‘Digital’ is today’s default operating system, that is redefining access and delivery. Technology is emerging as the bedrock of healthcare, delivering significant and compelling benefits to patients with reduced hospital admissions, decreased duplication of tests, and better-informed treatment decisions. For the Australian medtech company Neev Labs, the launch of virtual healthcare platform, Connect2MyDoctor in 2016 highlighted that the opportunity story was clear and execution pathway determined. Connect2MyDoctor provides a comprehensive virtual care offering to complement how people access and experience healthcare around the world.
Since its launch, the platform has worked with multi-speciality hospitals in Asia, Middle East, and Africa, with patients from 15+ countries using the platform mainly for triage care, second opinions, mental health, remote patient management, wellness & prevention, chronic care, child development, consultations before travel, and follow up visits. More than 4000 specialists have access to the platform, with over 75 specialities and super-specialities covered. In the next phase, the company is focusing on deploying new modules – Connect2Move for remote rehabilitation, and Connect2MyCarer - home care module with remote patient monitoring globally. Connect2MyDoctor is also the preferred telehealth provider for the 20,000+ member hospitals of the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI) and were awarded the IABCA Microbusiness of the Year - 2022. Driven by the motto of “being closer to care – anytime anywhere”, the platforms headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and have teams based out of their development centres in Bangalore, India and Dubai, UAE. Their aim is to build a modern way of healthcare practice – one with greater convenience, impact, and value.
For a bedridden Parkinson patient to consult a neurologist in Kochi, for an endocrinologist to guide a patient sitting miles away in Kolkata, and for a Sri Lankan patient to be reviewed by a doctor practicing in Tamil Nadu before he arrives for his surgery to India – all this would have been unimaginable a decade ago. However, technology and enabling platforms like Connect2MyDoctor have made healthcare access convenient and real-time. One need not worry about waiting in queues just to get advice on medication or to receive guidance on a health condition.
Launched in India in 2016, with a vision to enable people to ‘Manage their Health Better’, virtual health platform Connect2MyDoctor enabled healthcare providers to unleash the power of digital health. The platform is used by patients to search, compare, and access health professionals/specialists for non-critical ailments, book appointments and video consultations, do follow ups/take second opinions, consult for loved ones with special needs, take advice when away from home on work/holiday and electronically manage prescriptions and health records. The platform is democratising the healthcare experience and providing healthcare providers with tools and capabilities in providing better health outcomes.
Connect2MyDoctor is a patient-centric and provider-supported platform. It works with leading multi and super-speciality hospitals across India, UAE, Bahrain, Turkey and is now expanding into Africa. Since inception, the platform has assisted patients from over 15 countries to get access to specialists’ network through private and secure virtual consultations. The platform is currently also focusing on Connect2Move for remote rehabilitation, and Connect2MyCarer - home care module with Remote Patient Monitoring globally, that will assist in offering customisable solutions to various health providers in homecare, aged care, sports medicine.
The impact of their work could be understood, from it being selected by the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI) as the preferred telehealth provider for their 20,000+ member hospitals in India.
"Connect2MyDoctor has received approval from the Dubai Health Authority to offer telehealth services in Dubai, marking it as the first Australian company to achieve this milestone."
The Connect2MyDoctor’s management chose to venture into India for three specific reasons. First, the platform needed doctors, and Indian doctors easily filled that gap as they are highly educated, trained and competent. Second, telemedicine in the market was not very prevalent despite a massive telecom boom and reach, especially in rural India, hence, it needed a push to drive adoption. The urban-rural heath infrastructure divide offered opportunities to diversify and widen reach. Third, the Connect2MyDoctor team understood the complexity of the Indian market very well. They knew, the India-market success will be their most effective and efficient launch-pad to scale business at a global level, presenting an immediate range of lessons to learn and mistakes to avoid.
“As a newbie in the industry, it was important to work with trusted organisations to establish credibility and vision.” Pramod Kutty, CEO and Founder, Neev Tech Labs Pty Ltd
“We started in markets that we were familiar with in terms of private hospital market opportunity, contacts, references, language, influx of medical tourism patients, and digital literacy.”
The telehealth platform decided to build its own India-team, setting up its office in Bangalore alongside working with distribution partners and external consultants. The local team was primarily created to align the staff with the company’s core values ensuring commitment, which is a mustneeded asset for any evolving business. They also felt that an in-market presence was a good business proposition, with easy availability of skilled talent across all streams for recruitment. Also, domestically, companies based within the Indian jurisdiction were preferred for commercial engagement. As a healthcare platform, it was equally pertinent for them to keep health data privately secured within the operating jurisdiction. The in-house development team in Bengaluru provided the agility needed to continuously make improvements during product development.
“We knew from the beginning this journey is going to be long and dark with its own ups and down. We should be ready to ideate > build > break > build again. We could not have made this happen with borrowed resources, who did not understand our core values or not share our passion. Hence, we decided to build our own team.”
The platform started as a B2C offering, though they soon realised that Indian healthcare is very ‘physician driven.’ They switched their strategy to white label the platform as ‘health-providers owned’ to build trust and interest, onboarding doctors and seeking their support to get patients attention. A strategy that helped this emerging company, save on its marketing spend. Shifting strategy from B2C to B2B2C wherein doctors/health providers were enabled to provide care through this digitised telehealth platform. They conducted research with over 100 doctors in India, co-creating features and functionalities that made the virtual care platform clinically relevant.
The company had considerable support from its investors, with an added advantage of an India-aware leadership team that had experience in building products and business in global corporates. This strategy was further reinforced with their active network of in-market contacts and connections with medical clinics, hospitals, government, and industry bodies that helped establish a client base.
Seeing The Future
The impact of the pandemic, lack of access to health, stretched healthcare infrastructure and resources has led ‘digital health adoption’ to be a game-changer. The new digital mindset has also bolstered Connect2MyDoctor’s growth in India. The rising consumer demand for access, affordability and quality, low-cost smartphones combined with affordable data, a world-class telecom infrastructure, the growing awareness and adoption of health-tech among health practitioners and governments policy support has uncovered the growing market unmet needs. The vast Indian population, with varied demographic categories, reports indicating 1:854 doctor to population ratio, a complex provider landscape has further redefined the access and affordability debate. Going by existing data, over 75 percent of the healthcare infrastructure is concentrated in metro cities, doctor shortage has increased by over 200 percent in the past decade.
The official release of the telemedicine and digital health related guidelines during the pandemic by the Medical Council of India as well as the launch of India’s Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) has given further impetus to digital-health solution providers like Connect2MyDoctor.
ABDM platform aims to capture health data across physicians, providers, and patients, with the promise of interoperability, flexibility, security, scalability, and wide access. There’s growing awareness that conventional healthcare capacity is unlikely to catch-up with the existing demand, hence India needs effective, accessible, and highquality healthcare solutions that provide equitable access, that can be rapidly deployed and scaled up.
“Connect2MyDoctor has been ahead of the industry curve, especially post-pandemic, riding on the tele-health boom that is estimated to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2028.”
India’s large aspirational market with strong demand and needs, makes it a best market to launch and scale solutions. The digital health market revolution is not driven by tech providers, it is led by the consumers who are accustomed to digital tools across various sectors including retail, banking, education and now healthcare. Connect2MyDoctor is Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) enabled in India, demonstrating its alignment and integration with the Indian government's Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) initiative.
“Perseverance is one of the key lessons that I have learnt in this journey. Change does not happen overnight, they take time. The key is stay focused on the vision and keep at it. It is not a sprint, it's a marathon.”
Digitalisation is transforming the evolving healthcare landscape. Care is becoming more patient centric, personal, and embedded in lifestyles, enhancing health experience and optimising delivery. The fundamentals of healthcare delivery value chains have seen a paradigm shift, with outpatient and inpatient care enabled through telemedicine, remote care and rapid digitalisation.
India already has 400 million digital health users, using services such as tele-health, home health, home testing, e-pharmacies, and other digitally powered offerings. Reports suggest, there’s 65 percent acceptance of digital health solutions among customers who use e-commerce services. The adoption of digital health tools is significantly higher in patients who have long-term disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Key takeaways for Australian medtech companies and service providers from this case study are –
- Agility in strategy is paramount. Crafting a proof of concept, with a minimal trial duration of three months, and enlisting the support of key opinion leaders and influencers are pivotal components for ensuring a seamless market entry
- Recognise the vast potential within existing digital market structures, such as the Android market, UPI and wallet payments, as well as cash on delivery services
- Closing deals can be time-consuming; persistence and determination are essential
- Being mindful of different time zones, prioritising in-person meetings is crucial for building new relationships
- Customisation lies at the core of every aspect – from diverse workflows and localization to various languages. Opting for an iterative approach, rather than rigidly focusing on delivering the final product, is essential
- Business models indeed vary significantly in this market, where volume is key. Consumers are presented with numerous options, from deep discounts and freemiums (with the expectation of conversion) to premium quality services. Understanding the distinctive advantages of your product/service and adopting a creative market approach is essential to effectively stand out in this competitive landscape
- Hospitals exhibit high price sensitivity and are heavily influenced by the choices and decisions of doctors. These healthcare professionals are often overwhelmed with patient consultations, leaving them with little time for new tools and limited willingness to invest in them
- The absence of standardised Hospital Information Systems (HIS) poses a barrier to decentralising healthcare access
- Providers continue to be the primary point of interaction between end users and health systems. Embracing a 'digital-first' approach is not merely an additional business unit but a strategic advantage and a force multiplier. This mindset is crucial for ensuring the seamless integration of digital systems and establishing new partnerships in the healthcare sector
- Providers should refrain from attempting to develop all solutions internally. Instead, they should embrace a strategic need-solution analysis framework to minimise the risk of failure, especially in the face of an ever-evolving technology landscape
- Operations must mirror a coherent and deeply integrated platform, partner, and data strategy. This approach should be not only cost-effective and efficient but also amplified by a strategic digital-first outlook. Capturing and retaining the consumer base is vital, as it reduces the risk of disruption from new competitors.
“The problems in healthcare domain are huge, real and life changing, a thank you note from a patient on how we have helped them manage their pain, consult a specialist, feel recovered etc makes our day.”
India stands at the cusp of a revolution in healthcare access, led by several public healthcare schemes and increased private sector interest in healthcare delivery. ‘Digital’ is the most potent force multiplier to enable an equitable and efficient health system.