Bringing back the family doctor

Bringing back the family doctor

In the next three and a half years, HealthSpring Community Medical Centres plans to setup 170 centres across metros and record a turnover of Rs. 800 crore

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

In 2009, Kaushik Sen found strong reasons to quit a lucrative job as a senior consultant at Bain & Company and plunge into healthcare entrepreneurship. Two things caught his interest; the opportunity to build a great business in India’s unorganised, primary healthcare sector and to do good to the society. “The primary healthcare space constitutes about 60 per cent of healthcare expenditure in the country. The space was begging for a good approach, to create better efficiencies, better structures and eventually, a long-term sustainable business,” he states. In the process, Kaushik believed that such an initiative could also drive better health outcomes and lower medical costs for individuals.

In 2009, he, along with his father, Gautam Sen, founded HealthSpring Community Medical Centres (HealthSpring), under the parent company WellSpring Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. By investing their life savings and raising a seed capital of Rs. 5 crore, the duo set up the first centre at Goregaon in April 2010.  A year later, to fuel expansions within Mumbai, the company raised its first round of external funding to the tune of Rs. 20.5 crore from Catamaran Venture Fund, Reliance Venture Asset Management and BlueCross BlueShied Venture Partners. Subsequently, it raised a second round in June 2013, to the tune of Rs. 22 crore from Asian Healthcare Fund, and existing investors. “These funds were channelised towards expanding our primary care centres across Mumbai. We currently have an active user base of 1.3 lakh,” states Kaushik.

If a patient is treated right the first time, he/ she will remain healthier for a longer period, which in turn will ensure that the healthcare expenditure comes down significantly.

Currently, HealthSpring has seven centres across Mumbai and has an employee base of 200, which includes the senior management, doctors, nurses, and administrative staff. All the doctors at HealthSpring are full-time employees and no part of their compensation is tied to volume. “90 per cent is fixed while 10 per cent is variable, depending on the quality of care provided. Essentially, we are taking away the element of a doctor over-prescribing to a patient,” explains Kaushik.

The services offered at the centres range from family physicians, comprehensive chronic care and routine diagnostics, to health checks and vaccinations. The centres also have an in-built tele-health section, where patients (from across the country) can reach a doctor at any time during the day or night. As a third, HealthSpring has dispatched 45 ambulances across the city, to handle emergency cases. “Our doctors are available round the clock. Right now, we receive close to 20 calls a day,” he adds.

Since inception, Kaushik notes that the company has been witnessing a 5X growth, year-on-year. Apart from clocking revenues through individual and tele-health consultations, member programmes, shared services (such as physiotherapy) and such, HealthSpring has entered into corporate partnerships with companies such as ICICI and Oberoi Realty, to offer regular employee health check-ups.

In the next three and a half years, the company plans to setup 170 centres across the country, and record a turnover of Rs. 800 crore. “We will also be adding more services which are feasible from an existing network perspective. To fuel these expansions, we are in the process of raising a third round, to the tune of Rs. 50 crore, in the near future,” shares Kaushik.

Playing on affordability

The company views affordability from two perspectives; one, the individual services should be priced fairly and transparently. For instance, HealthSpring charges every patient a consultation fee of Rs. 350, which allows them to avail an unlimited number of free check-ups for the duration of the illness. Secondly, he reasons that, if a patient is treated right the first time it will ensure that the healthcare expenditure comes down significantly.

The company operates on a long-term lease model, which plays a key role in maintaining the low-cost of healthcare delivery. “We make sure we enter into leases which are affordable to us in the long-term,” says Kaushik. The company also tries to be asset-light in terms of equipment. Every HealthSpring centre only has medical equipment that is required on a routine basis. Ones that are not available at the centre are compensated for, by entering into external partnerships with other hospitals in the city. “There are two things patients look to us for, when it comes to external partnerships. One, they expect us to guide them to other high quality providers. So, we take our time to evaluate and enter into the right partnerships. Secondly, we ensure that we maintain an arm’s length relationship with that external provider,” says Kaushik. For instance, when HealthSpring recommends an external provider to a patient, it will not have a vested interest (in a way of receiving commission on the number of visits). The patient will be given a choice of availing the recommended service from its partners or elsewhere.

Gaining the right recognition

While entering into a new category in India comes with a lot of opportunities, the process of creating the right level of acceptance among the target audience also poses a significant challenge. This, in fact, is the biggest difficulty that HealthSpring is facing today. “From experience, we understood that once our customers come to us, the repeat usage is very good. Our focus is now on leading the customer to make the first visit,” says Kaushik. He adds that a lack of good talent also poses a challenge in this space. To tackle this, the company has designed a robust internal training mechanism to bring doctors up to the mark, during induction and on a regular basis.

Currently, the company’s primary route to brand awareness is through word-of-mouth. “Our partnership with corporates has proved to be very effective in spreading the word about HealthSpring. Right now, that is our biggest marketing investment,” shares Kaushik.

Owing to its current pace of growth, Kaushik indicates that the company will clock a turnover of Rs. 800 crore in the next three and a half years. “Ultimately, our vision is to create the most trusted healthcare brand in the country by providing high quality, ethical, dependable primary care services. I believe we are going in the right direction to fulfil that,” says Kaushik, on an ending note.


Snapshot

HealthSpring Community Medical Centres

Founders: Kaushik Sen and Gautam Sen

Year: 2009

Investors: Catamaran Venture Fund, Reliance Venture Asset Management, BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, Asian Healthcare Fund

Target turnover (in three and a half years):  Rs. 800 crore


What Next?

Raise third round of funding, of Rs. 50 crore, by end of year

Setup 170 new centres in metros across the country

Expand service offerings feasible from an existing network perspective

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