In the services sector, if not elsewhere, online often depends on performance offline. Offline and online enjoy a symbiotic relationship and service providers will do well to keep the two arms of business in fine form. This is never truer than in the health services sector, where online pitches in when resources are scarce, but sometimes there is no substitute for meeting up with a doctor.

Indian entrepreneurs in the health sector seem to have cottoned on to this mantra. Let’s take a look at a couple of different ventures in two different parts of the country that are easily complementing online presence with solid offline services: ehealth Access in Hyderabad and Mylabyogi in Mumbai.

“In health, it is still about bridging the demand, supply gap,” says ehealth Access director Ramprabhu. His venture started as a result of the good response to a phone-based consultation programme: Dial Your Doctor. Triggered by a clear and present need among corporates to cover health costs of employees, soon had 35,000 customers.

“Working with them, we realised that sometimes there is an acute need for an employee to consult the doctor even when they are at work. Say a nagging toothache for days, muscle spasm that just got worse, high blood pressure or blood sugar detected after a casual test, the likes,” Mr. Ramprabhu says. Was there anyway that ehealth Access could meet that demand?

That is how the kiosk idea evolved. At the moment piloting with employees of one corporate only, the kiosk is a joint where a registered user can go to meet a doctor over video conference. “We have over 500 specialists and seven in-house general physicians who will be available for consultation via a very simple video device at the kiosk. There offline meets online and online spills over offline again.

While Mylabyogi operates on a different batch of services, simply choosing to “simplify diagnostics.” Its co-founder and COO Novella Lawrence says anyone visiting can compare labs, prices and choose and book a centre for his/ her medical tests to be processed irrelevant of where they stay in Mumbai. Trained technicians collect samples from your doorstep and also deliver results right there.

She adds, “We basically provide home visits for sample collection and ECG across the city. Online, we have content on diseases and tests online for the customer to read and understand his/her tests/ condition. It’s like a “makemytrip” in diagnostics with a last mile offline delivery service. We also have a depository of reports online against each customer’s login for their ready reference.”

In the healthcare set up, the severe crunch of human resource always looms large, whether in the private or the public sector. “If we can take, as we intend to, with government support, our kiosks to the villages, then we might have done a little to beat that shortage of professionals. Our aim is a pan-India presence.” Mr. Ramprabhu, an engineer himself, says.

“For an e-health player, technology can solve and streamline some pain points, but the real gap in healthcare is service delivery at the last mile and that is where an offline presence really solves the challenge,” Ms. Lawrence says. “As my partner Aneesh Khanna always jokes, ‘If we can collect a urine sample on the cloud that is when we don’t need an offline presence.”

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