In India, there are several startup companies which are enjoying incredible success on the basis of inventiveness they have brought in their businesses; the Bengaluru-based Cloud Physician is one such credible startup in the healthcare sector

In February, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced something that brought cheer to the startup world. She announced that India is now the third largest ecosystem for start-ups globally, and ranks second in innovation quality among middle-income countries. And hence the special push for startups this year.

The budget's announcements prioritized research and innovation, leverage of technology, skill development and medical education. The total budget allocation for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for FY 2023-24 has seen a 12.6% increase over revised budget estimates for last year. The announcements are in sync with the rise of the healthcare startup in India.

The startup wave began with Deep Health Tech startups (startups that leveraged deep technology solutions based on substantial scientific or engineering challenges blending AI, data, automation, and others) during the pandemic - out of necessity.

And, the wave continued post-pandemic where innovation was the solution for major health issues. Almost around this time came Cloud Physician which was experimenting with the idea of setting up ICUs across India, especially in tier II and III cities.

Dileep Raman and his friend Dhruv Joshi, both doctors in Bengaluru, have perfected the art of setting up Intensive Care Units in a box - simply called ICU in a box concept - in any hospital, anywhere in India, through their revolutionary healthcare startup called Cloud Physician.

Cloud Physician provides Intensive Care Unit services to hospitals that do not have these critical care units through the ICU-in-a-box concept. The Smart ICU kit comprises high-end cameras (with 25X resolution compared to the latest iPhone camera), EMR (Electronic Medical Records) maintained on the cloud, connecting wires, software servers to support mobile cameras, laptops, and hi-res digital screens---all packed in a box that can be fitted in a space as small as a regular operation theatre in an average Indian town.

So far, the cloud company has set up 1,200 ICU beds in 70 hospitals across India and has served 58,000 patients. How exactly does it work? Dr Dileep Raman says, "Cloud Physician sends across its team to set up the ICU and they spend a week at the hospital to train the local doctors in its operations, protocols and the workflow procedures. Then the cloud component called RADAR takes over to provide live notifications, chat records, video conferencing facility besides a high-definition video feed for doctors around the clock."

Dr Raman cites the successful example of how their startup handled the organ transplant of a braindead patient in Nadiad, a small Gujarat town without ICU facilities.

“In June 2022, anaesthetist Dr. Dilip Singh Parmar of Aastha hospital in Nadiad, near Ahmedabad, was treating a 38-year-old road accident patient who was brain dead within a few hours of being brought to the hospital. Dr. Parmar wanted to ensure the brain-dead patient gave a lease of life to three other patients through his organs. The doctor then switched on Cloud Physician's Smart ICU kit and started relaying vital data of the patient to kidney, liver, eye specialists from across the country who were handling the case in various capacities. The specialists sitting as far as Noida could give expert advice which would lead to the organs being retrieved just in time for it to be transplanted to deserving patients," he says.

Did you know that currently India has only 5,000 Intensivists (ICU specialists) for over three lakh ICU beds? Cloud Physician bridges this gap by using advanced technology to reach out to the critical care patient in real-time. "Through technology, a specialist in Mulund in Mumbai can treat a patient in Mangalagiri in Andhra Pradesh," says Dr Raman.

Cloud Physician leverages the power of 360-degree cameras to enable a doctor hundreds of miles away to see the colour of the pupil and the texture of the tongue. This along with all the data helps doctors to intervene from anywhere in the world. So what does it take for a small hospital to be able to set up this ICU kit?

The founder duo say that hospitals need regular broadband connection to run this technology. Cloud Physician’s big success story has been about being able to remotely support an ICU ward in a hospital in Assam during the floods in June 2022. The healthcare startup did extensive work in Leh, Karnataka and Maharashtra during COVID19.

Cloud Physician is the brainchild of Dr. Dileep and Dr. Dhruv Joshi, a pulmonary and critical care specialist who bumped into each other at a medical seminar in the US. They both realised the need to be able to replicate ICUs across the country and started their company in 2017.

The homework involved visiting over 100 ICU units for two years across the country and trying out every remote care device/platform/app available in the world. They realised that India needs a platform that leverages the emerging cloud and deep tech health care concepts for a pan-Indian solution. Thus, was born a Cloud Physician.

Today, they boast of 25 ICU specialists, 60 ICU nurses and 200 other staff medical and tech professionals on board who offer their expertise to clients. Their tech team ably supports their medi team to be able to make cloud health a reality.

The concept also automates documentation, thus saving time for caregivers who get to focus on patient care. It brings together nurses, doctors and consultants and the medical data they need in one remote place. It generates Medical Intelligence and actionable data for efficient insights.

The founders say that the remote cloud technology has brought down overhead costs (such as travel and stay that patents and caregivers have to spend on) by one-fourth. So, a patient who used to spend Rs 80,000 now just has to spend Rs 20,000.

***The author is a Hyderabad-based journalist; views expressed are her own