‘Availability, Accessibility, and Affordability are the Three Pillars of Healthcare’: LetsMD CEO
As an industry, healthcare in India is still at a nascent stage and will require considerable effort from the government, both monetary and bandwidth wise, if India has to conform to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) developed country standards, which require that the country allows all its citizens to enjoy a free and healthy life in a safe environment. The primary challenges India faces in the health sector are lack of trained manpower, lack of public health infrastructure and investments, negligible insurance penetration, and lack of basic health awareness amongst a large section of the society.
While banks and NBFCs have been proactive on lending to doctors and hospitals for setting up infrastructure, patient financing is a still a new field. Currently, 90% of people taking loans for healthcare in urban India still seek informal sources of borrowing at high interest rates. Banks and NBFCs take time to originate loans, and hence, patients go to the fastest source of capital even if it is higher in interest.
LetsMD is a healthcare market place and a health finance facilitating company, which endeavours to reduce the woes of patients who are either taking or are intending to take hospital care and treatment and run short of cash. Using its proprietary credit algorithm, the company can originate loans instantly for a large section of borrowers. Moreover, their interest rates are 0% for the borrower.
The Tech Panda spoke to Nivesh Khandelwal, Co-founder and CEO of LetsMD, who says that healthcare has three pillars, availability, accessibility, and affordability.
“In the immediate vicinity of 5-10 years, focus has to be on ensuring availability of primary-level healthcare for all citizens in their villages, towns, and cities; and availability of tertiary level healthcare in a 50-km radius for all. This goal will have a cascading effect that will lead to the development of every healthcare service, diagnostics, ambulances, pharma, etc.,” he says.
How it started
LetsMD aims to be the largest payer to the healthcare ecosystem, using a hybrid of loan and insurance products. While managing a chain of IVF centres and setting them up in small towns and cities, Khandelwal started the company when he realized that setting up infrastructure is a problem too.
“We realized that a large chunk of the borrowers simply couldn’t afford our services. We can setup state-of-the-art hospitals in India, but 80% of the population will not be able to afford it. Hence, we decided to enable affordability of tertiary-level care in India through low interest loans,” he explains.
The company boasts of USPs like fast decision-making, minimal documentation, 0% interest, and deep expertise in healthcare that allows them to lend to even critically-ill patients.
How it works
LetsMD is a point-of-sale lender. When a person reaches a hospital and is in need of money, their representatives process the loan at the hospital itself using technology. They offer 0% interest loans upto a maximum of INR 15 lakh, payable over a maximum tenor of 48 months.
The startup has raised USD 2 million so far after two funding rounds and plan to be present in 30 cities in India by 2020, enrolling upto 5 lakh people in our loan-plus-insurance hybrid product.
Healthcare challenges in India
Keeping in mind the challenges that India is facing in this sector, Khandelwal says, the government has taken the first step of creating awareness around the benefits of health insurance, but a lot still remains to be done.
“India has to move from a curative mind set to a preventive one, and insurance companies are incentivised to propagate exactly that. The government should also increase overall spend on healthcare and incentivise private players to setup effective infrastructure in smaller towns and cities as well,” he says.
While insurance companies exist for helping out people in need of sudden medical finance, they have certain limitations that restrict them from fully helping out needy patients. Indian insurance companies, the CEO says, are highly regulated, which makes innovations difficult to roll out. Also, with a curative mind set, Indians don’t see value in buying insurance till they are hospitalised. Moreover, most importantly, insurance companies in India lack data to base pricing and policies on. Hence, they have one-size-fits-all policies that are difficult to sell.
“A financing company like ours can help insurance companies give more comprehensive coverage to its customers. From financing premiums or high-value policies to financing healthcare expenditure not covered under insurance, there are immense synergies between lending and insurance,” he explains.
How technology can help improve healthcare services
At the speed that medical transformations are happening, in terms of services and technology a lot can be expected by the time 2020 is here. Khandelwal believes there will be significant digitisation of healthcare over the next few years.
“I think decision making, when it comes to choosing a service provider, will move online and will be data driven rather than word-of-mouth-driven like today. Also, access to basic services will be done digitally rather than offline. For example, already, more and more people have started ordering medicines and tests online. The most critical impact of digitisation is an increase in transparency of both pricing and quality,” he says.
He says that access, data, and AI, can help improve healthcare services. “Telemedicine can ensure access to primary-level care in the most remote locations. Availability of data can ensure treatment protocols and insurance plans can be tailored according to each individual, making treatment more effective and policies more palatable. With a severe shortage of trained doctors, AI, once developed, can ensure that basic diagnosis is done without human intervention.