October 25, 2008

Healthcare goes mobile, just punch the number

If you are sick of prior appointments and queues to visit your doctor or if you require emergency medical advice at night, there is hope on the horizon. Your mobile phone could come in handy to arrange a 24X7 medical service for you.

Bangalore-based Healthcare Magic, a first-of-its-kind, real-time, medical consultation portal, will soon tie up with Reliance Communications (RCom), the country’s second-largest mobile service provider, to launch a Doc On Call service by December this year.

“It is a big leap for us to start with one of India’s best mobile service provider. We are yet to work out the financials involved in the deal and the rollout plans,” said Abhilash Thirupathi, vice-president, marketing and operations, Healthcare Magic.

He said the service would be provided to mobile users, who subscribe to the Doc On Call services, which may be priced at a premium to offer quality services.

An RCom spokesperson declined to comment. Any call made to Healthcare Magic will be attended by a doctor on duty at the the company’s Bangalore office. Depending on the symptoms elaborated by the patient and his medical history, the doctor, who attends the call, will suggest immediate medical attention, if necessary, and also prescribe medicines for temporary relief.

Healthcare Magic is planning to appoint about 50-60 doctors on full-time duty for the mobile-based operations, said Abhilash Thirupathi.

The number of mobile phone subscribers in India is expected to touch 500 million by 2010 and the company hopes to bring at least 10 per cent of the mobile users within its network.

Healthcare Magic, promoted by an IIT Kanpur graduate, Kunal Sinha, already offers internet-based call-a-doctor services, which was launched in January 2008. Currently, traffic to the portal is to the tune of 3,500 enquiries a day and the company has a 30-member doctors’ panel to attend to patients’ enquiries every day.

Since the last two months, services have been offered at a single-day, online consultation fee of Rs 40. The services are also available for an annual subscription of Rs 600, said Abhilash Thirupathi.

The portal also offers features such as search for doctors and hospitals, advice on medical and healthcare products, ratings of doctors and hospitals, availability of drugs, medical advice such as the best available hospitals and doctors, discussion forums, insurance policies and sale of medical products.

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