January 06, 2009

Online medical consultancy gives MedSphere the market edge

Imagine this: An accident victim is rushed to hospital in the middle of night. There’s no radiologist on duty and a diagnosis is delayed, increasing chances of a fatality.

Now imagine this: A radiologist, alerted on the phone, log ins to the Internet from wherever she is and provides a diagnosis in minutes.
That is what MedSphere Technologies Pvt. Ltd, a 20-month-old start-up, is trying to do through its suite of teleradiology products, which allow electronic transmission of patient images of X-rays, CT scans or MRIs.

The key differentiator, says radiologist Jagadish Prasad, is the streaming technology that allows an expert to view the images without downloading them completely. The data is viewed in real time, says Prasad, who’s been an early user of MedSphere products after the company set up teleradiology infrastructure at Narayana Hrudayalaya hospital in Bangalore.

The firm was started by a group of six whose experiences range from those at medical equipment firms such as General Electric Co., Siemens AG or Philips Electronics NV, tech pioneers such as Yahoo Inc. and Motorola Inc. to international consultants such as Arthur Andersen Llp. The mixed bag of expertise has ensured that the first product was approved by US food and drug administration, “though we haven’t sold our product in that market yet,” says Sanjeev S., co-founder and CEO of MedSphere.

That’s primarily because the founders believe India is a tough market and if they succeed here, cracking other markets won’t be difficult. The company has 154 installations in the country and the products cost between Rs1 lakh and Rs80 lakh. “We saw the demand-supply gap and decided to fill it as some of the players had ridiculous solutions with mind-boggling prices,” he says. “Those who build Rolls-Royce don’t want to build (the) Nano.”

Globally, the US, Europe and Japan constitute 88% of the market share, according to research and consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, but the Asia-Pacific region now offers growth opportunities.

According to Abhishek Dutta, research analyst, technical insights and health care practice at Frost and Sullivan, the competitive landscape is tough but still has moderately low number of firms, Hence, firms such as MedSphere will have a high bargaining power, he said. “There are no substitutes for teleradiology and the only alternative is the general imaging techniques with no telemedical provision.”
He warns that the firms will have to deal with the high costs of equipment, which could end up swaying end-users to stick to conventional methods.

Not quite impacted by the slowdown, which the founders say has actually lowered the threat of attrition, MedSphere does consider entry into the US market as one of its biggest challenges.

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