newer specialties emerging. The emergence of single specialty chains and brands in spaces like fertility, and eye care, among others, provide multiple long-term monetization avenues that can justify the required capital investment. “Having specialist doctors who are thought leaders on board can be extremely beneficial for new-age businesses. Not only can they provide valuable advice and insights, their reputation also can attract patients, and partners and help the company expand its reach and access new markets,” remarked Ramesh Byrapaneni, Managing director, Endiya Partners, with regards to scaling new specialized care businesses.
Finally, the panelists agreed that robust business models are only going to thrive, and investors are excited about this next wave of healthcare innovation in India. The current macroeconomic situation has given investors and founders a lot of time to step back, recalibrate the Indian healthcare thesis and build transformative businesses with renewed vigor.
W Health Ventures is an early-stage, healthcare-focused VC fund that invests in companies that address critical unmet healthcare needs to improve care delivery leveraging technology in the US and India.