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Piramal healthcare goes rural

business Updated: Mar 11, 2008 23:10 IST
Suprotip Ghosh

Piramal Healthcare (PHL), the newly-created identity of the Rs 6,154- crore Nicholas Piramal Group, is now foraying into the rural healthcare segment. The company, which is in the business of medicine and pathological and medical tests, has already started a pilot project in Rajasthan.

The company is also starting a healthcare fund through Indiareit, its funds business, to invest in a wide variety of hospitals and hospital-related industries, the company said.

As part of the healthcare delivery project, the company is going to train nurses to enable them properly diagnose symptoms in a patient from villages. These trained nurses would use SMS and other telecommunications software to communicate to doctors in larger district or zonal hospitals in a hub-and-spoke model. PHL is targeting 1,00,000 villages in the coming five years, said Ajay Piramal, chairman of PHL.

“Let’s face it, even for doctors in villages, it is not physically possible to attend to every single case in the whole area. This hub and spoke model would let them cover much more area than currently possible,” he said. “You can also do a lot of things with the mobile phone. The doctor can feed it into software that can be incredibly accurate. And there is software available for it,” he added.

Once the doctors properly diagnose the disease, they would get back to the nurses in the local hospital, and the nurses would give the medicines out.

The model is different from telemedicine in the sense that the nurses would check the patients themselves.

In telemedicine, the patient speaks to the doctor directly through a video call, and the doctor does not physically examine the patient.

The model would require extensive support in terms of medical supplies and equipment. The company is already in talks with different stakeholders for it, Piramal said, but declined to name the companies.

He ruled out setting up of hospitals or clinics for the project, though. While the requirement of medicines and equipment to support the system could be a great source of monopoly revenue for PHL’s medicines business, Piramal said that a part of the project is to create confidence among the patients. This would be difficult to do in a monopoly situation, he said.