04 Aug Innovating Digital Delivery of Healthcare – A Conversation with Karma Primary Healthcare
Karma Primary Healthcare is one of Ennovent’s Impact Investment Holding (IIH) portfolio companies, which first received investment in 2015. Karma’s mission is to provide equitable access to quality primary healthcare in rural and semi-urban India through a technology-enabled ecosystem. They started working towards their mission with their nurse-assisted e-Doctor clinics, and gradually over the last year, they have made massive strides in the digital delivery of healthcare. In this story, we speak with Karma’s CEO and Co-founder, Jagdeep Gambhir, to understand how they have doubled down on their focus on the digital delivery of healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic.
Scaling Contactless Consultations
“During the first wave of COVID-19, we were caught off-guard”, says Jagdeep, while referring to the restricted functioning of their clinics and the capacity to reach more people. During this time, Karma upgraded its technology to support contactless consultation through its mobile app. They started using this technology to reach all their patients, and it helped them deliver quality care as the second wave hit India badly this year.
“As the second wave hit, we had to scale contactless consultations”, says Jagdeep, “we quickly got our teams geared to using the technology. We inducted a specialised COVID-response team exclusively to provide affordable care during this time.” While the primary demographic of Karma lives in rural India, the widespread impact of second-wave made them take an executive decision to open out consultations to everyone. “This was a state of emergency; we decided to treat as many people as we could”, says Jagdeep.
With such a massive responsibility, Karma worked towards extending their call centre working hours. While the call centre initially worked for 9 hours every day, the team worked towards upping it to a 24*7 call centre to provide contactless consultations and emergency support. As an extension to their call centre, Karma also set up a COVID war room, where they called community leaders and, through their call centre, collected requirements for oxygen, bed, and groceries and arranged for the same. “We helped at least 100 critical patients, through our COVID-19 war room efforts”, explains Jagdeep.
“Our work did not stop with the contactless consultations. From our ground staff, we understood that there was a severe shortage of medicines, thermometers, and pulse oximeters, so we had to procure these in bulk and distribute them”, explains Jagdeep.
During the peak of the cases in the second wave, Karma also built a specialised consulting and monitoring app for those experiencing low to moderate COVID symptoms. Typically, these were patients in-home quarantine. The team created a solution involving doctor consultations, nutritional consultations, mental health support, and the provision for self-reporting vitals using their app. “We created a facility to deliver mental healthcare along with physical healthcare and implemented this model in five Indian states – Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Meghalaya, impacting over 12,000 people”, says Jagdeep.
As the second wave started coming down, and everyone in the country could see signs of hope, Karma moved into action with vaccination education. “Before the peak of the second wave, in April this year, we realised there are misconceptions about the COVID-19 preventive vaccines. We used our call centre to make over 7,000 one-to-one calls to our existing patients to raise awareness and dispel doubts about the vaccines. As a lot of people don’t have access to the internet, our team also supported them in the registration, slot scheduling and also provided conveyance support in some cases”, says Jagdeep.
Over time, as they built capacity on vaccine education work, they started doing vaccine awareness in multiple Indian languages, including Tamil, Odiya, Bengali, and English. These calls led to them creating a series of communication materials to help build a positive conversation about the vaccine. Currently, Karma healthcare is planning vaccination camps, especially in regions where fewer people get the opportunity to receive the vaccines.
The Way Forward
While we talk about the way forward for Indian healthcare, Jagdeep insists on the value of awareness and preventive medicine. “Everyone knew the second wave was going to come, he says, “now I think people will understand the value of preventive medicine better.” For the future, Karma is focused on strengthening the primary care system and preventive medicine in rural India.
“We have also increased our capabilities”, adds Jagdeep, “our scale has increased, and our team is multi-lingual. Now we have a lot of belief in what we can do. We have also ramped up our efforts in contact-less consultations, which goes along with doorstep medicine delivery.” Karma is also now running door-to-door programs across nine clinics for home quarantined patients to provide support at their doorstep.
He also explains how they have moved from a nurse-assisted model to a blended model with online consultation over the last year. While they offer online consultation, they continue to focus and serve the same demographic that they treat in our nurse-assisted model. “We plan to go towards 100 clinics from the current 25 clinics in the next three years with the blended model”, says Jagdeep. He believes that their expertise in the nurse-assisted models will be a game-changer for this plan.
Jagdeep ends our conversation by bringing attention back to their primary mission. “At the end of the day, as we saw in the last couple of months, in a time of crises, irrespective of technology systems and medical systems, the only thing that survived was the intention to serve a fellow human in crisis. And we have a lot of belief that we will be able to do that continuously”.