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A survivor’s strategy

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many healthcare businesses under fiscal pressures, there are some who have turned challenges into opportunities. One such company is a health-tech start-up, Pristyn Care. The company has tweaked its business model to suit the present need of its patients and has managed to crack the code. The company has had over 50 per cent revenue for April 2020 and has been successful in bringing the burn rate down by 40 per cent. Harsimarbir Singh, Co-Founder, Pristyn Care had a candid conversation with Raelene Kambli in this regard

From a business point of view, how are you dealing with the present crisis?

Being a healthtech startup, Pristyn Care launched new business offerings and tweaked the existing ones in a way that enabled it to deal with the coronavirus crisis better, both from a business as well as a social perspective. In order to help minimise the burden of the pandemic on the Indian healthcare system, we built an end-to-end ecosystem of telemedicine and also partnered with over 50 laboratories across Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Lucknow, Patna and Bhubaneshwar to conduct COVID-19 detection tests, authorised by the Government of India and The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). In addition to this, we established a control room for addressing any query related to COVID-19 through the dedicated helpline number 801-000-2266. The control room functions as per protocols of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHF&W) to profile high-risk segments of the population. Pristyn Care also scaled up its pharmaceutical business to provide pharma and medical supplies and other personal protective equipment (PPE) delivered at home to customers across India.

You mentioned that you tweaked your offerings. Does that change your business approach or the model?

Our core business model remains the same – an asset-light platform that ties together a distributed ecosystem of healthcare infrastructure with technology. In fact, since our business model does not get stuck in huge capital expenditure, we have been able to adapt business, launch new offerings, partner with healthcare institutions and scale new services fast even in times of the current crisis to provide value to the patients.

Explain the functioning of your tele-medicine model. How are you engaging patients?

Telemedicine has gone a long way in ensuring that we remain in touch with not just our existing patients, but are also able to serve new patients too, especially when people don’t have the option of going out of their house to visit a doctor. Through our telemedicine services, patients are able to seek advice from our in-house team of super-specialist doctors without having to travel, thereby reducing the risks of exposure and spread of COVID-19. Our dedicated team of more than 300 medical coordinators guides patients on call throughout their journey to health, from booking diagnostic tests for them (including COVID-19 detection tests), arranging sample collection at home, assisting them for insurance approvals and getting emergency surgeries done. Even during lockdown, we encounter many cases of surgery where delaying the treatment is unavoidable as it can cause complications and make the symptoms unbearable for the patient. So, our team has ensured that the entire ecosystem is in place to cater to these patients effectively.

What has been the patients’ response so far?

Patients who were planning to undergo treatment for their diseases through elective surgeries are concerned about the way forward. They are worried about how to maintain their health during the lockdown due to postponement of elective surgeries. Our doctors have been guiding and counselling these patients on steps that can be taken for symptomatic relief till they go through their elective surgeries post lockdown. For patients seeking doctor consultations, in the absence of being able to go to the nearest doctor for a face-to-face consultation, they are more willing to adopt telemedicine and make the best use of it in order to get well.

How have your investors responded to this crisis?

Our investors have been extremely supportive during this entire time. They have constantly guided us on how to control expenses while maintaining revenue from both existing and new business offerings. In fact, they are happy with the nimbleness of Pristyn Care’s team in setting up new business verticals like telemedicine, COVID-19 screening and testing and the scaling up of our pharma supplies business during these trying times. These businesses have contributed to over 50 per cent of our revenue for April 2020, and at the same time, we have been successfully able to bring our burn rate down by 40 per cent this month.

You must have had plans for expansion lined up, any changes in the strategy now?

Due to this unprecedented crisis, even though our expansion plan into new categories of treatment and geographical expansion into new cities went slow, we fast tracked the expansion and scaled up new offerings pertaining to add value to patients during the lockdown. Our pharma and medical supplies business, telemedicine and COVID-19 testing and screening services are providing need-of-the-hour solutions to the country’s citizens. Post the crisis, we would continue our focus on these businesses while simultaneously getting our previous expansion plans back on track.

Once the lockdown is lifted, how do you plan to manage patient load?

We are totally prepared to manage the patient load after the lockdown is lifted. We have already done capacity planning across over 250 partner hospitals in more than 20 cities to ensure that each patient of ours undergoes a seamless journey to health and recovery. We also have a pipeline of new specialist surgeons in place who will be associating with us to further boost our capability to serve more patients. We have laid out a robust plan including stringent COVID-19 safety measures that have been implemented as part of our health and safety protocols across all our clinics and hospitals to ensure maximum safety of the patient, their attendants and also our team of more than 100 doctors.

What would be your message to the patients who are restless, waiting for services to begin?

For all patients seeking healthcare services, currently under lockdown, our message would be to take the maximum advantage of modern technology to get healthy. At a time when face-to-face interactions with doctors are not possible, we would urge patients to try out telemedicine and seek expert medical help without giving in to the temptation of self-diagnosis or self-medication. At the same time, we would also wish to inform patients that we are ready to serve those whose surgeries cannot be postponed due to the severity of their condition. Even in these difficult times, our dedicated teams are ready with travel, logistics, insurance, diagnostics and hospitalisation support to emergency cases. So, there is no need to suffer or feel helpless at home during this lockdown.

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