“Indian home healthcare segment witnessing an impressive 19.29% YoY growth”

Vaibhav Tewari, Co-founder & CEO, Portea Medical shared his views on the trends in home healthcare, growing role of digital technologies, growth drivers, and much more

Founded in July 2013, Portea Medical is India’s leading home healthcare provider with 4500+ employees and operations across 40 cities in India. The company manages ~ 120,000+ patient visits each month and works with more than 50 leading hospital partners, 15 pharma majors, and leading insurance companies in India.
In an exclusive interview, Vaibhav Tewari, Co-founder & CEO, Portea Medical shared his views on the trends in home healthcare, growing role of digital technologies, growth drivers, and much more

BV LogoHow has the home healthcare space evolved over the period of time in India?
Enabled by the ongoing digital transformation, the home healthcare space has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. During the pandemic, the effectiveness and efficiency of home healthcare were clearly visible throughout India. Millions of people now benefit from services like telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, virtual care, and home-based care across the country. The digital diagnostic space is witnessing significant innovation, and the integration of AI, ML, and data analytics into medical devices has simplified, made more affordable, and improved the accuracy of remote monitoring of patient health parameters. These technologies have empowered caregivers to overcome prevailing geographic barriers and resource constraints, while advanced AI algorithms aid in optimizing the allocation of medical resources, enhancing operational efficiency, and ensuring comprehensive quality care.
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What are the latest and emerging trends in home healthcare?
Currently, the Indian market is growing at an impressive 19.29% year-on-year, more than double the global growth rate for this segment. There is a noticeable increase in the usage of predictive analytics tools for symptom identification, early disease detection, and faster decision-making regarding interventions. Electronic Health Records have made it possible to seamlessly share data among different service providers, eliminating the risk of human error and the need for patients to carry documents every time they visit a medical facility. Factors such as the growing geriatric population, the prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes, and an increasing focus on preventive wellness will continue to drive the growth of home healthcare in India in the years to come.
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Based on your experience, which segments of the Indian population are using such services to the maximum and why? 
The maximum demand for home healthcare services comes from the geriatric population. Increase in life expectancy and access to better care has led to a scenario where India’s senior population is growing rapidly, and there is a significant rise in the need for chronic disease management, and home-based care for bedridden patients. The economic growth of the country has led to better family incomes in the middle-class category, and the fact that home healthcare is more affordable and convenient than hospital-based care, is also driving the demand for the services.
“Electronic Health Records have made it possible to seamlessly share data among service providers, eliminating the risk of human error.”
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What role has Portea Medical played in popularizing home healthcare? Your key initiatives in the last 2 years?
 Portea has played a major role in the evolution of home healthcare ecosystem in the recent years. The company is not only the largest out-of-hospital brand in the country, but also a key contributor to driving awareness about the services, and building of infrastructure and resources to cater to the pan-India demand. During the pandemic, we collaborated with various state governments and local authorities to support testing, identification, and isolation of COVID-19 patients. We have also established digital communication channels to provide information about the pandemic as well as various other prevailing diseases and health conditions.
Apart from that, Portea is also focusing on expanding the workforce by undertaking training and upskilling programmes for the healthcare sector personnel in India. We have introduced several path-breaking services such as home dialysis, home chemotherapy, and full-fledged home ICU support for bedridden patients. Further, innovations, and tailored care programmes are being introduced from time to time, to ensure that everyone can get the best-possible healthcare support within the home environment.
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How has Portea Medical incorporated digitalization in its services? 
 Right from the outset, Portea has been a digitally-driven out-of-hospital healthcare provider. We have integrated digitalization in various ways such as usage of electronic health records to store patient data and track their intervention plans and progress. This allows our caregivers to have an easy access to the patient information, enabling them to make well-informed decisions about care. We have been using telehealth platforms to provide remote care to patients, and such services were extensively deployed during the pandemic when patients were unable to travel to a physical healthcare facility.
We have introduced mobile apps to promote self-management of healthcare by the patients. These help in tracking symptoms, communicating with care providers, and access information. Portea has also been at the forefront of using advanced data analytics and AI tools to analyse patient data and identify health patterns. Our telehealth platform served over a million COVID patients, and our app has been downloaded by over 500,000 patients.
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What key factors must companies be mindful of while implementing digital technologies? 
 At the outset, it is important to identify the resources that a company has and the target audience as well as their specific healthcare needs and concerns. This will enable them to determine the type and extent of technologies that need to be deployed. The core factors that every digital healthcare or out-of-hospital care company must focus on are patient privacy and security, ease of use, accessibility, affordability, and regulatory compliances.
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How can collaborations within industry help to create a future-ready healthcare ecosystem?  
 With over 1.4 billion people to take care of, the Indian healthcare ecosystem is probably the largest in the world. However, there is a significant shortage of resources in the country. Further, the existing healthcare resources are unevenly distributed and while there is ample coverage in major cities, and even redundant capabilities in some areas, large swathes of rural India remain negligibly covered by the institutional healthcare services. This is where collaborations between different ecosystem stakeholders such as hospitals, home healthcare companies, diagnostic labs, pharma companies, pharmacy chains, and authorities can help in creating a future-ready and reliable healthcare ecosystem in the country.
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In which ways can data analytics, EHR, AI, ML, IoT devices, health IT, informatics, etc. be leveraged for transforming patient outcomes? 
These technologies are enabling improved service coverage and patient outcomes in many ways. Healthcare providers can leverage analytics to identify patterns and trends that can help in personalization of the treatment process to improve outcomes for individuals. Tools like IBM’s Watson have been a landmark development in usage of advanced tech to identify symptoms and detecting diseases at an early stage. Data from screenings and vaccinations can be obtained and analysed by various AI-powered tools to facilitate preventive care. Further, data analytics can help healthcare providers to have a clearer understanding of a patient’s condition and EHR can provide easy access to the medical history, enabling a well-informed and superior decision making.
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What are the major challenges that the Indian healthcare industry is facing in implementing these technologies and the need for regulatory compliance? 
Most of these pertain to infrastructure, resources, and policies. The Indian government has strict regulations on data privacy and security. This coupled with diversity of laws and ambiguity in some areas, make it difficult for healthcare organizations to implement digital technologies that collect and store patient data. Again the Indian healthcare infrastructure is not as developed as in other countries.  The healthcare workforce is not as well-trained in digital technologies as in other countries. This can make it difficult to implement digital technologies that require specialized skills.
Despite these challenges, the Indian healthcare industry is making progress in implementing digital technologies. The government is taking steps to address the challenges – the national digital health mission is one such example. There is no doubt that we will witness significant deployment of advanced technologies in healthcare delivery through institutional as well as out-of-hospital channels in the future.
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What are your current initiatives and plans in driving healthcare innovations?
Our primary focus revolves around four key areas. First is building sustomized personalized healthcare plans. We firmly believe in the power of personalized care. To that end, we are dedicated to tailoring healthcare plans to meet the unique needs and requirements of each individual patient. By understanding their specific medical history, lifestyle, and preferences, we can offer tailored solutions that optimize health outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Second area of focus is leveraging digital technology for improved efficiency and patient interactions: Embracing the advancements in digital technology, we are continually integrating innovative solutions to enhance efficiency and improve patient interactions. Our goal is to streamline administrative processes, enable seamless communication between patients and healthcare providers, and facilitate easier access to medical information.
Third is the chronic care management plans for hypertension and diabetic patients. Chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes demand specialized attention and consistent monitoring. We have developed comprehensive chronic care management plans that focus on early detection, continuous monitoring, and proactive intervention to manage these conditions effectively. By empowering patients with the necessary tools and resources, we aim to improve their quality of life and reduce the risks associated with these conditions.
Finally, the personalized eldercare management for patients at home. We recognize the unique challenges faced by elderly patients who prefer to receive care in the comfort of their homes. Our eldercare management programme is designed to cater to their specific needs, ensuring that they receive the attention, medical support, and assistance required to maintain their well-being while aging gracefully at home.

*This interview was first published in the August 2023 edition of BioVoice News eMagazine.