The Indian healthcare industry was majorly affected due to the covid 19 pandemic. While the deadly pandemic created a need for better healthcare infrastructure, it also brought endless opportunities for several healthcare technology startups. Medicircle presents the World Health Day Awareness Series, wherein we are interviewing healthcare startups who have shined through this pandemic and have contributed a lot to make people healthy through their innovative products and services.
Dr. Amit Malik has over two decades of experience working in mental health globally as a psychiatrist, senior clinical and professional leader, and entrepreneur. He has held numerous leadership roles - including Clinical Director and Associate Medical Director - and has been responsible for leading and managing the care of thousands of people with mental illness delivered by large mental healthcare teams. In addition to being the president of a UK and Europe-wide Psychiatric trainee organization, Dr. Amit has also been a member of the Council of The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the European Board of Psychiatry, and the standing committees of the European Psychiatric Association. With a pioneering vision, he returned to India and founded InnerHour. Dr. Amit is also an extensively published author. He has co-authored/co-edited 6 textbooks that have been routinely published in several international academic journals. He has also previously been an editorial board member of two international journals - International Psychiatry and the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. a mental health platform offering tech-led digital & multi-professional services to help bridge the access and treatment gap for quality mental healthcare in India.
InnerHour is a mental health platform offering tech-led digital & multi-professional services to help bridge the access and treatment gap for quality mental healthcare in India. It has over 900,000+ downloads from over 100 Indian cities and is consistently ranked #1-2 globally on the Play Store for self-help/self-care.
Startups have a huge role to play alongside more established industries
Dr. Amit mentions, “I think it's about creating employment opportunities. The Prime Minister often talks about our economic dividend and the need to be self-reliant as a country. So, to create an ecosystem you create more high-quality employment opportunities for the highly educated youth in this country. That’s where, alongside more established industries, the startup ecosystem has a huge role to play.”
Startups add to the overall economic and social development of the country
Dr. Amit emphasizes, “If you think about India, as a healthcare economy, we are woefully behind in terms of per capita GDP, or if you look at how much we spend per person in terms of health care, it's way behind most of the countries of the world. That translates into the health outcomes which means that people are living less healthier lives and they can contribute less to their families and their local economies. Their overall long-term productivity in the country and the ecosystem goes down significantly. So, any solution that is trying to create a degree of health outcome improvement is going to eventually add to the overall economic and social development of the country. This is where startups play a role,” mentions Dr. Amit.
Technology and innovation can make healthcare more accessible
Dr. Amit points out, “India is demanding better things for itself; People are looking up and saying “Why don't I have the best?” If we look at health care, we have some of the best doctors in the world. But they are available only in the pockets, whereas for most of the country, the overall access to high-quality health care is very poor. So, if technology and innovation can somehow provide that access, it would contribute to social and economic development in that perspective.”
Need of structured employment opportunities for psychologists in our country
Dr. Amit mentions, “We produce a large number of psychologists every year, but there are very few structured employment opportunities for them in this country. A lot of them are moving on to other professions. So as an example, if we believe that if we do our job well, we will be able to create a large number of structured training and employment opportunities for psychologists tomorrow. A healthier, happier, India will be more productive, and the vibrant startup ecosystem in the healthcare space will create more employment opportunities for a range of professions. I think it will be a significant contributing pillar to the growth of this country shortly,” assures Dr. Amit.
There has been a massive change in the conversation on mental health in a very positive manner
Dr. Amit explains, “This has been one of the busiest years since our inception. It's been an unfortunate year in many ways, but there have been some silver linings to it. It’s been unfortunate because people have lost lives, people lost jobs, there was so much morbidity in the world. But one of the things that have been a small positive change is that people are talking about mental health a lot. It was a problem that existed in the ecosystem forever. India approximately has 197 million people with mental illness. 95% of them never really get any help. That's just called a treatment gap. A lot of people face barriers to access due to stigma, quality of services, variables, availability of services, etc. But last year mental health issues got a lot of exposure. From the Prime Minister's office to big Bollywood stars have talked about the importance of mental health. This has led to a sea change in the attitude of employers as they are talking more positively and more proactively about how they can help their employees live healthier, happier lives. So, I think the one big thing we saw was this massive change in the conversation on mental health in a very positive manner. We have grown in sessions, volumes, clients by three to four times and that is not because of spending more money on marketing, that's just because people are more aware of a problem and reaching out to the solution that was always “digital-first” anyways. We have seen as an organization that more people are coming and accessing the services as individuals, as employers, as organizations or educational institutions,” says Dr. Amit.
The number of people coming out for mental health issues is the same for metros as well as tier 2 cities and below
Dr.Amit emphasizes, “One thing I often hear about is stigma. I think it's changing. It was changing before COVID as well. Some real data was coming out as part of fantastic studies around social acceptance. And I think it's in the last year, that it has changed exponentially. If you think about the number of users we have been getting from Metro and tier-one cities, they are almost the same now as the number of people in tier 2 and below. This indicates that the awareness is rising significantly, and stigma is coming down. There is a degree of public shaming that people are worried about. So digital platforms help with that, and the anonymity around it. But there's a significant rise in awareness. And people are less embarrassed, as long as they can keep it confidential. Things have changed dramatically in the last two-three years. We find people who are successful in different walks of life, talking about it openly. And it's happening globally and I think India is being part of that phenomenon. I think there's just more headroom to grow here because we still have a long way to go in terms of our treatment gap,” says Dr. Amit.
Urban and semi-urban areas have their own set of challenges
Dr. Amit mentions, “Some of the mental health difficulties are a function of urbanization, hectic lifestyles, competition. But other situations evolve either biologically, because of family circumstances or other challenges. in small towns. Urbanization is correlated with a higher incidence of lots of mental illnesses. But that's not to say that there is no existence of mental illness in semi-urban areas or rural areas of India from that perspective. And we are seeing the web. We are seeing that people are evolving by challenges. As a simple example, it's very hard to have a private life in a small town. Lives are led under scrutiny which brings its own kind of pressures.”
Numbers are growing but what personally excites me is to be able to help more and more users
Dr. Amit mentions, “We learned through 1000s of conversations with our users over the last five years that they are looking for creative solutions. So, we are trying to work with partners to figure out how we develop the solutions and leverage technology today. We will develop a solution that will help them treat mental illness. Users are looking for a coordinated, one-stop-shop solution. It's so hard that it takes an average of six years for somebody to get to see a mental health professional from the first time they experience it. Now, once you are on that, once you've made that effort, once you've gone through that massive hump of getting there, you want to be able to access high-quality services and in an all-in-one place that was what we heard very loudly and clearly from users. We are trying to figure out how we can sort of build a digital platform that can give them as much of a holistic experience as possible under one roof, either ourselves or working with partners from that perspective,” says Dr. Amit
It’s exciting to be able to help more and more people
Dr. Amit points out, “We know that digital works well. Some people need to be seen face to face, some people need to be seen more regularly, and more intensively and we need more intensive inputs. So how do we bring all that solution under one roof? We have worked with partners. We have got positive feedback. Our numbers are growing. But that is only exciting to a certain extent. What is exciting for me, is that we can help more and more users. We have already begun to see good outcomes, we begin to see how people who struggle with mental illness and mental health problems for a while, can work with us and get to a better outcome and a better tomorrow for themselves and a better version of themselves. That’s the biggest victory here, and I think we'll continue to evolve with just a recent large investment round. So, we will continue to work with our investors and our partners to evolve our products and services to keep meeting the user needs so that we can keep delivering good outcomes,” emphasizes Dr. Amit.
The Healthtech sector is growing globally
Dr. Amit mentions, “Healthtech sector globally was at $2.6 billion last year. That's the number I saw in some publications. This year, in the first quarter, we have raised $6.7 billion in health tech globally. So, I think what one thing COVID has done for sure is people have begun to understand the importance of looking after themselves and their health. The more the Indian health-tech ecosystem grows the better, healthier lives will get reflected,” says Dr. Malik.
(Edited by Amrita Priya)