India has a healthcare challenge that is relatively unique to the country. With one doctor to every 1,700 people, rising incidents of non-communicable diseases and much of the population faced with paying out-of-pocket, the healthcare situation is less than ideal for many of its 1.3 billion residents.

At the same time, however, smartphone use is rising – currently topping 350 million users – and bandwidth costs are falling rapidly. This is fuelling a rise in medtech solutions that are increasingly looking to “leapfrog” the healthcare systems of more developed nations by resolving India’s medical needs in a manner that is both location-agnostic and deeply technological.

In 2018 alone Indian medtech companies attracted $571m in investment, but one company leading the pack is virtual healthcare startup mfine.

At the core of mfine’s service is telemedicine: patients enter their symptoms through the company’s app, and are offered a list of appropriate doctors to choose from.  They make their selection, and have an instant video chat with the healthcare professional. Any prescriptions are available immediately after the call, and follow-up consultations are free, regardless of the number required.

The company also makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) to assist human doctors, by diagnosing and triaging common diseases. This increases the efficiency and effectiveness of doctors, increasing the number of patients that can be helped.

mfine is by no means the only provider in the world offering this kind of service, but has one of the fullest services in this area. Alongside general practitioners, patients are able to speak to specialists in areas such as cardiology, oncology and fertility, while partnerships with leading hospitals and healthcare practitioners ensure a high standard of care. There are also plans to add at-home lab tests and integrate wearable healthcare trackers into the platform.

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By GlobalData

And notably, while this type of service is often offered in as a solution to minor niggles in established healthcare systems, such as in the UK, in India it has the potential to dramatically improve healthcare access in the country.

mfine’s plan to become India’s virtual healthcare giant

Having today announced $17.2m in Series B funding, with investment led by Japanese venture capital firm SBI Investment bringing its total raised to date to over $24m, mfine has ambitious plans in India.

With over 100,000 users in the last 15 months and 30% month-over-month growth in customers, the startup is off to a strong start. But it has far more lofty goals, and is working to become the largest provider of virtual healthcare in the country.

“The current funding is an endorsement to mfine’s unique model of working with reputed and accredited hospitals and using technology to make quality healthcare accessible to millions of people,” said Prasad Kompalli, CEO and co-founder of mfine.

“The consumer traction proves that our model works and with this investment we want to scale the service across the country.”

Disrupting the Indian healthcare system

However, this is not simply about becoming a major player in an emerging market. For investors, the company has the potential to change the very nature of the healthcare system within the country.

“mfine’s AI healthcare delivery platform has the potential to bring in huge transformation in the Indian healthcare system where quality doctors are far and few and access to quality is limited,” Tomoyuki Nii, executive officer of SBI Investment.

“With an on-demand model and state-of-the-art AI and mobile tech, mfine stood out for us with great potential to deliver large scale impact in healthcare delivery in India.”

“The application of AI to help deliver large-scale impact in delivering healthcare is game-changing,” added  Teru Sato, founder and managing partner of BEENEXT, which also invested in the latest funding round.

“mfine has a very strong team with the founders having deep technical knowledge and with the right vision and business model for building a large impactful business in India’s healthcare sector.”

For mfine itself, however, the goal is to take the country’s healthcare system a step beyond that of developed nations, as Kompalli explains:

“We believe that India will leapfrog the methods of healthcare delivery that were adopted in the developed nations, and mobile will be at the centre of this disruption.”

Read more: Artificial intelligence is making tech companies the new healthcare giants