India: Hospitals, health-tech startups to start free telemedicine app Swasth


More than 100 leading private hospitals, health-tech startups, technology companies and investors have come together voluntarily to launch a free telemedicine consultation app ‘Swasth’ to help fight the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.

The initiative is being led by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Manipal Group’s Ranjan Pai, iSPIRT’s Sharad Sharma, Apollo Hospital’s Shobhana Kamineni, former Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation executive Nachiket Mor and Accel’s Subrata Mitra, who form the governing council of the non-profit consortium.

Swasth’s partners include Manipal Hospitals and Apollo Hospitals, e-pharma and diagnostics startups Medlife and 1MG, new-age medical and diagnostics chain Care.Fit, and e-commerce firms Flipkart and Udaan, among others.

The grouping will make available free teleconsultations through a network of over 2,000 certified and trained doctors, which it said was in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to use telemedicine to combat the outbreak.

The Swasth app, which will go live on June 24, will also make available resources for users to find available beds, diagnostic labs and home quarantine aids.

It being launched in three languages – English, Hindi and Gujarati, but will be scaled up to 25 languages soon.

Swasth may charge a nominal fee for its services, which could go into covering operational and salary costs as the initiative gets a more formal structure.

Swasth has raised Rs 10 crore from ACT Grants, an initiative formed to back startups fighting Covid-19 and related innovation. ACT is a collective of entrepreneurs, investors and others within the startup community.

“The governing council will also look at non-shareholder fundraising as a part of its (job),” said Yashish Dahiya, cofounder and CEO of PolicyBazaar, which is part of the network.

The company could also look at raising further capital from other foundations and CSR funds of large organisations.

The platform will add more doctors as it scales over the next few months.

“The network has a bunch of doctors who will offer their services for free and then there’s the specialist networks from Apollo and Manipal and other hospitals that are coming onboard,” Shobhana Kamineni, executive vice-chairperson of Apollo Hospitals told ET.

The short-term goal of the company is to provide a telemedicine solution for the masses, and in the mid to long-term Swasth will evolve into the Bharat Health Stack, which is an open source and interoperable technology framework for healthcare built by software products industry body iSPIRT.

Swasth is in the process of being registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, making it a not-for-profit organisation.

“Swasth has been built in close partnership with iSPIRT and the technology teams work together. It’s an open network that’s built on top of a consent layer where the owner of the data, which is the patient, and the hospital which he/she goes to, has access to that data and nobody else,” added Dahiya.

“The framework for this (Swasth) creates an intent that we can do more. It would be a waste to drop this off after the crisis,” added Kamineni. “Neutrality, data privacy and the ability to adjudicate in a very fair manner are the basis of this framework.”

While Swasth will compete with several players in the teleconsultation and healthcare space, it also provides an avenue for companies to collaborate to bring about big changes in India’s healthcare and adjacent sectors, Dahiya added.

According to the Swasth website, it will work to “further public health goals and work in coordination with the government, the Medical Council, public health organizations and the private sector” to provide quality healthcare access to the masses.