Worried About Medical Costs, Healthcare Quality? This Start-up Promises Cure For These Maladies

Most people do not visit healthcare sites until they are ill. But when that happens and one's patent pill box or neighbourhood physician doesn't seem to be the cure, a flurry of searches follow before further consultations can take place. In the good old days, human contacts and word of mouth used to help us out. Today, we turn to the Internet to find out more about doctors, hospitals, types of treatment and most importantly, estimated costs. Yet, the options could be numerous and quite confusing, eating up precious time before actual treatment can start. That's precisely why Surgerica.com has stepped in - offering a price and quality discovery platform for healthcare services (both surgical and non-surgical care). It also connects patients with doctors through its online platform, books admission and helps with post-treatment care.

All these may help gain traction in a country where the majority is constantly on the lookout for affordable but quality healthcare. This is also pushing the cost-effective, wide-reaching e-healthcare market, estimated to touch $2 billion by 2015. So start-ups like Surgerica are betting big on this space with a view to make it big in the near future. Here is a snapshot that captures the Kolkata-based firm’s vision and viability.

Who runs Surgerica.com: A team of three - Amit Bhagat, Amarendra Kumar and Piyush Gupta. Amit is a Delhi University passout, holds an MBA from NIT and is in charge of sales & marketing. But it's his passion to help others that got the concept off the board. Amarendra has graduated from Kolkata University and looks after partnerships & alliances. Piyush is an NIT grad, takes care of all things tech and loves to code at night.

What inspired the venture: Medical emergency at a personal level. When Amit's father underwent a coronary artery bypass surgery), no information was available about medical facilities or estimated cost. Even an Internet search did not help. The same thing happened when Amarendra's niece was diagnosed with a heart condition. "That's when we decided to start a venture that will help patients with details of hospitals, cost of treatment and other essential information," says Amarendra.

What's the pitch: Connect to choose, consult and compare (costs) for your care. In other words, it is connecting patients with data and doctors to usher in some much-needed transparency in pricing and treatment.

How it works: Type in your query on the site and choose the doctor/hospital you want to contact. One can also upload healthcare records to speed up the diagnosis. Once that is done, the start-up will help you get a brief medical opinion, along with a provisional line of treatment and estimated cost. Anyone looking for service and price comparison can easily get in touch with multiple hospitals via Surgerica and a variety of treatment plans and costing will be made available at the earliest. You can also look up the average cost estimates for treatments across various specialties, available on the site for free.

But there is more on the platter including Video Connect or live video consultation with doctors (this service is going live in a couple of days), provision for getting second opinion (e-Connect), patient status update in real time, co-stay facility and post-treatment care. Additionally, you can search for information about medical conditions; check out doctor details at partner hospitals and connect with communities where you will find people who have undergone the same treatment in the same hospital you are interested in (Patient Connect). This means users get an authentic evaluation of the medical facilities and healthcare services before making a treatment choice.

One can register with Surgerica for a nominal sum of Rs 55 or $1 and the service loop completes in a few simple steps - post query, choose hospitals (alternatively, Surgerica's panel can suggest one) and get a detailed treatment plan with an indicative price estimate. Once things are finalised, a patient can book admission through the portal and go ahead with the treatment.

Claim to fame: Traction and networks. The site is just 90 days old (it became fully functional from July 22, 2013), but claims to have 2,000 registered users besides a network of over 5,000 doctors and 900-plus hospitals. Surgerica currently covers 50-plus specialties and 2,000-plus medical procedures. It has also closed a B2B deal with an insurance company with 11 million policy holders and its services will be rolled out to these customers from January next year. The company is now actively targeting 3 countries (Singapore and Thailand besides India).

Show me the money: Currently, revenues are generated through paid B2C services ranging from $1-19. The B2B model will go live from next year and the company aims to strike more deals with large insurance firms who will be offering Surgerica's services to their policy holders. A tie-up with medical tourism companies and a mobile app are also on the cards, which will introduce new revenue channels. As for funding, the start-up is looking for early-stage investment and may soon wrap up a deal.

Biggest challenge: Getting more hospitals on board and keeping them active and engaged on the portal - so that users get response within the specified time limit. The second challenge is patient education, which is virtually non-existent in India.
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