Quality healthcare moves beyond big hospitals


In India’s $150 billion healthcare market it's a “one size fits all” formula at play, where everyone goes to a specialised tertiary care hospital—even for the treatment of a common cold or cough. But that’s not how it happens in developed countries. “When you have a problem, first go to a primary care centre, which will then refer you to the right place. And that will start happening when we (as a country) have much better-quality primary and secondary care service providers,” says Shashank N.D., co-founder and CEO, Practo, an integrated healthcare provider.

“Today it is one size fits all where everybody goes to tertiary care hospitals for everything. And that unbundling will happen as high-quality care is going to be provided by many players and not just traditional tertiary care hospitals,” adds Shashank in a recent interaction with Fortune India.

After having helped patients connect with doctors, both digitally and in-person, Practo has recently begun to address the secondary care market for surgeries. Practo Care Surgeries cover over 50 surgical procedures across three specialities: general surgery, urology, and ENT, in six cities across India. The company plans to expand its network to over 30 cities and launch 300 centres, add more specialities (orthopaedic, gynaecology, ophthalmology), and onboard hundreds of surgeons by the end of next year. “The hospitals that we are typing up with have very low utilisation levels, especially post the pandemic, but have high-quality standards,” says Shashank.

Today, doctor consultations is the largest portion of Practo’s business—both by volume and by value. But this will change quickly with its entry into the $12 billion secondary care market.

“We see surgeries becoming our largest revenue driver in the next 24 months just given its ticket size,” adds Shashank. Reports indicate that about 20 million surgeries take place in India every year, with almost 80% of these falling under secondary care, indicating the need for increased efforts to strengthen and improve access to quality surgical care and delivery. And Practo’s entry into the secondary care market also signals a major shift in its focus towards healthcare delivery.

Founded in 2008, Practo integrates different parts of a patient’s healthcare journey—right from finding and booking an appointment with verified doctors, getting medicine and lab tests at the doorstep, and accessing health articles authored by verified doctors. Practo also makes software products that help healthcare providers—ranging from small clinics to large hospitals—digitise and deliver more efficient and higher quality healthcare to millions of patients around the world. Practo is present in 20 countries, helps 18 crore patients a year, and connects patients with 1 lakh verified doctor partners.

Despite the company’s reach and presence, it faced headwinds with regards to its valuation falling last year, when it raised funding just after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Valuations are like share prices—they move up and down; that’s the function of it,” says Shashank. “We want to turn 13 into 30. Having that kind of mindset, we wanted to ensure that the company was well placed in the pandemic. Today we are well capitalised, doing well, and have very high investor interest in us. I’m sure the valuations will catch up to our expectations. But that’s not something that drives us,” adds Shashank.

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