Dinesh Koka, founder of Onward Health, shares his experience

Dinesh founder of Onward Health says, “The seed was sown after my mother underwent a total knee replacement surgery in 2015. We saw her experience when trying to keep up with the doctor’s instructions. Shuffling through sheets of paper, having to check and recheck almost every day on what medicines to take when, what exercises to do and what restrictions to abide by. On doing more research, I found that average adherence in post-surgery patients is low, around 55 to 60 percent, which is surprising, given that low adherence delays surgery outcomes and leads to sub-optimal outcomes. I saw an opportunity in helping post-surgery patients keep up with the doctor’s instructions, so that they could achieve their target health outcome faster, without taking on additional stress.”

Dinesh started working on the Onward Health idea in July 2016, and incorporated the company a few months later, in September.

Onward Health’s software helps postoperative patients follow their discharge instructions and doctor’s advice to the letter. It also helps them stay connected to their care network through a simple communication platform.

Onward Health
Team Onward Health

Thirty nine-year-old Dinesh has worked in the healthcare sector for 15 years, across multiple locations in India and abroad. He took up many roles while working with different players, from department heads of hospital IT, to doctors and investors in healthcare, to government officials heading state health departments. He joined the healthcare industry after completing his MBA from IIM Lucknow.

How did he go about addressing this opportunity?

On being asked this question, Dinesh explained, “We started with talking to people who have undergone surgeries, understanding their motivations or lack thereof. We studied factors that affect adherence like stress, isolation, and lack of information. We then spoke to doctors across the spectrum, in different specialties. Some initial research revealed that this is a significant problem across geographies, and not specific to India. Then I got down to imagining what a solution would look like. For example, should it be just reminders, or should it be in the form of an app? What would doctors want to look at, and how could we minimise the time doctors spend on the platform and still get the required patient information? The answers to those questions led us to my initial framework for the patient app and the doctor app.”

The app helps the patient follow their plan without a miss, encompassing key factors like medication, exercise and diet. It also provides reminders and alerts to the patient at the designated time, with details of the activity to be completed. Its caregiver app helps the caregiver with managing their patient’s adherence. The doctors’ app helps the doctor monitor their patient remotely. They can use it for medicine and activity compliance as well as real-time health status (e.g. BP, HR, blood glucose).

Market size

The market open to the company is worth nearly $4 billion in India, and almost $150 billion globally. In the first twelve months, the company is expecting to have commercial contracts in place with 15 hospital groups. It projects running all their surgery patients through Onward, amounting to nearly 10,000 discharges per month.

Onward Health plans to monetise through the usage of the app, and then by following up with healthcare services. Their primary client base includes hospitals. The company is bootstrapping right now, while at the same time looking for investors for a seed round. It will use this investment to ramp up technology as well as sales efforts.

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