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Collaboration is the key to disruption in healthcare

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By Raelene Kambli

How can companies truly bring in positive market disruption and ensure the sustainability of their business? How can companies gain a competitive advantage and secure a strong position in the economic value chain?

Collaborate to disrupt, say most business experts.

In an era where digital innovations are challenging traditional business models and reshaping the competitive landscape of many industries, established companies can proactively manage change by engaging in collaborative innovation. This kind of strategic alliance helps companies to gain agility and cost-effective value as well as an opportunity to reinvent themselves to drive inclusive growth for business and society. In such iterative and collaborative relationships, businesses can survive and thrive through disruptions.

Take, for instance, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system. The scale and the speed that UPI carries for transactions, is impeccable. As many as 143 Indian banks are live on UPI platform. In October 2019, UPI crossed one billion transactions and has over 100 million active users on its platform. Nowhere in the world, have such transactions ever happened on one single platform. This ecosystem has truly disrupted the financial banking services in India in many ways. Moreover, the entire world is keen on UPI.

Similarly, in healthcare, such an ecosystem can be built in which the traditional models of working and disrupting in silos can be altered with collaborative models and an exceptional impact can be made.

The healthcare advantage

A strong clinical and engineering foothold,  significant global exposure, a positive capital flow balance and a plethora of talent, certainly gives India’s healthcare sector a competitive edge. Moreover, healthcare businesses in India thrive on factors that solve the primary needs of patients and healthcare providers. Collaborative models hence strengthen these factors and facilitate companies to harness each other’s resources and capabilities to create products and services that help solve several healthcare challenges in India and worldwide.

Now, from a macro-economic perspective, healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors both in terms of revenue and employment. Currently, the sector has opportunities, while it also faces challenges.

On the brighter side, India Brand Equity Foundation report quotes that by 2022 the market is expected to record a CAGR of 16.28 per cent. Indian companies are entering into mergers and acquisitions with domestic and foreign companies to drive growth and gain new market opportunities. The hospital industry in India stood at Rs 4 trillion (US$ 61.79 billion) in 2017 and is expected to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16-17 per cent to reach Rs 8.6 trillion (US$ 132.84 billion) by 2023. However, healthcare providers, insurance companies and medtech players today face several headwinds in the face of rising costs, lower profit margins and the need to expand access to innovative therapies, which often are more expensive. The challenges are further exacerbated given the generally low affordability thresholds as compared to the developed markets in the West. Therefore, slimmer margins and new regulatory policies in healthcare are creating a mandate for scale through the idea of disruption via collaborations. Moreover, the scope for better innovations, need to create more access to healthcare and the need for newer business models also feed the idea of disruption through collaboration.

So, how does the industry perceive the idea of disruption through collaborations?

“Collaborative disruption is when the existing ecosystem of hospitals, doctors and labs is going to work with digital healthcare platforms. The flow of data is extremely important because right now the challenge is that the data is fragmented. The problem with most of these platforms is that they are all provider-centric and not consumer-centric. While apps are consumer-centric, there needs to be a platform that combines this. There is a need for advanced healthcare ecosystem that consists of fitness tracker/wearable and a care team which includes personal coach, health expert, doctors and diagnostics. The advance ecosystem then brings all the user health data on to a single platform from which it can be analysed by the care team. This allows for the user to receive personalised health advice as per their lifestyle and habits”, believes Vishal Gondal, Founder and CEO, GOQii.

Now, Gondal believes that the disruption will happen due to digital transformation and so he urges companies to think of an ecosystem that will thrive on collaborations. But Madan Krishnan, Vice President and MD, Indian Sub-Continent (South Asia), Medtronics already considers this happening. He says, “Collaborations are fuelling the future of healthcare. We see rapid advancements in medical technology playing a major role in the necessary move towards sustainable models of care. To get there, there is a need for stronger collaboration between among medtech companies, doctors, government and other stakeholders. Around the globe, partnerships are beginning to take hold that exemplifies how to collectively define and understand the challenges that exist; address them head-on; explore opportunities, and accelerate progress towards a better future.”

Looking at the larger benefit to the nation, Dr Arjun Dang, CEO, Dr Dang’s Labs opines that a collaborative ecosystem and process can lead to higher patient impact and better quality which is the need of the hour. This would require a mindset open to metamorphosis and well-actioned pilot programmes for validation.

Sharing similar thoughts, Sunil Thakur, Managing Director, Quadria Capital Advisors and Member, NATHEALTH, says, “At this stage of our evolution, there is a compelling need to orchestrate contribution from different participants to help and support tangible disruptive models. It includes key stakeholders like hospital providers, diagnostics companies, regulators, payer groups, investors and above all, the patients. Different players bring different strengths and contribution to the table. One of the finest examples of collaborative disruption is the genomics study being done across the globe, something that’s now coming to India as well. Programmes are jointly funded by private and public money and data are collected from patient groups who volunteer to get the benefit and the same is used by research organisations for studies as well as pharma companies for drug discovery. Other examples of collaborative disruption include programmes sponsored by government bodies including C-Camp, Biotechnolgy Industry Researach Assistance Council (BIRAC), National Health Authority (NHA), Ministry of Health (MOH), etc., where government and private funders seed programmes that use public infrastructure and resources (including research agencies and universities) and work closely with private companies and to develop products in the area of medical devices, biopharma, medical services including diagnosis and treatment. There are quite a few data analytics companies that are working with private and public organisations to use their data and provide clinical intelligence platform and can use longitudinal data to create AI support modules for different kinds of interventions and treatments.”

Adding to this, Omar Sherief Mohammad, GM, Roche Diabetes speaks about several opportunities for collaborative disruption in the entire value chain of healthcare. “Collaboration is very much in the offing which can enable data assimilation to perform health technology assessment and use the data based on treatment outcomes to conduct centralised bidding process and procure medications to make them available through insurance schemes making them accessible and affordable. Needless to say, this disruption is not possible without collaboration and partnerships”, he shares.

While Indian healthcare business leaders ascertain that collaborative models for positive disruption are the way to go to build sustainable businesses in this transformational age. In our next article, we will share some examples of how healthcare companies collaborate to disrupt.

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