Access to basic health

Together with Swasth India, a start-up company from Mumbai, femS3 has created a model that seeks to deliver quality, affordable healthcare in and around urban slums.

The model is built around two key insights: firstly in order to save time, money (often meaning hourly wages) and effort, economically poorer Indian communities prefer to access local physicians for basic healthcare needs. Local traditional healers, ayurveda physicians, chemists prescribing drugs and in some cases even local quacks especially in rural India thrive due to this reason. Based on this insight the Swasth team decided very early on to set up clinics at the heart of localities to ensure quick and easy accessibility, providing services in the same location that people most easily access.

The second insight was that most often healthcare costs are high because various stages of delivering healthcare (such as consultation, diagnostic tests, delivery of medicines etc) are not integrated. This means each stage independently incurs logistics costs, upkeep and retains its own profit margins – resulting in increased expenses that a patient has to bear. The perceived costs are lower when a patient goes to a local healer. It is expected that each visit to a proper ‘Doctor’ could cost anywhere between Rs. 150 to Rs. 250 and more in case of additional tests etc. But that may not really solve the illness either. By integrating all the stages, the Swasth model is able to reduce the cost of every visit to the Doctor by 30-50%, creating a compelling reason for poorer communities to use efficient, high quality healthcare instead of the local unauthorized healthcare providers.

Combining these two insights, Swasth is building a model that leverages local doctors, locally accessible simple medical centres that combine all the necessary basic services. In April 2012, Swasth India operated 3 medical centres in the slum areas of Mumbai. In 2013, they have grown to 10 centres, and have also added services like dental check-ups to some of the centres, in addition to the GP consultation and tests. The team is now planning to grow to 50 centres by 2014 – with a clear understanding of what it takes to break even at each centre.

For more information about the model, download the Case Study.