Aetna's vHealth moves into India's rural communities

Aetna's vHealth moves into India's rural communities

A virtual health service by Aetna has teamed up with Vakrangee, a unique technology-driven company, to provide high quality primary care to India's hard-to-reach rural communities.

The two companies say they are working together to provide a practical and affordable alternative that has the potential to change the Indian healthcare landscape.

India currently has only one doctor for approximately every 1,300 people, compared to one for every 360 people in the UK. And despite being home to 72% of the population, rural communities in India are served by just 20% of the nation's doctors.

India currently has only one doctor for approximately every 1,300 people, compared to one for every 360 people in the UK."

In reality, this means that Indians living in more remote parts of the country may well need to make a 30-km round trip just to see a doctor - and that can result in people being more likely to skip treatments and ignore serious medical conditions.

Accessibility and convenience
When Aetna first launched its telehealth service, vHealth, to customers in 2017, the aim was to reduce the need for face-to-face doctor's appointments. This was achieved by providing telephone and video consultations, directly from the customer's mobile, along with a host of additional health care services such as paper-free prescriptions, medication delivery and easy access to diagnostic tests.

Conversely, Vakrangee has been focused on building India's largest network of last-mile retail outlets to deliver real-time banking and financial services, ATMs, e-commerce and logistics services to unserved rural, semi-urban and urban communities. It now has more than 10,000 operational outlets of which 70% are in remote rural locations.

Since teaming up with vHealth, it is now also able to provide invaluable telehealth services to customers who typically have no other way of seeing a doctor.

Back on the map
It's no secret that good primary health care is the cornerstone of every vibrant community, so the value of vHealth in these communities cannot be understated. With 80% of doctors, 75% of pharmacies and 60% of hospitals currently in urban areas, vHealth is saving customers a considerable amount of time and money in journeys and travel expenses.

Sneh Khemka, VP for Population Health at CVS Health, believes the partnership shows just how important vHealth can be to community health care. "Rural India has been traditionally underserved, but vHealth can make a huge difference. To put this into context, more than 70% of patients in India who use the service do not need to go on for further intervention."


Mr. Dinesh Nandwana, MD and Group CEO of Vakrangee Ltd, says that the partnership could revolutionise the way health care is delivered across India. "It is set to give patients in rural locations a very different experience when they see a doctor. We are now able to arrange home blood tests and doorstep delivery of medicines through vHealth's partner network."

The response from members in India so far has been positive and, with provider networks and pharmacy services growing all the time, vHealth's expansion throughout the country looks extremely optimistic. More importantly, it's a step towards solving one of the biggest challenges to India's health care system - making medical services that bit more accessible.

vHealth services are offered in India by Aetna's fully owned subsidiary, the Indian Health Organisation. 

Author spotlight

Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.