Practo – Making Waves in Healthcare

Practo, a startup that emerged from the Silicon Valley of India, has been making its presence felt in the healthcare industry in Singapore and the surrounding Asean region.

2015 is turning out to be a great year for them, having secured a $90M series C funding led by Tencent and Google Capital in Aug 2015, recognition of their management philosophy with CEO Shashank having highest approval ratings on Glassdoor, and their recent acquisition of Qikwell, India’s leading hospital appointment scheduler.

For now, Practo offers two solutions.

For the public, Practo Search is a doctor search engine that helps patients find the most qualified doctors for near them. Collectively, the app generates more than 10M searches per month.

For doctors, there’s Practo Ray – an app for doctors to manage their patients’ profiles and appointments at their fingertips. It also liberates the doctors from using paper formats for medical records, meaning, now with the app, doctors can store their patients’ data securely and pull them out quickly when needed.

Despite recent entrance to the Singapore market, Practo Search already have built up a strong database of local doctors. I did a comparison with local incumbent DocDoc for Dieticians / Nutritionists in Singapore, and Practo gave me 13 choices, while DocDoc only 2.

The Practo app is useful from a patient perspective – besides finding different specialist doctors, and booking direct slots, you can also save your appointment history in one place (convenient to pull up past appointment and last visit dates etc), and also find out more on the doctors and get an inside view of the clinics.

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Interested to know more about Practo? Here’s my e-interview with Practo’s CEO Shashank.


1) What would you describe as Practo’s X factor?

I think there are few things that we do very differently. Our actions are driven by our core philosophy of being ‘patient first’ so all decisions we take are optimized for the best patient experience.

  • The first thing we do differently is that we don’t use any third party data. We have a team that goes street by street, city by city to find and list the doctors on Practo post verification of their information. This tremendously improves the experience for consumers as they can really rely on the data we provide and at the same time, because we go to each doctor personally, we have much more information about the clinic than they’d otherwise have. For example, we can showcase clinic pictures and also give turn by turn directions because we mark the GPS co-ordinates of the clinic as well.
  • The second thing we do is that listing on Practo and getting any appointments from Practo are completely free for both doctors and patients. We want to list all the healthcare professionals in the world and make them easily accessible to consumers hence listing on Practo is free. We also don’t charge doctors or patients to find and book appointments.
  • We’re the only company, pretty much in the world, that has a strong B2C product (Practo Search) seamlessly integrated into our widely loved B2B product called Practo Ray – which is a cloud-based clinic management software for doctors to manage millions of patients around the world. It helps doctors digitize their entire clinic by automating schedule management, inventory, billing, as well as help create and manage digital healthcare records including clinic notes, prescriptions, and heavy image files as well.
  • Practo Search and Practo Ray come together to create the world’s first closed hyperloop.

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2) Congrats on your recent entry to the Indonesian market. Any others? Also, with the recent 90M series C round, what are your growth plans with the raised funds?

Thanks! We are rapidly expanding our presence and will soon have presence in more countries across SEA, Middle East, Latin America and eastern Europe.

At the same time, we are going to expand our product lines to cover all the healthcare professionals and institutions including doctors, clinics, hospitals on the curative side as well as professionals on the wellness and fitness side of health as well.

We also will have specific products around the preventive and wellness space.

Simultaneously, we are pretty bullish on acquisitions as well – we’ve acquired 4 companies in the last 5 months and more are on the way.

Our most recent acquisition was Qikwell – a booking solution for hospitals.

Overall now, 40M appointments are booked on every year making us the world’s largest healthcare appointment platform.

3) For the Singapore market, why would I use Practo Search instead of other localised services?

We’re already by far the leaders in search in Singapore. We believe this is because of our philosophy of ensuring maximum choice and detailed information to consumers. We list for free and don’t charge consumers or doctors to find and book appointments either. The entire interaction is completely free. Secondly, since we don’t do third party data and collect all our data first hand, and rigorously verify it, consumers can trust our data and use the details we provide to make much better decisions. We already list over 6000 doctors in Singapore which is around 80% coverage!

4) How has the Singapore take up been? Could you share metrics on searches and bookings made for the Singapore market?

It’s been really phenomenal. We’re already the largest healthcare search platform by a mile. Consumers love the product and the convenience we provide. As in most other countries, consumers in Singapore don’t use us to find a GP but more for specialists. Consumers come to Practo and search either by doctor’s name (to read more on a doctor recommended to them by someone) or to search by speciality or symptoms and then filtering by location, specialisation and more. On zeroing in on a particular doctor, consumers can click the profile and see clinic pictures, consultation fees, medical qualifications, years of experience and a lot more. If the doctor is using Practo Ray, his/her calendar will be synced with Practo Search and patients can book an appointment by clicking on the available timeslots. If not, the patient can simply call the clinic’s number listed on the app to book an appointment or talk to the doctor.

5) Could you share how does Practo Search monetize?

Practo Search is completely free, from downloading the app to booking appointments, neither patients nor doctors have to pay Practo anything. We don’t take any fee or commissions from the appointments we provide to doctors either.

We monetize in two ways. First is our cloud-based software Practo Ray which helps clinics digitize and makes them more efficient – doctors and clinics pay us an annual subscription for Ray. However, purchase of Ray has no bearing on listing – the two are independent.

The second way we monetize is Practo Reach – which is an information card that clinics can showcase when a relevant search query is received from the user. However, Reach is not yet available in Singapore but will be here soon!

6) Practo Ray looks useful for doctors, especially for new practitioners. Could you share a little on how you are different from competitors and what makes your offering special and noteworthy?

Doctors around the world love Practo Ray and use it to manage millions of patients every year. Here’s why:

  • Practo Ray was designed from the ground up with specific focus on the workflow for doctors.
  • Practo Ray is cloud-based which means that doctors and clinics don’t have to bother with the day-to-day IT management of software and can stop worrying about things like software updates, all of which Practo Ray does automatically.
  • Practo Ray can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection – we even have apps for iOS and Android.
  • Being in the cloud, data on Practo Ray is available anywhere you go. For example, our app for Android can alert a doctor if a patient is calling – even if the doctor has not saved the patient’s number on his/her phone!
  • Doctors have instant access to their calendar and all the case histories of their patients through the Ray App.
  • We even send appointment reminders to patients on the day and this can reduce patient no-shows by over 70% helping doctors and clinics better plan their day.
  • Practo Ray also provides unparalleled security including the highest encryption standards, IP address and geo location locks to make sure that the data is only accessed by the staff from inside the clinic and from specific devices only.
  • Again, since it is in the cloud, the records are never affected by any local system issues like hard disk failures or malware/virus etc – ensuring that the data sanctity and privacy is maintained to the highest standards in the world.
  • The post-sale customer support offered by Practo Ray is unparalleled – users can access support on the phone, email & live chat. Support channels are active 24/7.

7) Are the medical records stored on your services or the doctor’s, and if on your services, how would you ensure patient confidentiality?

We’re patient first, so we want to make sure everything we do is for the benefit of the patient. We therefore take data security and privacy extremely seriously and comply with the highest encryption standards and privacy regulations in the world including but not limited to HIPAA. Our data is hosted on Amazon cloud and we’ve made sure that they too are HIPAA compliant.

8) Last question. Congrats also to Shashank for having one of the highest approval ratings from employees (Glassdoor)! Could you share a little on your management philosophy?

Thank you. I think this is really a reflection of the strong leadership team we have at Practo and our incredible culture that we call #do-great. We realised very early on that our culture and values will be what defines us and these are really the difference between good and great companies. Culture fit for us is an extremely important criterion for someone to join the Practo team.

Do-great as a culture really means that an individual strives to be the best in the world at whatever it is they do and they do it not for want of rewards or recognition (which they get) but because that is what they expect from themselves – to be nothing less than the best in the world at whatever they do. Once you have people with this kind of motivation on board, then the only thing the leadership team needs to do is get out of their way and enable to achieve amazing things – this is one of the big reasons why we’ve been able to scale so fast globally

The other thing that we do is that as a company internally, we are structured like many startups within a startup – and what that really means is that each team has complete autonomy on how they approach the problem statement given to them. This is why as a company we’re guided more by our values than any specific rules. One of the key values for us is “Think first principles” which means that when approaching a task ask the most fundamental question to re-think why things are or aren’t done a certain way. I’ve always found that first principle thinking leads to incredibly disruptive insights which can translate into industry changing products.

Our other core value is something we call VUPIM – which is essentially a prioritization matrix for us as a company and guides all our decisions. First and foremost, all decisions are optimized for ‘Vision’, then ‘User, then ‘Practeons’ (employees), then Investor and finally ‘Me’ (the individual). All differences of opinions in Practo – whether it is between me and my co-fouder or between us and other teams or even within each of the teams are settled by this matrix. We’ve found this to be an incredible guiding light to keep us aligned to our true north.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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