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Changing women’s healthcare landscape with Doc N Me

Childbirth is one of the most beautiful things. It is also one that is most complicated with two lives in the balance. Add that to a rural Indian scenario where basic healthcare is represented by less-literate mid-wives and home births with cattle around – it is the breeding ground for infection. Proper healthcare is a basic necessity. It is also one that some of us fail to get.

That is what Samidha Garud, Co-founder, Doc N Me, noticed during her participation in an NGO-organized social health program aimed at improving health indicators among women and children in the small villages of Andhra Pradesh.

Around 25 million babies are born in India every year, but there are only 30,000 gynaecologists to tend to the pregnant women. “Shortage of skilled professionals is a serious concern.” said Samidha. “There are approximately 32,000 doctors registered with the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI). And there’s only one gynaecologist per 18,750 women for the female population of 600 million plus.” The Indian infant mortality rate is 39 per 1000 births, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and lack of skilled professionals is a key factor in this regard.

The second concern she enumerates giving a more recent example, “A 24 weeks’ pregnant woman appealed to the Supreme Court to allow her to undergo abortion. This incident has taken India’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 by a storm.” Among all the debates that arose surrounding this incident, Samidha believes, those resulting from lack of awareness about antenatal care have been most prominent. Women are entitled to proper healthcare, especially during their pregnancy. The obstacles to achieving better healthcare for women, according to Samidha, is magnified several folds’ in India due low literacy levels among women, superstitious practices and social disadvantages.

“Gynaecologists are always busy and the average time they spend with their patients is about 4 minutes. Within such a small window, it is impossible to spare enough time for patient education and hence patient compliance is very low.” says Samidha. This is where Doc N Me comes in and addresses these barriers in women’s health.

It bridges the gap, ensuring patient education and enabling them to receive the best healthcare services. Doc N Me is built upon the belief that good healthcare starts with relationships and collaboration between doctors and patients. With the app, pregnant women can feed information about their pregnancy and be advised by doctors. It helps identify high-risk patients and keeps them under check and their doctors updated on the progress of the pregnancies. Doctors are thus empowered to help their patients from anywhere – their homes, while commuting or from their clinics. Doctors and their patients are thus able to form a close-knit community where both benefit from the collaboration.

Doc N Me improves clinical experience for the patients by providing a secure, convenient and efficient way to manage communications with the doctor. They can stay connected with the doctor and receive correct professional advice from anywhere. Furthermore, the system records all medical information pertaining to the patient and can automatically deliver them at the time of need.

The success of the platform can be gauged from their post launch statistics. Doc N Me onboarded 50 gynaecologists across the country, 8 major hospitals and 11,000 patients. They completed their MVP product, ran a pilot, and are now in production with over 100 individual doctors and 4 hospitals using the software. They also have a complete doctor, receptionist, clinic admin, assistant solution built as web, tablet and mobile apps. Additionally, Samidha says Doc N Me has set an internal goal of reaching out to 10M+ women by the end of five years.

The team at Doc N Me, clearly, have their work cut out. “In Gynaecology, patient compliance is crucial and any error could affect the patient as well as the outcomes significantly. In such situations, correct counselling and continuous patient support become indispensable. Our workflow engines enable doctors to provide these facilities to their patients, without having to put in extra time or effort, at the expense of the rest of their practice.” says Samidha.

Additionally, “In the absence of relevant information and support from the doctor, as sometimes in the case in rural areas, Indian women are susceptible to advice from other sources that are not validated. Women often don’t understand the significance of various procedures in their treatment, and tend to delay or skip them while underestimating the consequences. We are working to make the software more and more consistent and simple to use so rural and less literate population in India can also avail its benefits.”

Changing mindsets to accept technology and seamless delivery of information are not the only hurdles the makers of Doc N Me must overcome. Samidha identifies a huge gap in the demand-supply chain in healthcare offerings that transcend telemedicine and appointment management, “Like any other industry, reducing total cost of ownership, improving cost efficiency and focusing on elevating the standard of offerings are key to the growth and will help match global standards.” While there is phenomenal support from the government and other big players to nurture entrepreneurs and their dreams, there is still more work to be done. But Samidha is optimistic, “Our ecosystem is still evolving. Majority of the ideas are ‘me-too’ and investors interests are typically traditional. However, we are sure it is evolving and will eventually change to match the global ecosystem where innovation weighs more than time and investments risks.”

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