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Lifespan is trying to take the stress out of diabetes

Believes Ashok Jain, Founder and CEO, Lifespan in an interaction with Ekta Srivastava, Health Technology. On November 14th 2013 , his vision to save India from diabetes came one step closer to reality when  he founded Lifespan Diabetes Management Clinics. The mission was to provide diabetics a kind of safe haven, where they could get all the treatments they need under one roof.

In just a span of two years, Lifespan has 33 clinics across 9 cities and has touched lives of over 60,000 diabetics, across the country to reach maximum diabetic population. This was to help other diabetics lead a healthier and longer life.

What is the concept underlying Lifespan? Any model that you emulate?

When I was working with Cadbury Schweppes as its Managing Director and Coca cola took over, I felt it was the time to move on. All my mentors/ well wishers advised me to start my own business and I decided to go for it. I started a dotcom company which did not go anywhere. But one of our sites, called goodhealthandyou.com, which still exists, became quite popular. So we thought, “How can we create a business around it?” That’s why we ventured into healthcare. Eventually, we metamorphosized into Oxygen Healthcare (Pharma strategy + advertising), Oxygen TV (health education via TVs in 6500 doctor’s waiting rooms in 20 cities) and Lifespan. We have been in the healthcare business for the last 16 years. Diabetes is a multi dimensional & very complex disease. The way it is managed today, it requires different kind of treatment & management. For example, it requires a team to take over & not just a diabetologist but also an educator, a dietitian. Second, you require 30 to 35 minutes of counseling & its not just a matter of medication. Third, it requires a lot of tests, it requires a lot of products that are all needed to be brought in one place. So that’s what we’ve done at lifespan, we’ve brought everything to one place.

What are the technological advancements you have introduced lately in the vertical? Your core strengths?

What sets Lifespan apart is that everything is designed from a patient-centric point of view, rather than a doctor’s point of view, and its not just about treatment modalities. Number two: it is all under one roof – right from diagnosis to speaking to a dietitian, educator, diabetologist. As a patient, you don’t want to keep going from pillar to post. Lifespan also has anti- diabetic- customized food products available at every clinic. Thirdly, the convenience that you can reach out through emails or phone or any form of electronic consultation is another USP. Once you meet the doctor, you may not visit again. The phlebotomist comes home to take patient’s blood. So life is easy and convenient for the patient. Diabetes is a hassling disease. So we don’t want that added hassle of waiting for a doctor, going to a diagnostic centre, finding products in another place etc. Lifespan is trying to take the stress out of diabetes. We have got a team of educators, we have dietitians, we have diabetologists & it is mandatory to spend 30 minutes with them. We have different tests where we take care that you don’t have to come back again. We have products which are available then and there. You can buy glucometers & food products. So all the needs of a diabetic is taken care under one roof with enough counseling & with multi-dimensional approach to the whole thing.

What are the challenges faced by Lifespan?

The industry is high-inertia. People don’t want to deal with the consequences of an inactive lifestyle nor do they want to deal with diabetes. We are trying to create awareness among people, educate & dispel myths that diabetic patients have, especially considering the number of people with pre-diabetes in the country.

What’s not been easy, is telling doctors that there is a different way of doing things. For example, we don’t want patients to wait. As a patient, I don’t want to wait. Asking doctors to adapt to new processes is a slightly tough job. Second example: it was a challenge finding doctors who can type and work on computers. Lifespan is paperless and all data is on cloud. But we have managed to overcome this hurdle today. What’s not been easy, is telling doctors that there is a different way of doing things.

Please tell us something about R.I.S.C.TM Test.

The R.I.S.C.TM test is safe and non-invasive as no blood samples are taken, nothing introduced into the body and no harmful rays used. It also makes treatment cost-effective as it identifies which organs are likely to be affected so that treatment to prevent the complications can be started. It screens an individual for risk of developing diabetes by calculating Insulin resistance. It also assesses one’s cardio metabolic risk score and autonomic neuropathy risk score.  It tells about one’s body fat composition, heart functioning and the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, and sudomotor nerves.

The test assesses 30 vital health indicators which give an idea regarding one’s risk of developing neuropathies and heart-related complications.

This test does not require any blood sample, only demands a 3 hour fasting.

As diabetic patients are at high risk for getting complications of the heart and nervous system along with eyes, kidneys and various other organs, this test helps to-

  • Identify how diabetes is affecting your organs and what diabetic complications you may have developed and also are at risk of developing.
  • Detect cardiometabolic-related problems, cardiac autonomic neuropathy, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, arterial stiffness and sudomotor abnormalities.
  • Analyzes a person’s present health status- the test checks for markers of underlying abnormal health condition by detecting small physiological changes.

In your opinion, what role do emerging technologies like Big data play in the current technology adoption for healthcare vertical? Especially when we talk about patients suffering from diabetes?

When we speak of emerging technology, we’re talking about reporting, dashboards, data storage, data transfer, etc. What this means for Lifespan is integrated appointment booking software at both clinic and call-center level, inventory management software for products, tracking medium (print and digital) response, tracking outstanding payments or bad debts. It also means a better understanding of customer buying patterns in regards to print and other media. Because we have an in-house technical team, it also means we can make appropriate changes as and when necessary.

How a patient should join Lifespan? How does it help them? What are its benefits?

Right from the appointment of the doctor, the whole procedure is highly automated. When they come to us we record their health history, then diabetes educator or diabetologists counsel them and then they go to the dietitian. Then they are diagnosed fully and are given a plan based on their lifestyle, medication, management, exercise, etc. This information is also available online for them and they can consult us through the web, calls, videos, etc. They can come and consult with us regarding any doubt. We have a team of doctors who follow-up with these patients and update them on their health management. We have annual plans that are inexpensive and we encourage people to take it as it is the most efficient way to manage their health because its there with you for your whole life. We send our experts at their homes to check their blood sugar in annual packages and we do it as per their convenience. When I had to go to various places for glucometer, tests, diagnostics, wait for the doctor for atleast 2 hours, I thought to combine this at one place. That’s what exactly we do at Lifespan.

How can a PPP be a better alternative to fully owned governmental healthcare schemes? Do you see the PPP initiatives as more efficient at delivery of services?

Given the natural drawbacks in governmental healthcare schemes, a well-defined PPP is always better.


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