Engineering Grad\'s Initiative Helps 35 Remote Villages Access Healthcare
When Jagdeep Gambir, an ISB alumnus and Finance Analyst with Goldman Sachs moved to Dalsingh Sarai, a city in Bihar’s Samastipur district, to work on a project about developing technology to control tuberculosis, he had no idea that the 18 months he spent there, would completely change the course of his life.
He was exposed to the cruel divide between rural India and healthcare services. People had to travel long distances for medical treatment, and he saw several children who were suffering as they did not have access to timely medical help.
His concerns were not unfounded. India has 1 doctor for every 1457 of its population and healthcare infrastructure is concentrated in urban areas. This covers only 27% of the population. The rest, living in rural areas face decreased access to primary healthcare facilities.
Wanting to provide quality medical treatment to people in remote areas, by using the power of technology, he quit his job and shortly after, launched Karma Healthcare, a healthcare startup that provides healthcare consultations and services over a phone or video call.
Jagdeep established Karma Healthcare in Udaipur in 2014, with the idea of leveraging technology to provide rural areas with quality primary healthcare services. But, there are certain user groups who face tech-adoption and internet access challenges. So, he introduced nurse-assisted e-doctor clinics.
Trained nurses from the respective regions are deployed at the clinic to do primary checkups. For further consultation, the nurse will set up a video call with a certified doctor. In the same clinic, there is also a diagnostic lab for running tests and a pharmacy for providing necessary medicines.
All of these services are offered at a price of Rs 200, and extra charges may apply depending on the medicine.
Setting up the system
While the initial funding was done by Gambir himself, in 2015, he raised capital through organizations such as Ankur Capital Trust, 1Crowd Fund, Ennovent, Beyond Capital Fund and UBS Optimus.
His initiatives have been supported by foundations such as Pranab Mukherjee Foundation, DFAT-Australian Government, Mahindra & Mahindra, and the Ray of Hope Foundation. In the last 6 years, Karma Healthcare has established 35 ‘e-Doctor Clinics’, across 35 villages in Haryana, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Through these e-clinics, over 2 lakh patients have been treated and more continue to be tended to.
The organization has 92 employees including doctors, nurses, and outreach workers, and is split into two. One is the non-profit side which focuses on providing healthcare services, creating awareness programs, and organizing community engagement activities. The other, the profit-making side, is mainly technology development for other non-profit organizations in the same sector.
Through the pandemic
Once the COVID-19-necessitated nation-wide lockdown was announced, most e-doctor-clinics had to be closed temporarily. Patients who would regularly visit the clinic for treatment were left in agony as they had no access to medicines.
Early in April when the lockdown was still in full effect, they approached ‘Grand Challenges Canada’, a non-profit organization that funds solutions to critical health and development challenges in developing countries. They requested funds for a new system to facilitate healthcare services in rural areas during the lockdown. In the same week the grant was approved and Jagdeep launched ‘contactless consultations’.
The new system allows direct consultation with a doctor through a video call. To make the service user friendly for everyone, an additional feature of teleconsultation was added. Patients can call the provided helpline number that will connect them to a nurse, who is a bridge between the patient and doctor.
Not only does the nurse coordinate between them but also, ensures medicines are door-delivered, to the patient, from the nearest e-doctor-clinic.
Karma Healthcare has been able to impact millions of lives by changing how healthcare is accessed in rural areas. In the future, they plan to raise more funds and expand their services across the country.
Roshini Muthukumar, a native of Chennai, started her career as a content writer but made a switch to journalism to pursue her passion. She has experience writing about human interest stories, innovative technology, entrepreneurs, research blogs, and more. Previously, Roshini has done internships with The Hindu, Metroplus and worked as a correspondent with The Better India.
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