22 Sep ERC Eye Care’s Digital Plans – A Conversation with Dr. Parveez Ubed
ERC Eye Care is one of Ennovent’s Impact Investment Holding (IIH) portfolio companies. Being an omnichannel eye care service provider, they provide quality eye care at affordable costs through its four hub hospitals in North East India. With costs as low as Rs. 90/-, a patient can get a comprehensive consultation at ERC Eye Care.
As COVID-19 hit the country, ERC Eye Care had to adapt and innovate to continue their mission of helping people see better, so that they can live better. We spoke with Dr. Parveez Ubed, founder, ERC Eye Care about changes, innovations, and plans as the country continues to come to grips with the pandemic.
Parveez explains that ERC Eye Care is based on four A’s – Accessibility, Affordability, Acceptability, and Availability – and the pandemic presented challenges to accessibility that were unforeseen. “Earlier, 40% of our footfall was from community camps”, explains Parveez, “and, we could not organise these camps owing to COVID-19 precautions that we had to follow.”
That is when the team decided to speed up its process of digitising its services. “We started the process of digitising back in December 2019, and suddenly with the changes related to COVID-19, this shift got catalysed”, adds Parveez.
In the first phase of the rollout, which was at the same time that the country was grappling with a rigid COVID-related lockdown, ERC Eye Care started by offering telemedicine services. They reduced consultations in the clinics and began providing 15 to 20 consultations online every day. Quickly ERC Eye Care started moving towards being a physical and digital-integrated eye care company. They launched the first version of their online portal which starts to address accessibility by supporting online orders. “This is just a start, as we also intend to implement machine learning capabilities to this portal”, says Parveez.
Advanced Digital Interventions
While talking about the spirit behind these changes he says, “Democratising digital healthcare was a mandate that we had planned for in December 2019. So, now all the new systems we are developing are geared towards addressing this mandate. We wanted to ensure that people could access our digital network even without a smartphone.”
With this thought driving their work, and as a replacement for their community camps, ERC Eye Care is now working on a solution that provides provisional diagnosis at people’s doorsteps. Additionally, they are also in the process of developing a system supported by artificial intelligence to help people at the community-level understand the interventions they require for better vision.
This is particularly pertinent keeping in the mind the communities that ERC Eye Care serves. In their quest to making eye care affordable, ERC Eye Care caters to several low income and rural communities who do not have easy access to affordable and advanced eye care centres. Often, they have to travel several kilometers to the nearest city to be able to seek good eye care.
ERC Eye Care is also leveraging its delivery network to improve accessibility. “We have now also installed an interactive system in one of our hubs to address the prevailing distancing norms. With the digital screen that has been installed, people can understand how the product would work for them, and automatically get it delivered to their homes”, says Parveez.
Recently, their digital footsteps have rightfully been recognised by TiE50 – the world’s largest tech entrepreneurship conference in Silicon Valley – who selected ERC Eye Care as one of the 50 winners from across the world.
ERC Eye Care’s Core Values Driving Change
While their digital journey has been proceeding at a quick pace, the team at ERC Eye Care has been keen about keeping their staff safe and happy,
playing their part for the society during COVID times. The senior management took a conscious effort to not let the economics of the pandemic affect their staff. To keep from downsizing, 14 members of their 140-strong team – all of them in senior management – voluntarily took a pay cut. “We had to stay together as a team because we are like a family”, says Parveez.
When the first phase of the lockdown hit the country, the team leveraged their call centre to educate past patients about COVID-19 symptoms, physical distancing, and hand washing.
“It was a self-gratifying exercise for us. We reached out to 6000 people and told them about COVID-19 protocol so that they would not fall prey to false news”, says Dr. Parveez.
In these COVID-times when access is playing a big role in delivering healthcare, it is very hopeful to see the innovations that ERC Eye Care has undertaken to provide quality eye care for their patients. Changes and innovations like this will go a long way in making lasting changes that could impact the sector during and beyond COVID.