Five Unconventional Healthcare Business Ideas!

I am writing this post with lot of optimism and have a reasonable confidence that the opportunities, which I am sharing with you all today, as future business ideas in Healthcare, would soon be a reality.

Personally, I would really be excited to see them as established verticals, as these businesses would also have a larger “Purpose”, that is, they would be the critical enablers in ensuring the access of healthcare to the masses and thus making services more effective and improving the lives of the people!

Most of the segments that are mentioned in this blog already have some presence on the ground today, however they are at very early phase of evolution. There are lots of exciting transformations which are happing around them, right from technological innovation, skill set development, creation of business pathways and more importantly, the rapid learning curve happening amongst the entities.

I also wish to share at this stage that these businesses would require very high level of domain expertise and ability of promoters to evolve very fast to catch-up with the requirement of the business. I also anticipate that there would be few successful companies in these segments; however they would have a significant market share and these businesses would remain self-sustainable for a long time to come. Early investors would have a significant advantage over others as these businesses are highly technical in nature and the firms need to go through entire cycle of internal learning and set their own benchmarks.

1. Health Data Management company

It is not a rocket science to understand why the data is important to us and how its effective use can really augment your business and the sector at large. In a nut shell, they are our nervous system through which we imbibe our surroundings and also to interact with it. However, when it comes to healthcare I don’t know why this has been an alien concept till date, as we don’t have any reliable data system as of today, which can be used to understand the activities around us and to take informed decision based on them.

This simple fact also sets the platform for significant opportunities in the sector, as people around the world and more so in India, have realized that they cannot move any further until they have robust data capturing and analysis systems in place.

The opportunities would be at two levels, which as follows

1.1. Patient Data Management System – The day is not too far when there would be a third party player which would integrate all the patient / clinical data in easy retrieval form. The idea would be similar to reward point system where people keep gathering their rewards points in lieu of shopping they do at multiple places and an ID or a card can easily be used to gather all the diagnostic, imaging and clinical findings.

There have been few initiatives taken in the past, however not successful, as entire ecosystem was not geared up to support the system. But the future would be much different, as most of the medical equipment's can now inter-exchange the data along with other clinical data which are now being directly fed into IT systems. Portability among various point of generation of data would be altogether different level in times to come, hence enable this format to be more effective.

I am sure that the day is not very far when clinicians ask for “H-Card” when visited by a patient rather than asking “do you have reports”? And patient opens its Pandora of the box and trying to figuring out which one he needs. This would result in efficient use of time spent on each patient as consult will get the case sheet a day before as the patient will provide their H-ID while taking the appointment and doctors team would use this ID to retrieve the information and has a fair understanding of patient’s clinical history and during the patient interaction he would have a more interactive discussion with patient to plan the line of treatment. To my view platform is set, and someone has to take the first step to make it happen!

1.2. Mapping the National Healthcare Profile – We need to evolve the data management system which can assist us in gathering the on ground status of health care from availability of infrastructure, Manpower, Service availability and Financial along with a very robust system to map the disease patterns, incidence and prevalence rate at state and country level

I am not sure how policy makers are able to frame healthcare policy, budgets etc. if they don’t have actual visibility of the patterns of incidence, infrastructure availability, cost of treatments and medical inflation etc. The data sets which we refer today are not at all reliable as they are far from reality, either not captured or not gathered in totality. We don’t even have system to know how many hospital beds are available today in India at state and district level. There are few examples available to us, as some countries can tell in real time the total OPD’s, IPD, Incidence and prevalence across specialties.

Think of a situation where RBI has to decide on interest rates and do not have adequate measures to understand the supply and demand, inflation, public and private debt across sectors and so on. AS far as Healthcare is concern we are currently at 30,000 ft overview of situation on ground, we really have to improve on this front, otherwise we won’t be able to deploy our capital at right places.

To my view, government will sooner than later come up with a plan to establish such system and they would need private players to help them create this system and manage it efficiently. The opportunity would be a multibillion-business opportunity for private payers. However, we would need firms which take this challenging task with full preparedness, as such kind of expertise cannot be developed overnight

2. Mobile Health Management

We are now talking about a segment which would bring the biggest change in Healthcare, because of its inherent ability to bring disruptive technology and ideas. I really don’t know what should I call them, its mobile which grown or laptops which have shrunk!. which ever may be the case they are now part of our lives and would continue to make further inroads.

One of the most important aspects which mobile technology brings in is that they bridge the gap between physical and virtual world. They are there with us all the time and know where we are, what we doing and ecosystem around us. The recent release of iWatch has added a new dimension to mobility and in the views of business analyst; Healthcare would be the key sectors to derive benefits out of it.

I have been observing very closely the apps which are now available; some of them provide diet counseling, mapping your daily activity / calories consumption and even monitoring your sleep patterns. There would array of probes and sensor which can now be integrated into people’s lives to monitor their health. The day is not too far when the gadget fitted around your wrist would monitor your pulse, BP, sugar levels, will tell dialysis patients when to go for it or you need to take a break from work as your stress levels are high, in real time. These informations would be of real use in monitoring your health or planning the line of treatment.

But, readers must be thinking, this is all fine, but where is the real opportunity and where they should invest? The real opportunity is in providing the services around these technologies, providing a need based technologies to individuals and converting these data points into meaningful forms for individuals and healthcare providers. At the first glance, this opportunity may look to be appropriate for providers, however in my view a third party player can really unleash the real potential

3. Operations and Management of Healthcare Facility / Programs

Whenever I get a chance to interact with CEOs of leading healthcare providers, I make sure that I ask them one common question, “What are the three things, which give them sleepiness nights?”, and to my surprise most of times the areas which they mention are relating to general administration of hospital and daily trouble shooting, starting from routine manpower issues, IT systems, Medical equipment management, policies adherence, governance, scheduling, inventories, customer satisfaction etc. they are not really able to devote much time to focus on upgrading the service delivery and remain competitive in times to come. Given an option, they would like to outsource much of non core activities relating to hospital and focus on the core values. The outsourcing of non core activities is not a new phenomenon in healthcare, however it has just scratched the surface and is very unorganized, as hospital management still has to deal with many contractors and ultimately devotes equal attention to these activities. In raw terms the current outsourcing practices are similar to supply of manpower only, however the real requirement is to capture the much larger aspect.

Gone are the days when mere establishing a world class infrastructure was enough to ensure the success in healthcare. As more and more contemporary healthcare facilities are created, healthcare providers would be compelled to focus on service / clinical excellence to prove their mental.

We already have seen the success of organized commercial complexes, where we walk in every day without devoting much time in general activities.

For healthcare management companies the canvas would be much larger as they have the opportunity to provide a broad spectrum of services, right from routine outsourced services like housekeeping, security, F&B, to managing the medical equipment, claim management, hospitality services, HR & payroll and Marking services for domestic and international markets, IT department, just to name few.

Similar concept is also possible for managing government health programs. In most of the instances I have seen people asking for increasing the spending on healthcare by government, they are correct in some way, however the reality is this that most of the funds allocated by central and state governments are either not utilized or mismanaged. One of the most common reasons behind underutilization of funds is the non ability of technical expertise to manage these programs. There is a significant space for a private player to get into this segment of managing the healthcare programs. There are already few marquee organizations and NGOs, which are, engaged in these activities, however there is still space for a few others as well.

4. Healthcare Analytic and the Big Data company

Healthcare analytic by all means will make a big presence in the industry. Other sectors have already been using it very effectively right from, designing short term and long term strategy, as a very effective marketing marking tools, improving the process and so on. Healthcare in the past has effectively used the learning from other sectors and the trends suggest that this would continue to be. Moreover, looking for rapid growth and increasing complexity of the sector, I presume that the healthcare sector would need skill set and manpower support from professional working across the sector, as domain experts on healthcare would be in limited supply. The companies of health care would be compelled to source talent from other sectors, thus opening Pandora of box for opportunities.

In my view, the current practice of health care entities does not utilize the potential of data which they gather for effective use in building strategy. The complicity of the business is growing at a level, where it's difficult for individuals to comprehend the solutions. Data in the new age of healthcare would become senses for manager though which they would understand the world around them and take decisions based on it.

The tools available today can effectively be used to deliver high impact delivery of service and hence increasing the patient satisfactions. Think of a situation where the analytics will help the organization to staff appropriately based on predictive assessment of work load in hospital. The system will tell you specific lean times and high from within a day for months in the year. The physicians can effectively use it to do a self assessment of outcomes for various line of treatment. The system can also help to monitor the adverse events within the system and can raise the red flag for managers to take corrective measures. The opportunities are endless, however we would need companies which can only assist the analysis of the available data, but also establish a system of collection of data from various touch points.

5. Health "Guardians"

This concept is much similar to the family physician model, but on much larger and organized scale. Healthcare is so complex that it’s next to impossible for a consumer to make a choice. Currently people speak to their near and dear ones or physicians within their network to make a decision. However, we are undergoing a fundamental shift in this process of decision making because of two reasons, first, as the cities grows further and new population starts inhabiting these expanding cities, the new population will find it difficult to use this ancient relationship based informal channel of decision making. Secondly, our existing policies of incidence based pricing and payment to doctors / stakeholder for a fee for services / referral fee, has created a trust deficit amongst the people, as they feel recommendation for medication, diagnostic test and surgeries has a vested interest, as the financial benefits are passed on to them.

These changing fundamentals would set a platform for institutions which would position them self as “Guardian of Healthcare” for patient and families. They would actively participate in managing the health of the family right from preventive, curative and palliative health care. As a “Health Guardians” they would safeguard the health benefits from prevalent practices, though dissemination information, options, and opinions as a neutral body taking active part in decision making for people. These institutions would also carry out preventive health management of the families and also maintain their health records to use effectively whenever such need arises.

My quick financial assessment of these models has also shown optimistic results, however much detailing still needs to be done to understand the complete cycle. I shall be happy to share the format details and other key business insights to the people who may be interested in exploring these opportunities further.

Nothing is impossible; even the word itself says 'I'm possible’! It’s just the way someone looks at it!

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