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Telemedicine on steroids

A nifty medical device combined with a non-profit group powers telemedicine in UP and MP. Wimax and 3G networks could be the big game changer for Neurosynaptic.

Print Edition: March 21, 2010

Think of a product morphing into something much bigger when married with a platform. Something like iPod and iTunes. Neurosynaptic Communications, a remote medicine start-up, is nowhere near as wildly successful as the Apple Inc. blockbusters but its social impact is perhaps in the same league.

The Neurosynaptic product, called ReMeDi (short for Remote Medical Device), can be installed anywhere with Internet connectivity and has been designed to work in the most rugged of Indian conditions. The doctor at the other end, logging in through a video link, can measure parameters like body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate and record an electro-cardio graph. Its electronic stethoscope captures chest sounds and a central database stores patient records.

Neurosynaptic Communications

CO-FOUNDERS: Sameer Sawarkar and Rajeev Kumar

INNOVATION: Move beyond just offering affordable telemedicine solutions to a platform for various services and create an ecosystem for delivery of health care in remote locations.

MODEL:Working on various models with partners ranging from revenue-sharing, technology fees and leasing arrangements.

SCALE: Has supplied 400 remote medical devices since 2007. Revenues (not disclosed) increased five-fold last year and the company hopes to double it this year.

Bangalore-based Neurosynaptic works with partners—some half a dozen are keen on scaling it up, says its CEO Sameer Sawarkar—and one, World Health Partners (WHP), has a network of 137 ReMeDi-powered centres set up in just seven months in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It has another 43 centres set up in private and government partnership and some 170 centres as experiments with various entities in India and abroad. "India is a country of 6,50,000 villages and that means one would need at least 65,000 such centres. We plan to reach a size of 2,000 centres in two years and up to 8,000 centres in five years," says Gopi Gopalakrishnan, WHP’s President.

Patients are charged Rs 10 if they are below the poverty line (with WHP contributing Rs 20 each towards consultation and giving Rs 30 to the local centre operator) and Rs 50, if they are not so poor. At the moment, WHP also subsidises costs incurred for doctors, counsellors and paramedics and hopes to spread costs over time with increased volumes. With third generation mobile phone networks or WiMax data networks this year or next, Gopalakrishnan feels, ReMeDi could go mobile and help the spread of telemedicine in India.

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