There is no standard playbook for running a business, but what I’ve understood in the last one year is that the ability to adapt and remain agile in the midst of a crisis will determine if you can sustain one.
When I wrote in this blog about a year ago, the pandemic was redrawing the rules of the game, disrupting an atmosphere buoyed by renewed optimism for a world previously known. As 2021 passed in a wave of lockdowns, we were carried away to a time when our single-minded vision to build access to quality healthcare with technology outweighed the risks of starting something disruptive way back in 2008. And just like over a decade ago, on the back of a fierce conviction and a strong will to improve access to quality care for a billion+ people, we continued to strive long and hard to negotiate the curves and corners that the pandemic brought in its wake.
In staying committed to the fundamental principle of surviving and thriving in a crisis by using it as a springboard to innovate and grow, we successfully calibrated our approach to meet India’s healthcare needs.
In fact, we continued to grow our passionate tribe of Practeons with 1,463 new hires last year, and with the support of 1 lakh doctor partners, served close to 17 crore patients in 2021. This included over xx crore people from non-metro cities, making up close to 50% of our total patient base. By turning to our digital solutions, our users helped us register massive progress across all our offerings, including 250% growth in online consultation, 225% surge in medicine delivery and diagnostic services) and 150% M-o-M growth in our latest offering – Practo Care Surgeries (PCS) – in just six months’ time.
Value creation for consumers (FY 2021)
Patients spend 13 minutes on an average to consult a doctor online. Compare that with physical visits – driving, parking, waiting, consulting, fulfilling prescriptions etc – research suggests it takes approximately 2 hours to see a doctor in person.
So total time spent by this patient consulting doctors in-person in a year is about 12 hours (as opposed to a little over an hour for online consultations). And if it’s a family of four or five with children, then the number of hours spent at a clinic or a hospital for doctor consultations can easily go up to 50+ hours in a year.
Add to that the cost of commute and affordability of consulting doctors online (which is just one-fifth of in-person doctor consultations in terms of fees on an average), the 17 crore consumers on Practo last year could have cumulatively saved in the range of lakhs per annum.
Value creation for doctors (FY 2021)
Back in 2008, these products were unheard of in India. What started as a practice management software company, has evolved in response to emerging needs and opportunities in the ecosystem. Along the way, we have discovered new sources of value and created Rs 2,400 crore business for providers across small clinics, and medium to large hospitals in 2021 alone.
What strengthens my belief in the value we can deliver to doctors and the provider community are notes like these shared by Practo Champions like Dr Hitesh Lead. Examples like these reinforce our belief in our vision and provide a great impetus for us to rethink our strategy for greater impact in a post-pandemic world.
In having a dedicated team of both medical and non-medical personnel provide the full cycle of care for patients, we enable doctors to focus on doing what they do best – nurse patients back to good health.
Value creation for shareholders (FY 2021)
In perhaps the most challenging yet exciting time for us, we were able to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic and focus on effective solutions by taking early actions, positively impacting the lives of 17 crore+ people.
Placed under frequent lockdowns, many people turned to online doctor consultations to access quality care. This has reflected in our numbers, with Practo reporting its highest-ever consolidated EBITDA. Strong revenue growth momentum continued during the year as our revenues increased to 132% (Y-o-Y).
Sales in terms of our products used by doctors, providers and customers grew by 50% in volume, with a healthy gross margin ratio. The consumer business, set up just three years ago, is going at a run-rate of Rs 200 crore.
Rapid growth across products and services
Individual products posted an equally encouraging growth with online consultation at 2.50x, and appointment booking at 1.20x. Coupled with marked progress in other offerings including medicine delivery and at-home diagnostic tests – both of which grew by 2.5xxx – comprehensive health plans which were adopted by over 500+ corporates and our latest offering – PCS – which grew by 150% month-on-month, now clocking 1,000 surgeries per month, we have been able to increasingly adapt our strategies to drive positive results across all our offerings.
What makes this growth even more exceptional is that we did this at a high Customer Satisfaction Score upwards of 90%, made possible with the expertise of our 30-member strong in-house medical team who continue to rate ‘quality’ as the highest parameter of success. With a solid audit framework in mind, this team, with the combined experience of over 200 years, ensures every consumer interaction is top-notch and most importantly, standardized.
Core tenets to building an integrated future
The pandemic has shown us that antiquated models of care are no longer tenable. The vantage point from which people view healthcare services is rapidly changing, prompting us to develop and integrate our mission into a long-term strategic plan that can create lasting value whilst establishing trust. In doing so, we have identified three tenets of building this integrated future:
Building a long-term sustainable business
Shaped by a deep understanding of what our customers – both patients as well as caregivers – need, and an eye on changing industry dynamics, we will continually adapt our solutions while staying true to our core values and vision. In committing to improve access to quality healthcare, we have embarked on a journey that calls for complete dedication and a willingness to be continually challenged.
a) Staunch focus on core competencies to boost growth
We may be market leaders in teleconsultations today, but no matter how high we soar, we never allow ourselves to forget how we got here. A great deal of research, planning and focus gave us the courage to wholeheartedly pursue this mission, enabling us to use the significant experience we gained from this undertaking into other products over time, including our medicine delivery and diagnostic services. Taken together, our Primary Care portfolio has become a source of pride for us and a sanctuary for those seeking quality care, and will continue to expand in scope to meet evolving needs.
b) Solid innovation to drive sales and scale across new offerings
In recognizing the need for innovation in India’s secondary care space and on the back of the capabilities built over the last 14 years, we ventured into new territories, making marked progress in each of these ventures. While our Corporate Health Plan remains unparalleled in ably taking care of the rapidly changing healthcare needs of India’s workforce, PCS, started just six months ago, is scaling great heights as it repeatedly hits new milestones. Going forward, as we prepare to give wings to our chronic care offering, we can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
c) Top talent to continue turning passion and purpose into high-quality work
Our employees are the biggest drivers of our growth and continually demonstrate why they are key assets for our organization. Through all phases of our growth, we’ve had the support of strong leaders who have led us through peaks and troughs in our journey, and continue to do so. To add to this incredible mix of talent, we hired 47 people in key senior positions last year, including Dr Abhijit Paul, Medical Director, Srikanth Pinninti, Chief Marketing Officer, and Shikha Saxena, who’s currently leading the Corporate Benefits team as President. As we continue to hire for senior positions across both medical and non-medical job functions in 2022, we will remain committed to our purpose to #dogreat.
Prioritizing quality improvement and patient outcomes
With the vision to make quality healthcare accessible for a billion+ people, we see it as our responsibility to enable our one lakh+ doctor partners with the right tools – and guidance – to serve people in the best and most safe way possible. Looking ahead, we will continue to identify new ways of building this partnership and working with our doctor partners to deliver on our promise to patients.
a) Strong Medical team committed to delivering high quality care across services
At Practo, we have the support of an exceptional team of doctors who work full-time for the company, driving every decision that is made and strategy that is drawn up. Above all, they are committed to providing the highest quality of medical services by performing a wide variety of roles, including verifying all doctors on Practo, following a stringent process to onboard them, authenticating all forms of content for its medical correctness on Practo, and more. As this team continues to grow and build its capabilities, we will explore more ways in which greater value can be delivered with the support of these brilliant minds.
b) Improving patient outcomes with standardization of medical practices
The seamless coordination between our internal medical team and our external doctor partners have made it possible for us to bring parity in clinical protocols and procedures, positively impacting patient outcomes. By introducing standardization in all medical functions enabled on Practo and running tech-enabled audits to ensure it is duly followed, we have – and will continue – to make all efforts to reduce the probability of errors. Given that such a level of standardization may be difficult to maintain in an independent hospital setting, we want to do all we can to build this capability up across all our services – including consultations and surgeries – to improve overall patient experience.
c) Adequately train doctors to handle digital healthcare responsibilities well
With the objective of attaining the highest quality in medical care, we will continue to walk hand-in-hand with doctors in rethinking and reimagining traditional healthcare practices through the lens of telemedicine. This will not only help them adapt to a new way of delivering healthcare, but also improve patients’ access to quality care.
Impacting societies and people, radically and positively
At Practo, we are not only responsible for the consequences of our actions, but also the impact we leave on others, including policymakers, academics, researchers, NGOs and other potential partners.
a) Strengthen healthcare data infrastructure for appropriate policy action
The reports and case studies we periodically publish have put a spotlight on prevailing trends and patterns that have even found mention in the Government’s Economic Survey. As we continue to dig our databases for unique and actionable insights, we hope that it will perform its part in giving shape to directives from policymakers who have the authority to allocate resources and tilt spending towards those areas in healthcare that require the most attention and improvement.
b) Continue helping underserved communities with Practo Foundation
By enabling free teleconsultations for this community and distributing critical medical kits across the country, we will continue delivering care to those who need it the most. We have already distributed medical kits worth Rs 1 crore and enabled doctor consultations worth Rs 9 lakh, and through these efforts, are uncovering more about the state of the community and the interventions needed to create an even greater impact.
Even if we enjoyed the advantage of having a firm foundation built over the last 14 years, we also faced the challenge of learning to approach familiar territory in ways that can help us create greater impact. Yet, with the support of a broad and diverse range of partners, Practo has emerged as the ultimate standard in quality healthcare delivery. And we can only go up from here.
The year 2021 marked a new year at Practo and in forging a commitment to provide ‘Integrated Care’ for all, we are on the path to becoming a complete healthcare provider, unlocking a new world of possibilities in 2022 and beyond.