Accessible, affordable, and inexpensive: VitusCare is focusing on the three A’s of kidney treatment within Tier I and III India

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In the time that Prabhat Kumar Srivastava‘s father needed a crucial dialysis procedure, he as well as his family could not locate a suitable dialysis center in their home town, Jabalpur. The experience eventually caused Prabhat as well as his entire family relocate to Delhi and took a psychological strain on the family.

After having been through this experience, Prabhat was well aware of the common challenges faced by small towns that are common in India or Bharat as he refers to it. This is the reason he made it his own mission to fill the gaps in the kidney care system in India’s backwaters by launching his dialysis-related startup VitusCare.

“Our goal is to provide patients with services near their homes. When I say close to their homes, I mean that the dialysis center should be within a mile,” says Prabhat, Director of VitusCare and co-founder. Dialysis Centres.

Founded in July 2017 by Prabhat, Dr Saurabh Pokhariyal, Co-founder and Director; and Pankaj Tandon, Co-Founder and Director, VitusCare was conceived with the idea to provide quality dialysis therapy to the bottom-of-the-pyramid population, which finds accessing the kidney care ecosystem a challenge.

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The causes of the issue range from the lack of high-quality secondary and tertiary care facilities in non-metropolitan cities along with a range of socio-economic factors, including.

Prabhat states that in spite of the gaps in public health service, the company experienced an unprecedented need during the pandemic. Because most hospitals were overwhelmed, dialysis services were cut off. The death rate is extremely high in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients as a result interruption in treatment. This is a critical need, and the treatment cannot be interrupted at any time.

“Patients suffered as they could not access dialysis. Our centres were all functioning at their maximum capacity throughout the pandemic and we ensured that we provided every patient throughout the entire course of treatment,” he shares.

an article released in National Centre for Biotechnology Information revealed how the impact that comes with CKD in India cannot be accurately assessed. However, the estimated amount in CKD of CKD is around 800 percent of the people.

The 2018estimate estimated the number of patients with chronic dialysis across the United States at approximately 175,000, which is an average of around 129 patients per million people.

World Dialysis Perspective India analysis conducted by Joyita Bharati and Vivekanand Jha revealed that the dialysis service in India are largely provided by companies in the private sector which reflects the low level of public investment in health care. The study shows that the rate of death attributed to CKD in India has increased between 0.59 millions in the year 1990, to 1.18 million in 2016.

India is also home to among the lowest densities of nephrology workersworldwide. There are just 2600 renallogists (1.9 per million people), and there is a continuous shortage of dialysis nurses and technicians.

There are a variety of gaps exist in accessto dialysis. The majority of people in India reside in areas of rural where the accessibility of dialysis (HD) is not as abundant. According to a study, more than 60% of people receiving dialysis were required to travel for more than 50 km to reach HD and almost 25% lived more than 100 kilometers from the center. Traveling for HD increases expenses and causes a the loss of income. Additionally, women are not represented and there are very only a few paediatric dialysis facilities.

That’s where the model of care of companies like VitusCare is a good fit.

The goal is to make dialysis services affordable and accessible for people living in cities in Tier II as well as Tier III cities of India, VitusCare leverages data analysis and provides an innovative delivery system.

Prabhat clarifies that a large amount of equipment is essential to run dialysis centers in a systematic manner. It comprises a clinical team to enforce SOPs and a biomedical team to oversee the operation of equipment, an administration team as well as a team of nursing staff and nephrologists, as well as operations teams, and patients-experience teams and patient awareness groups.

According to the company, it’s achieved several important clinical and operational efficiencies to lower the cost of care and to improve accessibility to healthcare.

The facilities include in-centre HD and Nephrology OPD (outpatient department) and consultation services. HD is believed as the best popular kidney replacement therapy (RRT) method in India. The HD centers are constructed in collaboration with hospitals and top renal specialists.

The company also offers treatment in stand-alone centers and within the comfort of one’s own home (especially for those with geriatric conditions) under its home dialysis program. It also lets patients regulate their treatment regimen.

At present, VitusCare conducts dialysis sessions for over 1500 patients and hopes to expand this number up to 5,000 patients per month. The company, which runs approximately 1,25,000 dialysis sessions per year, hopes to provide up to 10,00000 dialysis sessions a year.

“Tier II and III still remain unsolved by private players in this field and by the government,” claims Prabhat however he is awed by the the government’s Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme.

“The whole healthcare system is broken and dispersed across the nation. Therefore, it comes with its own set of challenges. We’re trying to find a space in which we can cross the gap and speed up last-mile dialysis delivery,” he adds.

However, even in Delhi, VitusCare primarily targets areas which are in West Delhi, which is generally under-served compared to other parts of Delhi’s capital.

VitusCare currently has a presence in 30 cities, and plans to open additional centers across Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh.

The startup in healthcare wants to expand its operations and is planning to open 150or more centres within 3 years. Outside of North India, it will “aggressively focus” on central and western India.

But, Prabhat points out a important and constant issue in obtaining skilled labor.

“That is why we operate a number of home-grown programs within VitusCare in all of the 30 centers. We provide our employees with ongoing learning and skill development opportunities through a mix of SOPs, tracking, and regularly scheduled refresher courses at times,” he says.

It is an additional expense for the business, but the management plans to use this as an investment over the long term investment that will create top-quality skilled workers within the dialysis industry.

Tech along with the other three letters

“Availability accessibility, accessibility, and affordability are the three pillars upon which we’ve been working to develop our platform and the care chain. One of the most crucial aspects to accomplish this involves bridging the divide between patients and their doctor,” Prabhat says.

There are three players in the entire system which are the service provider that provides services in connection with kidney and dialysis care and the physician who provides advice to patients and also a platform such as VitusCare (which serves as an facilitator or bridge between health care providers/hospitals and the patients as well as the physician and the patient).

Basically, VitusCare helps them book appointments or get an experts’ advice regarding critical health.

“We offer three different revenue sources in the principle. The box-in-box model in which we provide dialysis service for a hospital. In addition, we have our own separate centres. We also offer home care services, where we provide care to those with lower mobility and those who are older,” says Prabhat.

The company competes with Nephroplus, Apex Kidney Care and DCDC However, there’s a distinct difference.

“While others are focused on urban and international geographies (South East Asia), VitusCare is focused on solving the gaps in the kidney care ecosystem of Bharat–Tier II and Tier III towns of India,” Prabhat states.

It has received an undetermined amount of capital in the pre-Series A round from angel investors and institutional investors

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