Explain what the "innovation" is about, e.g., is it the idea and/or the model you use to accomplish the idea, or your understanding of the target population, etc.?
MeraDoctor makes high-quality health advice easy and affordable by offering consultations with licensed doctors over the phone 24 hours a day. By making primary care virtual, we enable good doctors to serve patients at a low cost almost anywhere in India, exponentially expanding access to high quality health advice
A similar model -- phone triage by nurses -- is common in public and private health systems across the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. However, in adapting this model to be a primary care service for rural and urban India, we have had to relentlessly innovate both in terms of service features as well as in terms of our operational model. For example, rather than nurses, we employ only licensed doctors since doctors are more trusted by rural families. Similarly, to reduce costs and barriers-to-use for poor families we have created a missed-call access system that makes calling us free and easy. Finally, we’ve used partnerships with large financial and retail players to deploy a massive distribution network that enables rural families to buy our service conveniently and in cash. Together, these innovations mean that we can bring affordable, easy, high quality medical advice to people all over India very quickly. We are just beginning to see how powerful this reach will become in transforming the delivery of healthcare in India.
Describe how your innovation model is distinct from any other organization in your field?
MeraDoctor stands out as the easiest way to get reliable medical advice. Unlike our competitors, people can use us from home, at any hour of the day, without incurring phone charges, and are instantly connected to a live, fully licensed doctor. In India, MeraDoctor competes with local doctors and quacks, telemedicine start-ups, and mobile operator hotlines. Compared to these players we are easier-to-use (24x7, free missed-call), more accessible (available for cash purchase at thousands of locations), and higher quality (only trained and licensed doctors supported by clinical software). Many of our rural customers say they have never had a healthcare experience like ours in which doctors are patient, compassionate, and proactively follow-up to ensure improvement.
What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?
Today, up to 80% of rural Indians rely on unqualified local providers (quacks) for everyday healthcare because although rural areas are home to 72% of India’s population, only 26% of licensed doctors live there. Most of these people want better care. MeraDoctor can help meet the demands of this market.
We have a highly experienced team, a track record of operations, scalable technology – and since early 2011 – we’ve provided more than 12,000 doctor consultations by phone to everyone from illiterate MFI borrowers to business executives in Mumbai. Having done more than 12,000 consultations for families across India, we’ve shown that doctors on the phone can resolve illnesses, correct mis-diagnoses, stop patients from wasting money on wrong treatments, and even save lives.
How do you make sure you constantly innovate in light of (potential) external challenges, or your growth plan?
Our strategy in creating MeraDoctor has been to constantly iterate to make our product more effective, more affordable, and easier to use. All the various aspects of our product, from service features to marketing techniques to doctor scripts, have been developed over time as we have gotten to know our customers and built our capacity. This culture of constant iteration and improvement pervades our company and processes. Furthermore, our plans for future growth and product development are build around this strategy. We approach product and service innovation as a core process in creating our business, not as an exercise to be completed apart from our daily work.