With the medical tourism booming in our country, the health care services are getting better and expensive. It may be a delight to many of us but not all. The people falling in the low income group face the heat of increasing healthcare costs as the diseases make no discrimination in targeting, whether rich or poor. In such a scenario, Swasth India organization tries to cut short the exaggerated medical bills for the people who find it difficult to meet ends.
The problem starts when a low income family is hit by medical requirements, which force them to take loans. Most of the time the initial loans ease out only the inpatient bills and for outpatient bills they look for more loans. The family member falls sick and in most of the cases the family loses a source of income. These entire factors engulf them into a poverty trap. According to WHO, Every year in India 32 million people above the poverty line go below the poverty line because of a health event. The factor that puts this problem in a vicious circle is the lack of affordable and adaptable health insurance policies. The often quoted complaint of a low income family reluctant to renew a health insurance policy - “I have paid my premium but didn’t go to hospital, so what value did I get from my membership?”
The idea to launch Swasth India did not come with the fall of an apple. The organization is a joint effort of two college friends from IIT Bombay who did what every normal engineer would do after their graduation; they joined renowned companies with fat packages. There is no doubt that somewhere deep down each one of us want to help the society and so did they.
Sundeep Kapila, an IIT Bombay graduate, joined the India practice of McKinsey & Co in 2001 and worked with them for 6.5 years specialising in the Healthcare and Development sectors. Sundeep left McKinsey in January 2008 to pursue his passion in the development sector. His other classmate from IIT Bombay, Ankur Pegu joined the advisory practice of KPMG in 2001. Ankur’s decision to join Swasth India in May 2008 was spurred by his desire to implement rapidly scalable health-systems. These two friends wanted to make a significant impact on the people’s lives and came across this problem when shortlisting the areas in which India needs to work. And from there started, what is now a ray of hope to all the people who cannot afford the rising costs of healthcare expenses.
Swasth India which started as an idea in June 2008, became concrete in November 2008. During this time, they travelled for months across 6 to 7 states to meet doctors, NGOs, health insurance companies and get to the root of the problem. The idea was very clear. A vision to build a healthy and resilient India by ensuring health equity and security for all. The organization is aimed to address the health care needs of people belonging to low income segment. It is a well-planned business model aimed to make a significant impact on people’s lives. The goal is to reach a larger number of people, and therefore Swasth India is not modelled as a non profitable organization but a sustainable and scalable socio-business model which unlike an NGO has no lack of funds.
It was never a clear sailing for the founders. The idea of diluting the gap between manufacturing price to actual sale price of the medicines couldn’t work because of several factors involving the licence procedures. It was difficult to get more and more people to join the organization. Different experiments were conducted to minimize the consultation and drug prices. Six different models were devised to cut down the cost of medical facilities from 50 to 70%. They learnt that anything takes 10 times the effort thought and 10 times the TIME. The biggest challenge which still remains a problem is to convince people to save for health and educate them about the concept of health insurance.
THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
Currently, Swasth India with 7 help centres in Bombay has helped more than 6200 families and 12000 lives. The key features cover cashless hospitalization, discounted drugs and consultation, and preventive healthcare. The cost cutting is made possible by utilizing spare capacity of the doctors and hospitals, negotiating distributor-prices with drug companies and setting up an in-house diagnostic laboratory. Patient history is maintained in electronic format (in-house software) to enable case management and ensure systematic billing. In doing so, a total of 87% social return has been observed from all the Swasth India health centres. This being the achievement on social front, the economic growth achieved from this knowledge focussed organization can be highlighted by the fact that Swasth India has prevented more than 275 families (estimated) from going below poverty line due to catastrophic health-events and caused 30-40% reduction in expenses towards regular outpatient events. And this is not all.
The organization with its well framed concepts aims to ensure access to affordable and quality health services to 15 million low-income people by 2015. The plan for setting up 10 more Swasth India centres by June 2013 is already in action. Let us hope that the organization achieves much more than what they target, unmoved by the social barriers gripping our society and supported by people among us who can extend a helping hand to all those who need not pity but help and guidance.