Cochin based startup Eatherway allows booking of doctor appointments via IVR (voice portal), Web and SMS, much like another company we covered earlier – E-Channelling in Sri Lanka, over SMS; however, strangely enough, Eatherway charges doctors for enabling patients to book appointments.CEO Dev Nair told MediaNama that in order to achieve scale and address a majority of the population, one cannot expect them to pay online, and they needed integrated SMS and IVR. The idea is noble, but our take is that Eatherway addresses the wrong constituency – there is a supply-demand mismatch, but most doctors and hospitals don’t need to go online to look for patients, so why would they pay a monthly or annual fee to enable book in? The convenience of booking online or on mobile would rather addresses problems that patients face:

– Find the hospital/clinic nearest to your location, for a particular problem
– Find out when the doctor is at the clinic to see outside patients on a particular day
– Book at appointment
– Make a payment

The way Eatherway allows booking is that they find out how much time, on an average, a doctor spends with a patient in a sitting, to get an idea of the number of patients per hour. They allow half of those appointments to be booked online. Doctors get a mobile application which allows them to view, confirm and reschedule appointment timings on their mobile.

Given the rush at some hospitals and for some doctors, Eatherway should charge patients, and collect fees online to confirm appointments. The online payments mess in India, with double confirmations, doesn’t help.

As I’ve mentioned before, from a classifieds perspective, this is similar to e-ticketing and conceptually a lot more scalable than digitizing doctors records, providing a social network for doctors, health tips, or a medical helpline. The issue, though, is the lack of development of the mobile value added services, which, for all its bells and whistles, makes it difficult to have a unified identity across mobile operators, and a single number helpline, and there hasn’t yet been a concerted effort to push mobile payments by the industry yet.

Note that Healthcare Magic also allows online booking of doctors appointments for a fee of Rs. 99.

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