Medpho - impacting the lives of more than 1 million Indians through free unlimited teleconsultation

Learn more about Shashank Saini's Medpho and their quest to serve the Real Bharat - the rural India. In their mission to solve healthcare problems of Awareness, Accessibility and Affordability, they are offering FREE consultations with MBBS doctors round the clock.

Shashank Saini has gathered over 13 years of experience by being the General Manager at Practo, VP of Marketing & Business Development at DocsTalk and Chief Sales Officer at DocOnline. His understanding of the gaps in corporate employees’ healthcare and wellness lead him to open Medpho in 2020. Medpho is a healthcare startup that is trying to solve the 3 most important challenges of healthcare in India - Accessibility, Affordability and Availability. Especially in the ‘Real Bharat’, rural India. 

About Medpho

Saini begins, “We are trying to solve the problems in the healthcare scene in the Real Bharat, rural India. It has always been the underserved community in terms of offline healthcare services. Here we don’t get to see big brands of hospitals. And if we find any such hospitals they are available only in cities and not in the villages. Even the government infrastructure is not at the desired requirement.”

We started Medpho with the vision to solve 3 problems - Awareness, Accessibility and Affordability. During the pandemic when we started, we studied how the rural population was struggling to get basic consultation with doctors. They had to travel hundreds of kilometres to get to a city where they could find a doctor.”

“Broadly there were 2 outcomes whenever they faced any illness - it leads to a poor health outcome and a higher financial outcome. This happens due to the 2 typical setups we have in rural healthcare, which are private hospitals or government hospitals. When someone went to a government setup they wouldn’t get the best outcome. But he/she would save on cash. But when they go to a private hospital, he/she will have to spend a good amount of money to get a better health outcome.”

“With this realisation, we started Medpho. How do we create awareness? What mode should we be using (online or offline)? We asked such questions. We understood the power social media holds to spread awareness. With accessibility, the problem is that people are not aware of where to go. For affordability, even the government is trying to provide Central schemes and State schemes. Ayushman Yojana, for instance, is very helpful as people can avail surgeries for under 5 lakh rupees.”

“But we need to cater to a larger population, 100 to 500 million population are not availing these benefits. So we asked ourselves how do we solve this and the answer that came to us is technology. If technology is used rightly, it could be a boon for the way we receive healthcare services. With this thought, we started a basic helpline - 8856988569. Anyone across the country can get an absolutely free consultation with an MBBS doctor.”

“We got a lot of pushback saying we will be burning money on this. Or that this is not a scalable model or we must charge a small fee for it. There is also the mindset that anything that comes for free is not good. We also faced challenges as people thought we would hack their bank accounts while on a call. The tier 2 and tier 3 city dwellers are more afraid as they lack awareness.”

“We started Medpho in the month of July and it has been 9 to 10 months since then. We are more manual at the time as we receive many calls. Our members are taking 200 - 300 calls per day. For an OPD consultation where people charge Rs 300, many will be forced to avoid the illness so as to not pay the cost. They will take any medicine to get the illness away. This pushes a small illness into a bigger illness.”

“We wanted to go from cure to care. This is what the pandemic and Covid taught us. Today we do 10,000 consultations a month for free. We have impacted more than a million lives. This is how we are solving the accessibility problem. 26 doctors are live on our panel and they know regional Hindi. Because the language changes depending on the place.  So we have a mix of male and female doctors from tier 2 and tier 3 cities.”

“We also handhold patients for their respective healthcare journeys. If they have to go for surgery, medical delivery, diagnosis, home sample collection or ambulance. We are building a hyperlocal network of pharmacies, diagnostics and hospitals. Anyone who calls our helpline we make sure he/she gets a 100% solution. We serve all kinds of patients. 50% of Ayushman patients we serve in terms of surgeries, we also educate them that they are eligible for the Ayushman Gold card. All this is done free of cost, so this reduces the financial burden.”

“So we are a complete healthcare service provider. When someone dials our number we have patient counsellors and coordinators who will assist you and guide you in each and every step. Surprisingly we get calls from deeper geographies - from the uphills of north, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. People are dialling in sometimes to get a second opinion or to know about basic headaches, knee pain, etc. So we are trying to bring up a behavioural change in the market. That is to not avoid anything from the doctor and speak and clear all your doubts from the right source.”

Medpho’s USP

Saini explains, “We are the only startup that provides free unlimited teleconsultation without you becoming a paid member or anything. You just have to dial the number, speak with the doctor and leave. There is no payment that you need to do nor will the team insist you subscribe to anything. People from tier 2 and tier 3 need to travel to tier 1 cities for super-specialty care. We try to make this journey more streamlined and comfortable.”

“If you come to us we can guide you that for chemotherapy or for a particular surgery these are the hospitals that offer the treatment and accept your insurance. If you need accommodation assistance in the tier 1 city then we also provide for that. We also make sure that your files are shared with the doctor in advance. The decision-making power rests with the patient, we never force them to take any decision. We are just a transparent advisory platform.”

“We understand that we are serving the underserved. Their money is very important. In case they require financial aid then we have partners who can help out with this. Serving the Real Bharat makes us very unique. We assure you that 24x7 connectivity with doctors remains available.”

Medpho’s Clients

Saini elaborates, “Like Pazcare, Plum, Practo, MediBuddy, we also work for the corporates. After the Covid pandemic, we received a few clients like the British High Commission, Shopper’s Stop, and Dainik Jagran amongst others. We were able to offer them teleconsultation services. All this was possible because of our zero wait time. During the pandemic, it was taking 45 minutes on average to reach a doctor.”

“Historically it has always been insurance that has been riding on top in every employee wellness programme. But now health and wellness is a broader game. We work as an aggregator and partner, we were able to offer many offers to our clients. Like medical supplies, ambulance supplies and getting employees hospitalised. We have onboarded 25 corporates.” 

“Even though we work for big clients, we don’t have an app. Yet everyone was comfortable in suing our web domain. Also telling them to download an app is pretty cumbersome. Our main focus is on solving the problem. Also having multiple companies, one for insurance, the other for teleconsultation is cumbersome. Here we provide a simple player that covers all your healthcare worries.”

“Another point for us to enter the corporate sector is for the tier 2 and tier 3 network we have created. For an employee whose parents live in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, we can cover them too. The employees could also be working from home in tier 2 or tier 3 city, we cover them too. Many can only cover for them within one city but we have expanded ourselves into tier 2 and tier 3 cities.”

Medpho’s Funding

Saini mentions, “We never had lunch parties where we used that money. We have used it for 2 things - build the right product (develop technology) and get the right people. It is very important to get the right people who understand and are trying to change the healthcare ecosystem. These are the people who can build the right product for you and the consumers.” 

Medpho’s Revenue

Saini tells, “Our revenue started flowing in the month of August. And till the month of March, we had Rs 1.2 crores of net revenue. From here we are trying to scale up our venture. When we exit 23 we’ll be launching eClinics in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. We know places where the healthcare system is badly broken. So we are planning to heavily go offline.”

Edited By: Priyal Shah

Contributed By: Shashank Saini, Founder & CEO, Medpho

Tags : #Top-Innovative-Healthcare-Startup-Series #ShashankSaini #Medpho #teleconsultation #ehealth #RealBharat #ruralhealth #AyushmanYojana #freeconsultations #doctorconsultations #smitakumar #medicircle

About the Author

Priyal Shah

Priyal Shah is a graduate of Media from Mithibai College, Mumbai. She is a writer, researcher and avid reader.

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