Vikalp Sahni, Goibibo’s founding member and its former CTO, had bid adieu to the company in July last year. But his work in the healthcare sector had begun much earlier than when he announced his exit. In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached India’s shores, Vikalp felt that contract tracing was going to be important. That was when his colleague, Rahul Goyal, suggested the use of GPS for contract tracing.
While the duo was ideating on this, the government was focused on building an app for the same purpose – Corona Kavach. Simultaneously, Vikalp and Rahul, with the help of developers from Goibibo, first built the rudimentary Aarogya Setu app with GPS and soon improvised it to use Bluetooth.
They built the PoC in two days and showed Deep Kalra, CEO of MakeMyTrip, the prototype of the app that could help in contract tracing. Deep, in turn, shared the idea and the prototype with NITI Aayog, who facilitated the further development of Aarogya Setu.
It was during this time that Vikalp realised that the healthcare infrastructure in India needed a lot of tech upgradation and digitisation. During his sabbatical, while Vikalp was looking to start up in the fields of blockchain and corporate travel, healthcare hit a deeper chord. It led him to start Eka Care, which now gives 24×7 free consultation to COVID-19 patients.
The challenge of data
“Just getting the co-morbidity data was a challenge. Deciding to do something about it, we got together and started Eka in December 2o20 in Bengaluru. We wanted to build a health record platform for doctors and patients. But when the second wave hit, we knew we had to be a resource to help people across India, especially in towns and villages where there is no access,” Vikalp tells YourStory.
He says that a digitally-enabled and connected healthcare ecosystem is important for better health outcomes.
“An interaction between a doctor and care seeker is a very private and involved affair. It’s a long journey that they take together. We believe that technology has a crucial role to play for such a thing to happen. We aim to build a private, secure, and medically-aware platform that powers best-in-class user experience for doctors and care seekers,” says Vikalp.
The platform has already onboarded 250 doctors, of which over 100 are now serving COVID-19 patients voluntarily. The platform enables patients and doctors to connect on a 24×7 basis. Eka Care has three flows to facilitate the engagement.
- Doctor-led: Doctors, once onboarded, can run clinic operations and patient engagements, including teleconsultation, on Eka Care. The interface is simple to use whereby care seekers just need to add their phone numbers to avail the facilities.
- Lab-led: The team has partner labs that are reaching out to their customers by delivering reports using Eka Care. The reports are stored in the cloud within the private health repository of the care seeker. This integrated experience allows the lab, the doctor, and the care seeker to exchange relevant document with consent.
- Patient Led: “Many patients are directly reaching out to us, especially for COVID-19 consultation. We have 24×7 availability of our Covid Specialist doctors. These are our COVID-19 warriors, and just three days after the launch, we are serving more than 500 care seekers every day through this channel alone,” adds Vikalp.
He adds that the team is starting with doctor-care seeker connect, where the startup looks at the problems from a doctor’s lens. The team is building an AI-led teleconsultation platform married with an Integrated Prescription Environment.
“This would help doctors uplift their practice. For care seekers, a 24×7 connection with their doctors, access to intelligent health assessments, and document repository help them build a longitudinal view of their health,” explains Vikalp.
What does it do?
He says they help doctors manage their time better through an appointment system that acts as a smart assistant. The startup claims that Interactive Prescription Environment is easy to use, does not need training, and also helps reduce prescription errors. The platform makes obtaining the patient history private and secure.
On the other hand, care seekers can share their vitals and take AI-led health assessments that are intuitive and engaging.
“The platform supports English and Hindi as of now, and we are working on a host of other languages. With digital and in-person consultations just a click away, patients can share a host of information before and after consultation with their doctors. Doctors would be able to share informational content with their patients,” adds Vikalp.
He says the team has built deep expertise by leveraging fundamentals of medical standards such as SNOMED CT (including the custom capabilities being built for India), FHIR-HL7, ICD 10, and LOINC Codes. A doctor would be able to see alerts around allergies, contraindications, and drug interactions while prescribing.
Team and future
Eka Care consists of a team of 35 members that includes doctors. Vikalp says he has partnered with Deepak Tuli as the co-founder as they have a long association that goes back to building Goibibo from the ground-up, and then working together at MakeMyTrip.
“In this journey, my friend, neighbour, and long-time healthcare entrepreneur Abhishek Baggehotta has partnered as Strategic Investor and Advisor. He has been building healthcare software solutions for the past 20 years,” says Vikalp.
Currently bootstrapped, the founding team has pumped in $2.5 million of their personal capital. Providing free 24×7 consultations for COVID-19 patients, the startup is now trying to put in some capital to help the people in need. The business model is in the works, and the team is looking at later placing a convenience fee from patients/care seeker for doing teleconsultations.
Eka will be building deep-tech and medically aware products. Vikalp says that looking ahead, they aim to bring diagnosis tools over mobile for doctors to bring more value to teleconsultations. For patients, device integration will bring in continuous monitoring and they will open the platform for integration with other healthcare providers.
“We are also working with leading paediatricians and physicians to build digital vaccination and growth monitoring experiences. In the short-term, we are completely focused on helping people in need during this pandemic. We have launched a free 24×7 COVID-19 consultation on Eka Care and will continue on our mission. May all in need get timely help,” says Vikalp.