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Bangalore tech executive links Filipino doctors and patients

Finding a doctor, making an appointment and lining up for a checkup can be exhausting to healthcare patients, especially for those who require immediate medical attention. Shashank ND, a 27-year-old Bangalore-based executive, is on a mission to change things through information technology.

Practo, the company he established in 2008 and now heads as chief executive, empowers healthcare patients to make online appointments with doctors.  In the Philippines alone, Practo currently has a list of 11,000 doctors, which are categorized according to their specialization and location.

“I have always been passionate about solving meaningful problems. We chose to start Practo, because we found that no one was really looking at solving the healthcare problem in any meaningful way,” Shashank, who was born in Bangalore, the center of India’s high-tech industry and started Practo while he was studying at National Institute of Technology, says in an e-mail interview.

Practo founder and chief executive Shashank ND

“I started Practo [in 2008] when I was in college and continue to be deeply passionate about transforming the healthcare experience for billions of people globally,” Shashank says.

He says healthcare is among the last industries to be completely transformed by technology. “In an era where I can book movie tickets without getting out of bed, I have to jump through hoops to find myself a doctor. In the age of Internet, I have billions of spam emails but getting my health records digitally is a surprisingly difficult task. All this is going to change as technology permeates every aspect of healthcare and makes it digital,” he says.

Seeing this need, Shashank developed Practo as a ‘health app’ for any healthcare related activity.  The Practo platform offers two products, including Practo Search which allows healthcare patients to find the right doctors and book instant appointments.

With Practo Search (practo.com), patients can search and find doctors by location and specialization.  They can browse through more details about each doctor such as qualification, years of experience, fees, as well as clinic pictures and even GPS location.

“Our mission is to help people live healthier, longer lives and of course we want to do this for Filipino patients as well...As a first step, we are helping consumers find the right doctors by using Practo Search,” he says.

“We list all doctors post verification only. Our on ground team goes street by street, city by city to find and list the doctors on our platform. Guided by our ‘Patient First’ philosophy, we’ve taken the unique route of listing all doctors for free. We also don’t charge patients to book appointments or for doctors to receive these appointments,” Shashank says.

Another product of the company is Practo Ray, the cloud-based practice management software of choice for doctors.  It helps doctors and clinics digitize healthcare records.

Practor  founder and chief executive Shashank ND (right) and Insta Health founder and chief executive Ramesh Emani

“We are helping them create and maintain much better healthcare history with digital record creation through Practo Ray. Together, with better history combined with ability to find the right doctors, we believe we can dramatically simplify and improve the quality of healthcare experience especially when you combine this with the fact that we have great apps on Android and iOS app stores,” he says.

Shashank says every month, millions of patients now find the right doctor and book appointment on Practo.  “This makes us the largest healthcare platform in Asia and we’re still growing 50 to 100 percent a quarter. We currently list over 200,000 doctors across 35 cities in India and four countries including Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and India.”

“We currently list over 11,000 doctors in the greater Manila area, which is over 70-percent coverage in the region, and will of course be rapidly expanding in the coming weeks and months to cover more parts of the Philippines,” he says.

On why he chose to bring the service to the Philippines, Shashank says the country is undergoing a digital transformation.

“This presents a unique opportunity to help consumers get access to better healthcare information so they can make better healthcare decisions – starting with finding the right healthcare practitioner, booking an appointment with him and eventually to consult with him without even having to leave their home,” he says.

“With our entry into the market, we will enable consumers and healthcare professionals to discover each other – which will lead to better healthcare as consumers can discover the right doctors, spend far less time waiting, receive and store their healthcare records digitally,” he says.

Practo is on an expansion mode and has recently acquired Insta Health Solutions, a leading provider of end-to-end cloud based hospital information management solution that powers hospitals across 15 countries in India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The acquisition will provide an option to hospitals using Insta’s product to integrate with Practo’s platform and provide a superior healthcare experience to patients by enabling them to search and easily find information about doctor’s availability across hospital and departments, instant bookings as well as no wait times or queues once they reach the hospital for their appointment.

Shashank, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in Technology from India’s NIT and is a founder of iSPIRT, a think tank for the Indian software industry, has been featured in the ‘30 under 30’ list of young influential people to watch by Forbes in 2015.

In his spare time, he enjoys playing Squash that keeps him fit and agile. He is an avid reader, who used to read a book a month. “Now I try to read a book a week. Also, if there is a subject that interests me, I pick up three to four books and dig into it. When I get time, I enjoy catching up on good movies as well,” he says.

Practo employs over 50 people in the Philippines and is looking to increase the number to over 150 by March 2016.  He says in the next three to six months, Practo will continue to grow its presence in the country to cover more areas.

On young professionals who aspire to establish their own business,  Shashank says it starts with a vision. “Articulate the vision continuously and ensure each step you take is towards this. Vision helps align the entire team behind a common purpose,” he says.

Shashank says for one, his vision is a world where all health records are digital.  “You can consult with a doctor, any doctor, anywhere in the world by sharing your records with one click. A world where you live healthier, longer because technology helps you make better healthcare decisions. That is the world we’re trying to build at Practo—a world where mankind can live healthier and longer lives by making better healthcare decisions,” he says.

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