03 October 2017 10:45:46 IST

Telemedicine goes the smart way

Portal iCliniq provides a platform that helps patients consult doctors anytime

iCliniq is a Coimbatore-based telemedicine portal found by Dhruv Suyamprakasam in 2010. The online portal currently has over three lakh patients across the world and 2,000 doctors. But that was not the case when the portal went live in 2012.

“We had less than 10 doctors and had a hard time getting patients,” says 30-year-old Dhruv, with the enthusiasm of a college kid explaining his first project.

When he began working on the project, soon after graduating in engineering in 2009, his idea was simple. “All I wanted was to create an online portal where people can consult doctors,” he said and added, “and I thought it was easy.”

“Back then I was naïve to think that the idea would take off easily. I was not even able to meet a single doctor in a month,” said Dhruv. “They were so busy that I could not even get a single appointment,” he added. So he decided to try a different route.

Intern experience

“I became an intern,” he added. Dhruv interned with three doctors writing down case histories and observing interaction between doctors and patients.

During internship, a patient from Doha had come to consult a doctor Dhruv was interning with. As he observed the interaction, he said, he came to understand the importance of asking the right questions that will help the patients answer better. “I did not focus on this aspect earlier,” he said. The idea was incorporated in the platform, a kind of like a test, to onboard efficient doctors.

When the platform went live incorporating his learning with video consultation only feature, the idea never took off. The very first consultation failed due to technical glitches from both ends. So he had to rework on his strategy.

Again Dhruv’s internship experience came to the rescue. “Patients always have more questions to ask, so having video consultation does not work well,” he said. It led to query and phone consultation feature in the platform, which were a hit among expats living in the US. Even now almost 65 per cent of the patients are from the US.

Now five years later, things are better and bigger. “I have a better idea about what works and what does not,” Dhruv said. The company now does 900 consultations a day across 80 specialities. “We will be profitable in three months,” he added. So far the company has invested ₹3.5 crore in iCliniq.

Dhruv said, “The business model is simple. We get money for consultation from patients, charge a platform fee of 29 per cent and pay the rest to doctors.” It costs ₹199 per consultation. Patients could also avail themselves of a new feature, where they can ask unlimited queries for 100 hours, for ₹399.

Dhruv said the company has started partnering with corporate enterprises for employee health check-ups. It is also working with insurance agencies. “We are looking at this as a potential revenue stream,” he says.

Smart Doctor

But the focus is on developing the platform Smart Doctor. Through the platform the start-up is trying to focus on diseases that occur frequently and require medical attention at the same time. For instance, a common cold occurs often but does not require medical attention all the time. Flu and gastritis are common as well but need medical treatment. This is the range he is focussing on.

The platform will use over six lakh health records the company has collected over the period of five years and use them to design an algorithm using machine learning. Dhruv said, “The data will help doctors answer queries faster and more accurately.”

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)