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Drishti Eye Care Founder Kiran Anandampillai On Challenges, Funding & Future Plans

Telemedicine startup Drishti Eye Care raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Lok Capital yesterday.

Launched in December 2011, Drishti offers primary and secondary eye care services including screening for refractive errors, cataract, retinal complaints, glaucoma and treatment of eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and uveitis among others in underserved geographies.

Medianama spoke with Drishti founder Kiran Anandampillai about the organization’s plans to provide eye care services in villages and challenges that it encounters. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On choosing underserved geographies: Anandampillai said that they chose underserved geographies to offer eye care services, since these regions lack opthalmologists and opthalmology facilities unlike urban areas.

On the company’s strategy: Anandampillai stated that Drishti currently works on three different models – building and managing a secondary care hospital in each district, telemedicine vision centers in small towns and eye camps in villages. He stated that the secondary care hospital and the eye camps are completely managed by them while they partner with general physicians to set up telemedicine vision centers in small towns.

Anandampillai mentioned that they are currently piloting this model in Karnataka’s Devanahalli district, where the company has built a secondary care facility in Devanahalli and telemedicine vision centers in Bagepalli and Vijaypura towns. He claimed that they are also covering around 10 villages every month through their eye camps.

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On Keeping Doctor Patient Trust: Anandampillai claimed that unlike other telemedicine facilities where patients interact remotely with doctors, Drishti tries to maintain the patient-doctor trust through its telemedicine services. He said that from the patients’ perspective, the local doctor will continue to advise them or prescribe the requisite medicine to them. But, what changes is the way the local doctor diagnoses and advises specific measures to patients.

On Telemedicine Vision Centres: As we reported earlier, Drishti partners general physicians and practitioners to set up vision centres at their facilities in small towns and place a Drishti trained optometrist at the facility. This optometrist then uses a low cost fundus camera to check the patient’s vision and capture relevant data like retinal images, anterior segment and eye pressure in a report to send it to an opthalmologist in a Drishti-owned secondary care facility over Internet.

Following this, the opthalmologist reverts back to the vision centre with his assessment within 15 minutes of receiving the report and the local doctor provides advice to the patient based on the assessment. In cases where the patient needs secondary eye care i.e cataract and other eye related surgeries, Drishti books an appointment with the ophthalmologist and manages the patient’s logistics for the appointment.

Anandampillai stated that they have partnered with two physicians to open two vision centres in the current pilot. This includes a vision centre in Bagepalli town and another vision centre in Vijaypura town.

Providing Infrastructure to Physicians: Anandampillai informed that they essentially partner with practitioners who are looking to expand their services to offer eye care services. Through this partnership, Drishti provides requisite infrastructure like computers, printers and optical storage areas among others and trained optometrists for these telemedicine centers.

Challenges: Anandampillai stated that the biggest problem in telemedicine right now was the patient and the doctor acceptance. He said that getting adoption from patients and doctors is still a big problem and that the technology is advancing faster than adoption in telemedicine area. He added that this was the reason they didn’t introduce any video conferencing solution in their offerings.

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Pricing: Anandampillai claimed to have priced the services to cater to all economic segments in these regions. They charge Rs 100 as the consultation fees in towns and offer free consultation in villages. Besides that, Drishti offers prescription glasses starting at Rs 200 and going up to Rs 10,000, which includes both fitting and delivery. It also offers surgery packages starting at Rs 1,500 for basic cataract surgeries and going up to Rs 30,000 for more complicated surgeries.

Anandampillai also added that they support various social insurance government schemes through which it offers free surgery packages. These schemes include Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) and Karnataka Government’s Yeshasvini health insurance scheme among others.

Customers: He claimed that they have treated around 10,000 patients in the last year and conducted 130 eye surgeries till now, of which 30% were free surgeries. The company claims to have generated a revenue of more than Rs 5 lakhs in its first five months of operations.

Funding: Prior to this seed funding, Anandampillai said that they had secured an undisclosed amount of promoter funding, which was used to partially build their Devanahalli facility. Following this, they reached out to various social impact investors through the Ennovent Impact circle and raised this seed capital from Lok Capital.

He stated that they will be using this seed capital to complete their Devanahalli facility and open more telemedicine vision centers in towns. The company plans to open 10 telemedicine centres by the end of 2013. Anandampillai added that this funding will also be used to build mobile telemedicine vision centers for villages and launch training facilities for Optometry.

Future Plans: Anandampillai said that they will be focussing on Karnataka’s Chikballapur district in the next year and depending upon on the traction and revenue generated from this district, it will expand to other districts in Karnataka and elsewhere.

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