Chennai: When Sameer Sawarkar and his team developed a telemedicine product that helped connect rural patients with doctors in cities, they thought their product, which they consider technologically superior to anything else available in the market, would be enough to make their business venture a success.
That hasn’t happened— Neurosynaptics Communications Pvt. Ltd’s growth was impeded by erratic power conditions and inadequate skills among users who operate the company’s multi-function device, which can take an electro cardio gram test of a patient and also measure the individual’s temperature.
However, three years later, the Bangalore-based firm has finally received some recognition with the World Economic Forum (WEF) choosing it as one of the 39 technology pioneers from a list of 273 nominees. Neurosynaptics, the only company from India in a list dominated by 23 US firms, has been picked for its ReMeDi (Remote Medical Diagnostics) range of products.
“We realized that technology is an important filler, but many more things are needed to make it (telemedicine) work,” said Sawarkar, chief executive officer of Neurosynaptics.
Neurosynaptics, which developed its products along with TeNet group of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, embarked on a field study that lasted 18 months, across Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. This threw up interesting facts on the issues faced at ground level.
One problem faced during implementation of the company’s telemedicine solution is availability of medicine. When patients in remote areas are given a print out of their prescription, they often find that they cannot source the medicines from the local pharmacy.
“Based on the study, we have now developed comprehensive guidelines that are most likely to work,” said Sawarkar. And instead of working on its own, like the original model envisaged, Neurosynaptics has created a new model involving pharmaceutical companies and health-care service providers.
Thus, it has moved to the cluster approach where telemedicine centres are concentrated in one region so as to make it attractive for its partners such as pharma companies or distributors to better manage the supply chain.
Neurosynaptics is now developing 25 telemedicine centres in Tirupattur, a town in Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. It claims to have forged partnerships with pharma companies whose names it would not disclose; Neurosynaptics will itself distribute the medicines to the telemedicine centres which, in turn, will sell them to patients. This will bring down the cost of medicines and also be an additional source of revenue for the telemedicine centres, said Rajeev Kumar, director, Neurosynaptics.
The privately held company is now looking for venture capital and private equity funding. It has set itself an aggressive target of installing its products and services in 10,000 centres by 2010. “We will reach self-sustainability in 2007-08,” said Sawarkar. However, the company did not give details of its revenues.
It costs between Rs60,000 and Rs120,000 to set up a telemedicine centre in rural areas, depending on the kind of connectivity.