This 'Virtual Doctor' is Eliminating Geographic Bottlenecks between Patients & Medical Assistants
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How often do we find ourselves standing in long queues outside a doctor’s cabin waiting for them to get done with other patients before catering to you? Despite the facility of appointments and convenience of private hospitals, the doctor-patient ratio in India is abysmal with about 1700 patients to one doctor. Disturbing right? The situation calls for the development of the healthcare delivery model.
Acceptance of artificial intelligence has maximized operational efficiency in various spaces and healthcare can also leverage the technology. With the mission to build India’s largest virtual healthcare delivery network is Mfine - an AI-driven digital health platform that is eliminating geographic boundaries between patients & medical assistants.
Incepted by the former Myntra executives, Ashutosh Lawania (co-founder) and Prasad Kompalli (former technology and business head), the app-based healthcare service provides its users access to online consultations and care programmes from the country’s top hospitals with the aims of making access to trusted healthcare simple, fast and proactive.
How does it work?
Mfine uses a unique approach that has not been attempted in India earlier. It partners with reputed hospitals to set up a cloud-based virtual clinic in the vicinity for the doctors on board to interact with patients through the chat or video interface via the app.
“To assist the doctors, we have set up a care team- a team of 60 in-house doctors who act as the doctors’ assistants by collecting patient history and preparing the case sheet,” Kompalli shared, boasting that their virtual doctor is capable of diagnosing more than 1200 common diseases. The virtual assistant is trained in medical concepts and symptoms for those diseases.
Explaining the working of the virtual doctor mfine has built, the platform’s Chief Technology Officer, Ajit Narayanan shared, “A Virtual doctor is an Assistive Artificial Intelligence-based agent and is one of the parts of our AI healthcare platform (one manifestation). It is modelled like a human doctor with the ability to reason, have a conversation and even with the ability to see (computer vision).”
Think of this as being trained through medical literature. The Virtual doctor reinforces this learning from all the cases that happen on the mfine platform and adjusts its reasoning capability. Just like how a human doctor learns from experience. The virtual doctor assists our human doctors on the platform, he further simplified.
The Unique Approach
Mfine strives to simplify access to quality primary and secondary healthcare in India. Despite being at a nascent stage, the startup is working towards establishing a quality service for the benefit of customers. In the last 15 months, over 100,000 customers from across 800 towns in India have consulted on mfine. The platform has recorded a 30 per cent growth in the customer base over a month.
The convenience of consulting the finest doctors via smartphones has made mfine a first-choice network in rural India. “We have had cases from remote villages where accessing a local doctor is impossible, let alone, meeting a specialist from another city. We have helped these patients access the best doctors in their fields, without making it a financial burden on them,” Kompalli shared.
Currently, mfine has partnered with over a 100 top hospitals and plans to spread its network to over 250 hospitals. Kompalli believes that working with hospitals makes the platform’s economics better and it will help them reach profitability in due course. He roots for healthcare to become a proactive system through combined efforts by doctors and platforms like mfine.
Mfine’s virtual doctor asks the relevant questions from patients during the consultation to help the doctors in preparing a case summary, arriving at diagnosis to assist and support our doctors. The system also manifests “a set of tools for consumers allowing them to access health data, check for symptoms, check for results from their lab reports etc,” Narayanan provided.
The healthtech startup in April raised $17.2 million from Japan’s SBI Group, SBI Ven Capital, BeeNext and existing investors - Prime Venture Partners and Stellaris Venture Partners. The platform raised its seed fund of $1.5 million in 2017 from Stellaris Venture Partners, followed by Series A round in 2018 led by Prime Venture Partners, Stellaris and Mayur Abhaya.
Getting investments from the notable Japanese and Singaporean VCs is a matter of pride and Kompalli acknowledges it. “SBI was looking at companies that are building unique AI based tech platforms in sectors like healthcare, finance, etc and they really appreciated the business model we built and tech platform we built leading to their decision to invest.”
With the fresh funding, mfine plans to solidify its leadership position in delivering an AI-driven, on-demand healthcare service across India. Mfine will use the funds to expand its hospital network across the country, build its AI technology and expand the recently launched additional services which include delivering medicines, conducting preventive health screenings and diagnostic tests.
Mfine has the potential to change the demographics of the medical industry. With respect to future investments, mfine is looking to “add more capabilities around vision (Diagnostic reports, Imaging reports, Images of body parts/ symptoms/ affected areas), its conversational capabilities (NLU, NLG) and hearing capabilities (for example: being able to detect the type of infection based on a cough sound), Narayanan stated.
Furthermore, investments will happen towards building health trackers that allow consumers to track key health and fitness parameters, building health checkers for basic health report issues through simple to use checker tools, device integration: Work with medical devices and integrate with fitness devices for examining vital parameters.