Talk to anyone you know and there are a few experiences that we as a society dread. In the Top 3 of that list you will see that OPD consults with doctors is a big pain point today given the hassles of a commute, waiting time and just the physical exhaustion and effort that comes with it. Add to this the factors of doctor density and paucity of specialists versus patients and there is an unholy mess. Thankfully mfine – a Bangalore based startup is changing all this for the better
Going to the doctors is very stressful. We all try to avoid it, it comes with a lot of problems. Even if we brave all that and get there, there is a dull and boring routine of explaining what your problem is to multiple people over an hour or so only to repeat all that to a doctor. And after an extended chat with the doctor, you a get a prescription that even trained graphologists can’t read but somehow a pharmacist can. There are instances when you need a specific kind of doctor and they are available only halfway across the city. You then brave that and get there to be greeted by a stoic assistant who makes a big deal of taking down your symptoms. You have to hope and pray that they get everything right. They then inform the doc and the doc sees you, the same questions are asked again. By the time you explain your sickness, you get sicker from exhaustion and need vitamins added to the prescription. This gets even more complicated if you live in suburban or ill-connected areas. There is an Indian startup that is trying to help us get through this in a very creative, innovative and quick way – Bangalore based mfine.
What mfine has cleverly done right at the outset is remove the dangerous elements of human error, fatigue and biases in symptom collection by having an AI do it. When I say an AI, I mean a proper AI. They are not using expert system type conditional engines to look at the problem linearly alone. They have made a wholistic solution that can actually parse natural language and extract the relevant data. It does this by asking a series of questions that you have to respond to and your responses in turn lead to further questions. Your responses build a carefully evaluated and crafted report of your symptoms. This forms the input to a well thought-out neural network. A neural network is a digital version of a brain that can assimilate, learn and infer, much like our brain. Neural networks also have the plasticity that defines the human brain and how it works. The network then parses what you have told it and calls a decision tree which then narrows down what you are suffering from to a deterministic list of high probability conditions. The output of that is then given to a human doctor who is a specialist and then the doctor uses this as an aid to make a diagnosis and give you a prescription. The system can also give you medication reminders and follow up on your condition.
While what I described above sounds like a Stanford project currently in beta, it is actually a very intuitive and simple app that the Bangalore based startup has built and has a good user base already. They have tied up with top tier hospitals to rope in consultants to talk to you and help you. Tying up with the hospitals ensures that even if one specialist is out, there is another equally good one around to help you. This is better than tying up with individuals that makes the personal dependence a bottleneck. One of the best things about this app is the fact that an actual doctor will see you in 60 seconds and you can video chat with the doctor. Effectively an online and digital OPD for hospitals. You get a prescription that is legally valid and thankfully legible at the end of the process. If you condition warrants a physical visit, that is then scheduled from within the app for you. So it is technically a Win-Win-Win at the end.
AI usage here is not only innovative, but very practical too. AI has a large set of medical data sources that it has and continues to assimilate knowledge from. The AI assistant is just that, an assistant for the doctor. It is not a bot that will try to replace your doctor. It is a super-powered assistant to your doctor and a thoughtful nurse for you at the same time. You have complete control over what data is shared with the doctor and the hospital at all times.
On the app , top doctors from more than 15 leading and reputed hospitals in Bengaluru such as CloudNine, Aster, and Ovum consult with patients across nine specialties such as Cardio, Pediatrics, Dermatology, etc. I personally used the app to talk to a specialist and had a prescription in less than half an hour, I then went through the legacy process and got the same prescription after three hours and a stifling drive. I am a satisfied user. The practical applications are many – imagine the physically challenged people without access to primary healthcare and people in far away areas who need a consult. India needs this and needs it right now.
The team that created mfine is lead by Ashutosh Lawania and Prasad Kompalli who were with Myntra and then got into bionics for a while before starting mfine. The CTO is Ajit Narayanan. The team has a clear vision for the app. They are looking to add a layer of cognition to it going forward. They are also prioritizing the addition of more critical specialities to it. The system will then be more aware, intelligent and focused too. They are not in a hurry to get there though, they are looking to add value to patients and doctors and hospitals. They are well funded and have the backing of Stellaris and Prime Venture partners among others.
As an AI enthusiast and a tech observer, I am intrigued by this solution and will be following them closely. Prime has added another feather to their cap in the diverse portfolio of meaningful startups that they help. The future is indeed AI and looks very bright.