Telemedicine facility in town

Flower seller Kanaga (42) of Perambur could have never imagined a private hospital care for her asthma problem, and that too from her money lender, But she not only got the advice of a senior doctor of Apollo Hospitals but also for an unimaginable fee of Rs 50.

Thanks to the telemedicine initiative of a local micro finance institution (MFI) which has decided to offer top healthcare to its clients at low cost, beating the typecast image of a greedy moneylender.

The idea to offer discounted healthcare came up after the company survey that revealed healthcare as the second biggest spend of its customers. “All our customers are urban women in the average age group of 40 years,” says Mr P. Vasudevan, MD of Equitas Micro Finance India Pvt Ltd.

Hence as a corporate social responsibility initiative, the firm decided to extend discounted healthcare services to its clients. “Till date, we have tied up with 580 hospitals and 28 medical college hospitals across the country to help our clients get treated for serious illness at a discount,” he adds.

However, the telemedicine idea, which is at its pilot stage in Permabur, T.Nagar and Selaiyur areas sprang up after some of its Jaipur clients lost some money to quacks. “The lack of access to qualified doctors in some areas made us approach Apollo to offer their telemedicine facility,” Mr Vasudevan adds.

With some funding help from an Italian firm, Equitas installed the Rs 80,000 telemedicine set up at three of its offices. “Though our clients are charged only Rs 50 per consultation, we need to generate atleast Rs 30,000 per month to sustain the set up. Hence we plan to estimate the viability of the model after testing till May,“ he hopes.

Over the last 4 months, about 1200 clients have benefited from the telemedicine facility this.

Besides this, the MFI has also helped about 7.7 lakh people through its primary medical camps. “Including our skill development initiatives that we extended to 2.5 lakh people, we have helped over one million low-income households in the country,” he beams.

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