Mumbai: Fortis HealthWorld Ltd, the pharmacy chain of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd, is launching India’s first branded home nurse service, a sign of increasing private sector role in services that were traditionally government-provided or a cottage industry.
Customers of Fortis, a 30- store pharmacy chain, can now ask for a nurse in a pilot project under way in south Delhi. Fortis, which runs a chain of hospitals, will source the nurses from its Fortis Health Staff Ltd, which places nurses in jobs abroad.
“Until recently, home-based care in the country had not evolved sufficiently, so patients who are chronically ill, or bedridden, or just been discharged from the hospital had no access to quality support care,” says Annu Puri, director at the year-old Indicure Health Tours Pvt. Ltd.
At home: Nurses tend to a patient at a New Delhi hospital. Patients can now order for home nurses at Fortis pharmacy stores in the capital. (Photo: Madhu Kapparath/ Mint)
Indicure started out as a company promoting medical tourism to India but, after coming across many non-resident Indians who were looking for providers of home-based care, decided to add such services. Indicure offers home-based nursing care, attendant care and physiotherapists. It is also considering offering palliative care for terminally ill patients.
Puri claims that the company has a panel of nurses and paramedics who have been selected after ensuring that they met requirements of qualification and experience.
Fortis will also have some general nurses and others who are specialists in childcare or orthopedics. These trained nurses get some training at Fortis hospitals.
The response to Fortis’ pilot project has been “great”, claims Sumanjit Chaudhry, chief executive of Fortis Health Staff. “Earlier, people were sometimes getting ayahs in place of nurses who were not trained for medical procedures and had no backup for trouble shooting.”
According to Chaudhry, customers will sometimes get nurses and expect them to double up as household help. The company has a call centre to deal with these and related issues for its nurses.
Ashish Mangal, founder of K-Care Inc., a Mumbai-based company that offers dialysis services at home, says his service, meant for patients with kidney failure, has been well received.
“We started our services last year and we are already utilizing 90% of our capacity. We plan to add more mobile dialysis units,” he says. K-Care, which offers the service in collaboration with the Narmada Kidney Foundation, has trained technicians who conduct the dialysis procedure at the patient’s bedside, sparing the patient the trauma of having to travel to a dialysis centre at a hospital.
Fortis also offers a range of services including text message reminders for prescriptions, blood and other tests at home, doctors’ appointments at their hospitals and doctors clinics in some of their stores. “Family doctors are not as common as they used to be and we want to being them back at our stores,” says Ashish Kirpal Pandit, chief excutive of Fortis
While some hospitals say they offer such home-based serves informally to patients, not all do. “While we do offer patients house visits by some of our paramedic staff, such as physiotherapists, we have no formal home-based care services,” says Vishal Bali, CEO of Wockhardt Hospitals Pvt. Ltd.
Puri of Indicure expects that the demand for such services will grow significantly with the expansion of the insurance sector. “Health care in India is still doctor-driven,” he says. “If a doctor wants to prolong a patient’s hospital stay, he is free to do so but once insurance comes in a big way, doctors will not be able to do that and then the real demand for home-based care will take off.”