It was one of the many online meetings; a feature the pandemic has spread through many hours of our work week. Our Singapore and India teams were excited to exchange the lessons emerging from the process of defining affordability challenges and finding appropriate tech-based financing solutions along with Fintech for Health program partners. We decided we must share the synergies of healthcare and fintech with a larger audience. On July 3rd, our team hosted the first Fintech for Health webinar with the spotlight on the Indian health system. The panel was a confluence of experts from health, finance, technology, and academia.

Dr. Alka Parikh, Dean Research (Social Sciences), Director, Amity Institute of Liberal Arts set the stage by walking us through the way financing for health has evolved. The traditional approach functioned on a philosophy of free service for all. But in countries like India the quality was deteriorating and in countries like Europe, waiting lists were the issue. Some countries like the USA mandated insurance which involved copayment but gave the patient the choice of the provider. In India, the expansion of the private sector and insurance came along with over prescription and increased expenditure for the patient. Certain groups like informal workers and elderly were left uninsured. Public measures such as government sponsored insurance target poorer income groups. Private sector innovations include microfinance, telemedicine, and most recent solutions based on technologies such as Artificial Learning and Blockchain, which can extend financing solutions for groups that access lacked to traditional forms of finance.

Blended financing models are needed to address affordability challenges

Shama Karkal, CEO of Swasti Health Catalyst, cited the need for going beyond the clinical walls; a need to understand that socioeconomic factors, physical environment, health behaviors, and healthcare together contribute to the health of the individual. Swasti has the invest for wellness i4we program that offers comprehensive primary care solutions bundled with financial services, based on standard protocols using technology. Shama highlighted that no one model addressed the health needs of the poor, focused on their overall wellbeing. There is a need for innovative blended financing solutions aggregating health and financial services, including the views of the consumer in the design of these solutions.

Innovative financing solutions are reaching the marginalized and poor

In India, various demographics do not have access to credit, due to poor or non-existent credit scores. 300 million people use smartphones, 150 million people have a presence in the Credit Bureau, yet only 30 million have access to credit. Similarly, about 8 million Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) pay taxes and only 1.5 million have access to credit. Technology is the key lever that can address the gaps in credit scoring, lending and providing other financial services to traditionally left out demographics. FoodLens is a fintech product by Kratos Innovation Labs. That connects farmers to larger marketplaces and makes low cost credit available to them. Kratos uses blockchain technology to log all the activities of the farmers from purchase of seed to reaping harvest, creating an alternate scoring for their credit worthiness. Such products are increasingly disrupting healthcare too. As Shiva Prasad, Senior Advisor, Kratos notes “the handshake of traditional banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFC), and young and dynamic fintechs is paving way for innovative solutions in India”.

eHealth platforms bring a range of product and services at lower costs to consumers

eHealth is another important technology-enabled model changing the way healthcare is accessed by people. The COVID-19 has seen a further increase in the number of eHealth users, scaling to a market size of USD 35 Billion by 2025. eHealth platforms combine e-pharmacy, e-diagnostics, and e-consultation to make the care process simple for patients. They provide these offerings at discounted rates by leveraging lower cost of operations, buying margin, and stock management. Aparna Leon, the Director of Revenue at Medlife, one of the largest eHealth platforms in India shared that eHealth and fintech are coming together to provide microfinancing mechanisms such as ‘buy now, pay later’, which are available in most forms of e-commerce today. A chronic disease patient, with a regular requirement of medicines, benefits from such a cushion for making payments. Such a consumer also will contribute to a large volume of financial transactions to the eHealth platform to use as a credit scoring mechanism for future use.

Multi-stakeholder platforms are needed to bring forth the most effective solutions for health

Kavita Sachwani, State Coordinator – Maharashtra, 2030 Water Resources Group, World Bank brought to the panel lessons from her experience with working in the banking, insurance, and development sectors. Kavita highlighted the role of impact investing that are investments into organizations with intention to generate measurable social/environmental impact along with financial returns. Impact investing from 2010-19 has been over a USD 1000 million, which has a substantial scope to increase further. Collaboration among the multiple stakeholders within the healthcare ecosystem, the financial ecosystem, and other social sectors can overcome regulatory and policy challenges and act as the key to unlock the potential for catalytic development in the future.

Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) for affordable and quality healthcare

 For more information, please click here to watch the webinar.