Dr. Sabahat Azim, Founder, Glocal Healthcare Systems
You are trained as a doctor. What prompted you to become an entrepreneur?
One catalyst was that I lost my father to an unnecessary surgery in a very expensive, big hospital. Then you realize that the problem of health care being broken is not just for the poor and the underserved. It’s everywhere.
What part of this broken system are you trying to fix?
In India, 28% of the population did not have access to a doctor. In the rural areas, in the remote areas, clearly there is the challenge that doctors are not available, that facilities may not be available, and people may have less money. So doctors migrate and start practicing in larger hospitals in bigger cities. We said let’s see if we can create a better model—something that can meet clinical outcomes as well as being affordable.
What’s the solution your startup came up with?
What we have done is taken the examining room, the test lab, and the pharmacy and put them together into a single whole. This brings down the cost in terms of money and time. Our latest innovation, called HelloLyf, is 64 square feet and can be installed anywhere.
Can you explain how the concept works in practice?
There is no physical doctor, only a nurse who runs you through the whole system. I, the doctor, may be sitting in Bangalore and the patient is in Odisha, but today’s technology allows you to use rich video to carry out an examination. Our clinics are equipped with a digital stethoscope, a laryngoscope, a fetal Doppler. The quantity of medical data is huge, it’s vast. So we built a clinical decision-support system that basically ensures doctors are able to do better diagnoses. Drug interactions, dosages, contraindications are sorted out, and doctors can focus on the patient rather than trying to think through the data. Finally, the pharmacy is automated to dispense medications. For the equivalent of about $4, you get a doctor, your tests, and your medications.
And what kind of reception have your 240 clinics gotten?
In India and other poor countries, health care is only sought for the wage earner. The old, the women, and the children, they are neglected. Almost 50% of our patients are women, which means we have increased the equity in society.
—Interviewed by Pradipta Mukherjee