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Health care majors go online to extend reach

Source : BUSINESS_STANDARD
Last Updated: Wed, Mar 13, 2013 21:01 hrs

Major hospital chains such as Max Healthcare, Apollo and Fortis are going online in a big way, to extend their operations into smaller towns and cities.

While Apollo and Fortis recently forayed into the online segment, Max Healthcare chief executive Ajay Bakshi told Business Standard the company was drawing up plans to invest in online health care services in three to four months. "Building hospitals is a five-year-old model. While there is still a huge unmet need, online and mobile health care is inevitable. We think the second round of growth for the health care industry would come through online penetration," Bakshi said.


Health care majors are also partnering various technology providers and considering various models to tap the market. Max Healthcare, which has partnered eHealthPoint to work on an e-health project in Punjab, is also scouting for a partner to expand its online operations globally. "We are looking at it as a commercial venture that would provide us wider access. It is an asset-light model and would not need too much investment. But it has the potential to contribute significant revenue," Bakshi said.

Fortis, which launched its online health care venture last year, has joined hands with GE to provide critical care to patients in small towns through CritiNext, an electronic remote monitoring programme. The company has started with about 120 beds across five cities, including Dehradun, Raipur, Amritsar and Agra. It plans to expand this to 500 beds in various hospitals across the country by 2014. "We believe in a couple of years, this would be the accepted standard of care for patients in India. India needs new solutions to meet the rising demand for health care services. We want to optimise the opportunity," said Vishal Bali, chief executive of Fortis Hospital.

Health Management and Research Institute, an initiative of Piramal Foundation's Swasthya project, has signed a pact with the Karnataka government to provide health information services in the state through 104 Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited telephone numbers. Experts say with the rising internet penetration, infrastructure is already available; all health care companies have to do is utilise the network and connect to the grass roots. Through this, they can earn significant revenue. Online and telephonic health care services are, therefore, expected to increase significantly in three to four years. "The online health care trend has already picked up very well in the western world. Now, India is the focus," said Rana Mehta, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers executive director and leader (health care practice).

Amit Jain, president and chief executive of eHealthPoint, said the online hospital market was estimated to touch $2 billion (Rs 10,860 crore) by 2015.

The scenario has also led to various opportunities for entities such as eHealthPoint, which act as interfaces between patients and health care delivery providers.

Economic Survey 2012-13 had stated the need for greater focus on the online health care delivery system, as well as telemedicine.

WEB OF OPPORTUNITY
  • Hospital chains such as Max Healthcare, Apollo and Fortis are using the internet to extend operations into smaller towns and cities
  • According to an expert, the online hospital market is estimated to touch Rs 10,860 crore by 2015

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