India’s healthcare provider Paras Healthcare raises funds to expand their middle-class services

Healthcare provider Paras Healthcare raises USD 42M

Paras Healthcare

Founders: Dharminder Nagar

Founded in: 2006

Financing status: USD 42M for undisclosed round in 2017

The Guragaon-based Healthcare provider Paras Healthcare has raised USD 42 million through Creador, an affiliate of the private equity firm Creador III LP.

Paras Healthcare was founded in 2006 by Dharminder Nagar.

Paras Healthcare has two divisions, Paras Hospitals and Paras Bliss. Paras Hospitals provides specialized tertiary-care in Guragaon, Patna and Darbhanga. Paras Bliss provides specialized mother and child care at Panchkula and New Delhi. The healthcare company targets the middle-class segment and claims that they have 730 beds across their hospitals.

Founder Dr. Nagar said that “most of the oldest cities in North India have the weakest healthcare infrastructure. He said that each hospital of Paras aims at being a community player by empowering the common man, the middle class, with access to specialized care at locations that has limited or no specialized healthcare facilities.”

The funds will primarily be used for expansion and growth across different regions.

The healthcare market in India is believed to be worth close to USD 100 billion and is estimated to reach USD 280 billion by 2020. However, according to records, India has only 0.6 doctors per 1,000 people.

(Top photo from Pixabay)

How mHealth has failed to revolutionize China’s healthcare

The first time I realized how different the Chinese healthcare system was from those in the West was a couple of years ago when I started to feel terribly fatigued. I went to my local hospital and realized I would have to self-diagnose. There was no general practice doctor available, so I stood in front of the information board listed with the various medical specializations with a huge question mark above my head. After all, fatigue can be a symptom of the common cold as well as the bubonic plague. In the end, I decided that the culprit was probably Beijing’s smog and went to see a pulmonologist. I was wrong.

My experience gave me a short glimpse of the frustrations that patients in China feel when they try to get medical treatment. There is a large gap between the availability and the differences in quality of urban and rural medical centers. This is why patients from all over the country flock to the best clinics in urban centers. The lack of trained clinicians often means that doctors will spend only a few minutes with each patient leaving them with an insufficient understanding of their ailments.

Self-diagnosis: an illustration. (Photo by Pixabay)
Self-diagnosis: an illustration. (Photo from Pixabay)

After my misdiagnosis, it was only several months later till I received proper treatment for my illness. For me, it ended up being a common hormonal imbalance. But for others, the inaccessibility of quality healthcare is a serious issue. This was why healthcare apps were welcomed with such fanfare as a revolutionary solution for China’s healthcare system.

The math seems simple. More than half of the Chinese population, which works out to be about 731 million people, use the Internet. Of this 731 million people, 95 percent are mobile internet users, according to a 2016 CNNIC report. China’s healthcare expenditure is growing fast, while its citizens are more willing to spend more on quality medical service. This prompted many leading companies such as Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba, and Ping An Insurance, to invest billions of dollars in mHealth, an industry which uses mobile phones and wireless technology in medical care. And boom it did – China now has hundreds of healthcare apps. The only problem is many of them fail to bring the desired profit to their developers.

Regulators have been cautious with the new services. Online diagnosis is still in a legal gray area in China, which is why the actual service is limited to general medical inquiries. Online distribution of pharmaceuticals was also crippled by regulation changes, likely because it represents direct competition to state hospitals.

China’s state healthcare system, the main provider of healthcare services, has been slow to incorporate mHealth solutions even though the Chinese government has promised to better adopt internet technology. China still doesn’t have a unique patient database which makes it hard to develop wider solutions.

All of this has prompted the big players to look for different ways of securing gains. Baidu has decided to shift its main focus from online-to-offline doctor appointments to developing an AI bot for doctors and patients. Alibaba has announced that it will explore other areas such as consumer safety.

According to media reports, other health startups which emerged as the winners of the great mHealth game, such as Guahao (We Doctor Group), Chunyu Yisheng, and DXY (DingXiangYuan), are also struggling to create profitable business models. They are looking into other options, such as setting up private hospitals or focusing on health care professionals. Chunyu Yisheng has reported RMB 130 million of revenues in 2015 with profits amounting to RMB 30 million, but for a mobile app with 30 million users this is just a drop in the ocean.

Screenshot from the Chunyu Yisheng app (Photo by Baidu Images)
Screenshot from the Chunyu Yisheng app. (Photo by Baidu Images)

Although the mHealth boom has failed to bring the kind of revolution its developers envisioned, these companies are not giving up that easily. But China’s healthcare reform, just as any healthcare reform in the world, is a complicated matter with many social and economic factors that need to be taken into account.

Currently, China is working on training more general practitioners and family doctors who are able to provide quality care by getting to know their patients and spending time on prevention. The real revolution here will not be providing consultations with busy doctors through mobile phones, but enabling affordable and quality care to the millions of poor rural dwellers. And even though the mHealth industry can help to achieve that, sometimes this goal does not go hand in hand with profitability.

(Top photo by Andy Miah via Flickr.)

Baidu responds to hospital search result scandal

China’s State Internet Information Office (SIIO) announced on Monday that it will set up a joint investigation team with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the National Health and Family Planning Commission. The team will be stationed at Baidu in response to the case of Wei Zexi, a college student diagnosed with cancer who died this April after being cheated by a Tier-1 hospital that appeared as one of the first results on Baidu’s search engine.

Two years ago, Wei was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Wei and his family performed a search on Baidu and found a military hospital classified as a Tier-1 (primary) hospital, which claimed to be able to prolong Wei’s life for another 20 years with DC-CIK cellular immunotherapy. A doctor who had been featured on mainstream media said the therapy was from Stanford and that they were quite sure it would work. The result? After spending over RMB 200,000 (USD 30,900) at the hospital, Wei died at the age of 21 and left his friends and family in grief and in debt.

Photo from NetEase News
Photo from NetEase News

According to He Ting, a medical expert from Tsinghua University, “DC-CIK cellular immunotherapy”, though a promising therapy, is still too inefficient to succeed and is not yet being used in clinical trials. The military hospital belongs to a chain that contributed a large amount to Baidu’s revenue last year. The hospital’s appearance as the top search result on Baidu was misleading because Baidu’s ranking system allows businesses to pay to promote themselves.

For its part, Baidu said it welcomes the joint investigation team. The company double-checked the hospital’s qualification certificate last Thursday, and on Monday agreed to investigate the hospital’s primary qualification with the unit responsible.

This is not the first time that Baidu has gotten in trouble for its healthcare-related services. Earlier this year, communication platform Baidu Tieba’s hemophilia board, a self-organized gathering space for 7,712 Hemophilia patients, was rumored to be put up for sale. Baidu responded to criticism from netizens by putting its commercial cooperations in disease-related Tieba sections on hold and promising to balance commercialization and user experience.

As the search result scandal escalated, Baidu VP Wang Zhan, commonly known as “the father of Baidu’s promotions”, was dismissed. Even though according to Sina News, the dismissal was unlikely to be caused by Wei’s case, the reason for his dismissal was cited as “violating professional ethics and harming the company’s interests”, a phrase that is often used to refer to bribery.

(Top photo from Baidu)

Is Meituan-Dianping taking a bite out of huge healthcare market?

Meituan-Dianping, China’s largest group-buying site, published a report this week on China’s healthcare market by analyzing the big data it has collected from more than 500,000 healthcare merchants.

According to the report, China’s healthcare market has surpassed RMB one trillion (USD 155 billion) and is growing rapidly, with 57.9% of all healthcare merchants on Meituan-Dianping joining the site in 2015. However, the report says most healthcare merchants are still operating offline, while only 13.3% of them use O2O platforms. Besides, with more than 10 million people following healthcare-related topics on the internet, China’s healthcare industry is expected to see tremendous growth, especially via O2O platforms.

The report lists three of the most popular sports activities: working out at the gym, ball sports, and swimming. But these activities are less popular than other services that require less effort: pedicures dominate 44.2% of the market, and hot springs spa treatments take up 21.0%.

In terms of geography, Jiangsu province has 56,000 healthcare merchants and ranks first, followed by Guangdong and Zhejiang. While people in northern China tend to prefer ball sports, southerners appear to favor swimming. And when it comes to per capita expenditure on healthcare, Shanghai has the highest rate of RMB 611.4, and Beijing comes in second at RMB 407.6.

Women were found to care more about healthcare, as among the 10 million people following healthcare-related topics on Meituan-Dianping, 63.2% were women and 36.8% were men. In terms of age, those aged 18-35 accounts for 80%.

Besides its focus on health, Meituan-Dianping, which raised USD 3.3 billion in January, also announced that it has integrated its education business, which now covers over 1,500 cities.

(Top photo from Chinaz.com)

Online medical service giant Guahao raises near USD 400M

Siyang Wang

Guahao.com, a Tencent-backed online medical service platform is reported to have raised more than USD 394 million, according to Caixin Magazine.

This round of fundraising was lead by Goldman Sachs, Fosun Capital Group,Tencent, China Development Bank and other organizations. The value of the company is now estimated to be higher than USD 1.5 billion.

Founded in 2010 by Liao Jieyuan and his team in Hangzhou, Guahao or ‘Registration,’ aims to reshape China’s healthcare industry by seizing the new opportunities provided in the digital era.

The company also said today that it will change its name from Guohao Co., Ltd. to Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Co., Ltd.

Last year, the company raised more than USD 100 million in a Series C fundraising led by Tencent. Guahao soon after launched the ACO platform to utilize Tencent’s Wechat and QQ – the two most widely used instant messaging apps in China – to allow physicians to communicate and collaborate on treatment cases remotely.

On the heels of ACO, Guahao launched a mobile app to provide remote physical consultations, online and mobile appointment booking, and consulting between physicians and patients.

Guahao’s database now includes more than 1600 major hospitals, 110 million verified registered users and, 150,000 physicians sourced from major hospitals spread throughout China, according to its official website.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 17.05.46

Besides expanding online, Guahao has established branch offices in seven major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

According to BCG’s newly released report ‘China’s Digital Healthcare Revolution,’ the digital healthcare market in China will witness skyrocketing growth over the next five years, with expected value to reach $110 billion by 2020. Guahao is a leading player in the digital healthcare sector and analysts expect Guahao to become another startup unicorn.

Edited by Rohan Malhotra

(Siyang Wang is a guest writer at AllChinaTech.com)