Tag: Healthcare

The effect of repurposed drugs on COVID-19 patients explained

There is a need for aggregation and analysis of the vast data that will be generated from the use of repurposed drugs such as Remdesivir, Favipiravir and Dexamethasone in the coming times to understand their true potential for COVID treatment

Repurposing broad-spectrum antiviral agents have been deemed ‘safe-in-man’ through testing on early phase clinical trials for COVID-19. In April 2020, an international collaborative research team conducted a large-scale drug repurposing survey to identify existing drugs that prevent the COVID-19 virus from replicating. The team consisted of scientists from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Scripps Research Institute, University of California San Diego, University of California Los Angeles (all CA, USA), The University of Hong Kong (China), University of Vienna (Austria), Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TX, USA) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (NY, USA). The team discovered 300 drugs that could stop the virus from replicating. Utilising molecular tools such as PCR and immunofluorescence microscopy, the researchers were then able to determine 30 most effective candidates. A few are already under evaluation for use in COVID 19 around the world.

Back home, after extensive use of hydroxychloroquine, repurposed drugs Remdesivir, Favipiravir and Dexamethasone have been touted to show a lot of promise in early trials for the treatment of COVID-19. These drugs have been approved for treatment by the ICMR under emergency use authorisation conditions. There is an informed consent form which the prescribing doctor first explains to a patient before the patient starts the course. All patients will be observed and patient data will be analysed and submitted for review to the regulatory body in India. Now, each of these drugs responds differently and are utilised at different stages of the illness. For instance, as part of the FAITH trial, a combination of Umifenovir and Favipiravir has been used for ‘mild and moderate’ COVID-19 cases. Whereas, Remdesivir is for patients with more severe symptoms of the infection. Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid used in a wide range of conditions for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects has been utilised to reduce the risk of death among severely ill patient. While all these drugs have shown some good outcomes in the initial trials some of these are termed as a wonder drug or miracle cure for COVID.

Express Healthcare in this article aims to understand the existing safety evidence on Indian patients from the clinician’s perspective.

So let’s begin with first understanding the advantages of repurposing drugs and then gain clarity on the original purpose of said repurposed drugs used for COVID treatment and why and how these drugs show promise for COVID treatment and what is the caveat emptor associated with these drugs.

The advantages of repurposed drugs

According to various scientific publications, repurposed drugs are an immediate response to the pandemic which has accelerated beyond the containment strategies. It is a strategy often used in the oncology space. A pharma technology review paper mention that borrowing drugs from other indications is a time saver because these drugs have proven themselves to be safe in pre-clinical and early clinical testing. They can be fast-tracked straight into the final stage of clinical development, Phase III and can be easily evaluated for their safety and efficacy as COVID-19 treatment. The expediency of this strategy has captured the imagination of pharma companies and university researchers committed to quickly resolving the COVID-19 pandemic. Some publications indicate the following benefits.

Creating access to patients sooner: Ensuring access to some treatment that can block or prevents a mechanism of action that a virus might use to replicate is very critical. This is where repurposed drugs come into the picture. Hospitals remain overwhelmed with patients who have contracted a virus for which no reliable treatments exist. Repurposed drugs could substantially accelerate the delivery of treatment and elevate the suffering of afflicted patients.

Relying on safety information from the existing drug: The primary reason that repurposed drugs have shorter development programmes is that sponsors can rely on existing drug safety data for a New Drug Application (NDA). Because the safety of the drug product has already been proven, typically fewer studies are required. Additionally, clinical trials to determine if a repurposed drug can halt disease progression can be relatively short-term and inexpensive since researchers generally know the safety profile and have a good idea of the proper dose and duration. Regulators can approve such drugs if several studies show consistent benefit when weighed against the observed side effects. Progress can be made with several candidates in consideration.

Reduced cost of drug development programmes: These shorter development timelines and streamlined studies lead to significant cost savings for sponsors. Moving rapidly to the clinic with so many unanswered questions about efficacy carries considerable risk, and the scale of manufacturing needed for COVID-19 therapies is enormous. Especially in an uncertain funding environment, having a cost-optimised strategy for a well-understood active ingredient could enable a programme to progress to approval or authorisation.

Repurposed drugs and one big human trial…

We are all aware that the safety evidence of these 3 drugs is not originally licensed for Covid-19. They are part of clinical trials and have been authorised for emergency use under clinician supervision. Therefore experts also provide a word of caution on the use of these drugs.

According to Dr Balasubramanian Mahadevan, Ex-Medical Director at PD Hinduja, Saifee, Bhatia, Shushrusha and Lilavati Hospitals in Mumbai, drug repurposing is an emerging strategy where existing medicines, having already been tested safe in humans, are redeployed to combat difficult-to-treat diseases. 

While using such repurposed drugs individually may ultimately not yield a significant clinical benefit, carefully combined cocktails could be very effective, as was for HIV in the 1990s. In the absence of any vaccines to prevent COVID-19, there are many clinical trials (CT) taking place to find a treatment. These CTs are mainly focusing on either repurposing or repositioning the existing molecules. WHO has published a landscape of therapeutics which could be used for treating COVID-19, and some of them are undergoing CTs as well. Generally speaking, patents are not a concern when it comes to old molecules under CTs because these molecules are already out of patent protection. However, a few of these molecules are still under patent protection in many countries. Two in particular – Remdesivir and Favipiravir – are under patent protection in India. The generic availability of these medicines can facilitate compassionate use and CTs in India without depending on supply from the patent holders. Therefore, the Government of India should use the compulsory license or government use license to facilitate the generic production of these medicines.” 

Dr Mahadevan further elaborates on the different drugs on clinical trials in India in an article Drug repurposing and its impact (https://www.expresshealthcare.in/blogs/guest-blogs-healthcare/drug-repurposing-and-its-impact/422780/)

The clinical response so far…

To understand the current clinical response of these drugs and its actual utilisation in the Indian market, we spoke to some clinical experts who have been prescribing these drugs to their patients and are constantly monitoring the efficacies of the same. 

“All three drugs are beneficial when started at an early stage for the treatment. Once the patient is critical and on ventilatory support, their utility is limited. Having said that, Dexamethasone can be given to all patients, even the ones with mild changes on the chest CT scan. Favipiravir and Remdesivir are started to patients who require oxygen support and who we feel are likely to have a clinical deterioration,” says Dr Chinmay Godbole, Chief of Intensive Care, KJ Somaiya Hospital, Superspecialty Centre.

 Dr Samrat Shah, Consultant Internist, Bhatia Hospital states that the main treatment in COVID-19 revolves around three main drugs-antivirals, anti-inflammatory and anticoagulation. 

He further explains the antivirals first

FACTS of Favipiravir

  •  Favipiravir, Remdesivir contains the viral replication and it’s not viricidal (doesn’t destroy the virus directly). 
  •  It doesn’t have any major role in saving you from mortality but it can reduce the days of your suffering from COVID-19.

Antivirals like Remdesivir and Favipiravir are falsely hyped as lifesaving drugs.

Advantages of Favipiravir are:

  •  Favipiravir is effective in mild /moderate stages 
  •  It is easily administered orally

Disadvantages of Favipiravir include the following: 

  •  There is pill load because of a high dose of 18 tablets given on day one and followed by eight tablets per days for 7-14 days.
  •   It causes Hepatotoxic which is damaging or destructive to liver cells.

FACTS of Remdesivir

  • Remdesivir is claimed to be effective in the severe and critical stage but its disadvantage lies in IV administration.
  •  It is also hepatotoxic and damaging or destructive to liver cells.
  •  Practically speaking viral replication ends in first 1-7 days, complications which occur in critical and severe COVID 19 post 7-8 days is due to an inflammatory response (SIRS). So this drug ideally should be used in the early stages when viral replication is happening to reduce the viral load in the body. 

Similarly, Dr Shah updates us on anti-inflammatory Steroids- Dexamethasone/MPS saying, Lifesaving as always, its key role is in severe and critical COVID 19 pneumonia and ARDS. This medicine should be used with extreme caution in early stages when viral replication is going on, early judicious use can boost the viral replication and lead to viremia.”

Similarly, Dr Kedar Toraskar, Chief of Critical Care, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central, informs, Favipiravir is an oral antiviral used for resistant influenza in 2014. It has been repurposed in the view of this pandemic. There were trials in Japan, China and there are ongoing trials in India. It is a relatively safe drug but the only problem is the dose is high. The patients have to take nine pills on day one and 4 pills, twice a day, on subsequent days for at least 6-14 days. The total course is 7-14 days, and that’s the problem. Also, if the patient has underline gout, he/she needs to be careful, and the patient will have to be monitored for their liver function before taking it. The cost of Favipiravir is around Rs 100, so the cost comes to be around Rs 7,000 Rs for a full course of seven days, and it can be unaffordable for a common man. Also, the pill burden is high. It is not a wonder drug; we are still waiting for the trial reports. It has to be used in initial stages (first seven to eight days). It is used for mild to moderate symptoms. It helps or doesn’t help is still not known.”

He further explains the clinical efficacy of Remdesivir. “This drug is intravenous right now. It is also a repurposed drug and an antiviral. Right now, it has been licensed for moderate to severe patients. It has to be administered early (between six to 12 days). If it is used late then efficacy is not good. Again, clinical trials are ongoing and it is not a proven benefit. Recovery time from this drug is less but whether mortality is low, is not known yet. But, Remdesivir seems to be promising. On the first day, 200 milligrams are given and the second day, subsequent 100 milligrams, and the cost of this drug is Rs 5,000. For administering it, liver and renal function tests have to be monitored. It can’t be given to those patients having renal failure. One will have to use antivirals in an early stage. They won’t work after 10-12 days. Dexamethasone is a steroid. It was found useful in the recovery trial done in the UK. It is for patients who have hypoxia (oxygenation problems). It is not to be used in the early phase as it can harm the patient than doing good. It has to be started after 10 days. It is used for patients with respiratory failure. If it is used too late then also it will not benefit. It is a steroid and can also cause secondary infections also. Use it with caution and in the patients, who have high sugar.”

Dr Deepesh G Aggarwal, Consultant and HoD Critical Care Medicine, Saifee Hospital speaking about how these repurposed drugs have given us a fighting chance in combating COVID 19 when used appropriately, states, “Steroids and Remdesivir have been quite effective. Our experience with favipiravir is relatively lesser as it has been recently introduced. Injection Tocilizumab has been a lifesaver in patients with Cytokine storm.”

Further sharing his observation Dr Toraskar expounds, “We will have to see the trial results. Dexamethasone and steroids are helpful for us. In some patient so. Remdesivir seems promising but we have to keep a close watch on it. It is like an option that wasn’t available before. The timing of the drugs and patient selection is important. Antivirals like favipiravir and Remdesivir have to be used early on in the viremia phase in the first 10 days of symptom onset. Remdesivir is to be used for moderate to severe cases between fifth to 12th day. Steroids will be harmful in the viremia phase if used early. They have only shown proven benefit in patients who have respiratory failure requiring supplemental oxygen and ventilation. Start using it when available on compassionate grounds after discussing the pros and cons with the patient and their relatives. Steroids in low dose seem to work as proven by the recent recovery trial results and that has been our experience in the last two months too.”

More data required and stringent rules against black marketing

Just as clinical experts point out that these drugs certainly bring hope to healthcare providers and patients alike, their application should be strictly monitored. Most doctors clearly indicate that the high dose of these drugs can be detrimental to patients. Moreover, there is a need for aggregation and analysis of the vast data that will be generated in the coming times. Only then can the true potential of these repurposed drugs be judged. Another issue that healthcare providers are currently facing is the shortage of drugs such as Remdesivir. 

Dr Godbole raises his concerns on the shortage of drugs. “We should have some way to procure these drugs easily as currently procuring them is a challenge. More importantly, since these are observed to be life-saving drugs, it should be made available easily. Further, the awareness of the indications of these drugs is important. We do not want hoarding of these essential drugs by anyone,” he notifies. 

Likewise, an industry source informed Express Healthcare that in many places, especially in Mumbai, Remdesivir is not available easily and is sold in black. The cost of which varies between Rs 50,000 to Rs 85,000 per vial. In order to tackle this menace, drug company Hetero, which has obtained a license to supply Remdesivir (COVIFOR 100 mg vial) has been directly contacting hospital pharmacies to ensure the drug is available at the right price. However, when Express Healthcare contacted the Pharma company, the company informed that the stocks for Remdesivir will be available only after July 10, 2020.

sourcelink: https://www.expresshealthcare.in/clinical-research/the-effect-of-repurposed-drugs-on-covid-19-patients-explained/422843/

CDC Expands List of Those with Higher COVID-19 Risks: What to Know

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added new underlying conditions to its list of conditions that can lead to more serious COVID-19 cases.
  • Among the conditions added are diabetes and pregnancy.
  • The agency also has amended its guidelines on aging, now saying people are more vulnerable to serious cases as they get older instead of just people over the age of 65.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its listTrusted Source of underlying conditions that may lead to more severe outcomes from a COVID-19 diagnosis.

The agency is warning that people with type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, whole organ transplants, and women who are pregnant could experience more severe outcomes if they contract COVID-19.

The updated guidelines also remove 65 as the age when more severe outcomes may occur. Instead, it is suggesting as people age, the chance of severe outcomes increases.

What does this mean to the public?

By removing a set age cut off, the updated guidelines give notice to people with underlying conditions of all ages that they are more likely to end up in an intensive care unit (ICU) if they contract the virus.

The guidelines do not suggest that people with these underlying conditions are more susceptible to developing COVID-19.

What should the public do?

Experts say the key is to stay in the know and practice safe habits such as masking, physical distancing, and, when needed, isolation.

A close look at the new conditions

Here’s a look at some of the underlying conditions added to the CDC list.


“Pregnancy is a situation with all kinds of hormonal changes in the mix,” said Dr. Alan Fishman, medical director for Obstetrix Medical Group in San Jose, California, and board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine. “Pregnancy is a stress on a healthy woman’s body.”

That’s why, he said, a pregnant woman who contracts COVID-19 may face more severe outcomes.

“It appears that pregnant women [who contract COVID-19] are 5.5 times more likely to be hospitalized than a non-pregnant woman,” Fishman told Healthline. “That’s pretty significant.”

“There is zero evidence that women who are pregnant are more likely to get COVID-19,” he added.

But the risks mean his office is carefully counseling those considering pregnancy.

“I counsel them to think about this information and how it sits with them,” he said. “They have to remember that it is not a good idea to skip a medical appointment or space them out more.”

While some pregnancy appointments can be done virtually, many must be done in person.

So what should a pregnant woman do?

“Common sense still holds,” Fishman said.

Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep a physical distance, and isolate when needed is still the key, along with not missing any medical appointments.

“Clearly these types of modifications are going to be with us for a long time,” he said.


There’s been some confusion around COVID-19 in the diabetes community.

First, there’s no evidence yet that people with diabetes are more likely to contract the novel coronavirus.

“The CDC has not come out and said that type 1 or type 2 diabetes makes you more susceptible [to COVID-19],” said Dr. Joshua Miller, the medical director of diabetes care for Stony Brook Medicine and an assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the facility’s New York Campus, told Healthline.

However, there is research that concludes people with diabetes can develop more serious cases of COVID-19.

“What we are absolutely seeing are that people who carry a comorbidity struggle more when they contract this,” Miller told Healthline.

Figuring out what is going on with those with diabetes who contract COVID-19 is a challenge for healthcare providers.

“It’s challenging looking at the numbers and statistics because the way in which we [track diabetes] in the medical world is a challenge,” Miller said.

Even in medical reports, he said, type 1 can be mixed up with type 2.

Miller is working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to gather and assess data around COVID-19 patients with diabetes. But he points out that mixed information makes it harder to rely on the data.

Right now, the CDC has listed people with type 2 diabetes as being “at increased risk” of more severe outcomes if they contract COVID-19, and people with type 1 diabetes as “might be at an increased risk.”

Miller, who has had type 1 diabetes for 21 years, knows one thing for sure.

“When [a person with diabetes] is in the hospital for this, their insulin needs go way up,” he said.

Even those with type 2 diabetes who take medication may need injected insulin during treatment, he added.

His advice for those with any kind of diabetes?

“The big lesson we are learning here is simply this,” he said. “The healthier our patients are, the better they do with COVID-19. Focus in earnest more than ever on your health. Across the board, the best outcomes come from this.”

“While the area you live in has confirmed community spread, your risk is higher than not,” he added. “Stay at home if you can. And always, wear the mask, wash your hands, keep that distance. Be smart, be safe.”

The aging population

The CDC has moved away from a specific age cutoff for heightened concern to a more general statement on aging.

The CDC now says, “People in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.

That, say aging experts, is an important change.

“I have to give credit to the CDC for really clarifying that,” Dr. Ronald Caplan, author of “The Care of the Older Person” and “Long Life Strategy,” told Healthline. “Prior to this we were saying 65 and beyond, like the Cinderella phenomenon. At midnight (in this case 65 years of age) your coach just turns into a pumpkin? This is not the way medicine and real life works.”

Caplan says that when you consider that 60 percent of Americans have some kind of underlying health condition, that 40 percent of adults are obese, and that many aging Americans have heart health issues, it just makes sense that as a person ages, a COVID-19 battle gets more challenging.

What should older people do?

“The more you know, the safer you can make yourself and the less anxious you will be,” Caplan said. “We are all getting more familiar with this. We can see [the disease] attacks major organ systems, so knowing how to treat any [comorbidities] you have now will help you later.”

His best tips for older adults?

“Older people should not neglect seeing their healthcare providers, now more than ever,” Caplan said. “And get your vaccinations [for] flu and whatever else you need.”

The older population should also be careful about self-isolating when there is community spread, but they should do so with support.

“Suicide among older people is a non-talked about thing, but it is a thing,” Caplan said. “You lose a spouse, a friend or friends and all of a sudden you are alone, and then this virus comes along. It can be overwhelming.”

He suggests for those who must isolate making a small trusted bubble of friends or family who visit and check on you.

He also repeats the suggestions to wear masks, maintain distancing, and wash hands.

“All those common sense measures that the CDC is giving us all go back to when I was a kid, before vaccinations,” Caplan said. “This is what we did. And now, the answer is we need an effective vaccination. We’re going to have to wait for that, though, and do the right thing in the meantime.”

What’s next

Expect additions, subtractions, and other changes to this list as the pandemic continues, experts say.

“It’s a fascinating virus,” Dr. Mary Dale Peterson, MSHCA, FACHE, FASA, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, told Healthline. “It has a propensity to attack organs, but we are still very much learning as we go along.”

Some of what medical professionals are seeing makes historic sense, she added, such as people with obesity having more difficulty recovering and pregnancy taxing the heart and lungs.

As one who sees the impact of comorbidity on COVID-19 recovery first hand, Peterson has suggestions.

“The way I look at it is this: We all have our own set of risk factors,” she said. “So look at what are in your spheres of control.”

“I can make sure I take care of my chronic disease. I can eat a good diet. I can get up and actually not be a couch potato as tempting as it is to be one right now,” she explained.

“Physical activity is actually a treatment we use in the hospital on COVID-19 patients,” she added. “Double down on your healthy habits. It will only help.”


US-Based Medical Expert, Dr Samson Arigbamu, Invents Equipment For Detecting COVID-19-Infected Lungs

Ibadan – A Nigerian US-based medical expert, Dr Samson Arigbamu, has invented a stethoscope equipped with components capable of immediately identify adventitious lung such as COVID-19-infected lungs that will immediately announce its findings.

Arigbamu disclosed on Sunday in a mail to journalists in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, that the stethoscope is in production at prototype and optimization stage, which the final product would commence by December, noting that however, the process could be expedited with resources from individuals, organizations or even the Nigerian government.

Dr Arigbamu have been living in the USA for about 22 years and currently the Director of Nursing at Future Care Lochearn, a 200-bed capacity health rehabilitation center in Baltimore Maryland.

He has been on employment of the company for 10 years, prior to that, he was a director of nursing at Manor Care Woodbridge in Baltimore Maryland for over three years.

Also, currently own and operate a private clinic called Upsurge Health Associate in Freeland, Maryland.

Dr Arigbamu maintained that the eventual production of the stethoscope would be a great achievement of pride to Nigeria government for a simple fact that a citizen of the country invented such critical medical equipment worthy of a USA patent, hence, soliciting support from Nigeria government.

Arigbamu explained that having worked in the healthcare field for over 20 years, he had seen healthcare providers including nurses, mid level providers and physicians struggle with identifying lung and heart sounds.

As a result, chest x-rays, EKGs and other cardiac interrogative tests are often ordered to identify adventitious lung and heart conditions.

He noted that clinical issue with these expensive tests and devices is that, they are incapable of identify adventitious sounds and providing immediate and accurate feedback, consequently, utilization of such devices often result in significant clinical and health issues for the patients as well as a waste of valuable resource.

He said, “As a result of these challenges, in 2018 I started working on inventing a digital stethoscope that could identify lung and heart sounds, interpret the sounds and immediately announce its findings to the users. The stethoscope is also capable of integrating its data into electronic medical record.

“With such capabilities, it will enhance physical assessment vital to health care providers and novice users. It will also ensure opportunities for timely intervention and prevention of further health decline in patients.

“The stethoscope is also equipped with electronic medical record (EMR) integration capabilities (essential to telemedicine) in order improve care coordination and patient information portability.

“The project received a USA patent on June 2nd 2020 and is currently in prototype phase of production in the USA and Ukraine.

“The eventual production of the stethoscope would be a great achievement of pride to Nigeria for a simple fact that a citizen of the country invented such critical medical equipment worthy of a USA patent.”

sourcelink: http://www.emrindustry.com/us-based-medical-expert-dr-samson-arigbamu-invents-equipment-for-detecting-covid-19-infected-lungs/

E-health is increasingly attracting the investor community

The economic meltdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many startups to shut businesses and lay off people left, right and centre. But in a seemingly different universe, health tech start-ups are witnessing an upswing in business transactions. DocsApp is one such company. It has attained an average of 60 per cent increase in online consultations across various departments and is expecting higher returns in the coming days. In May, the company raised a series B funding of $9.5 million (Rs 72.5 cr) from Bessemer Venture Partners India, Fusian Capital, Rebright Partners and Milliways Fund LLC, and recently had a merger with MediBuddy. Moreover, during COVID-19, DocsApp has partnered with PhonePe, Shemaroo Entertainment, Lokal Hypermarket, Seniority and many others to provide a free consultation. Satish Kannan, Co-Founder and CEO, MediBuddy DocsApp seems greatly encouraged by his company’s progress.

How has your business faring during these COVID times?

Although there were supply chain issues initially with regards to the delivery of medicine and in terms of collection of lab test samples, etc., we have always maintained a strong vendor connection to help deal with such challenging times.

We have seen an increase in people opting for online doctor consultations, with an average of 60 per cent increase in consultations across various departments. At this point, MediBuddy DocsApp caters to the healthcare needs of three crore Indians, attending to the needs of over 25,000 Indians daily across the length and breadth of the country.

How have you kept your employee motivated in these times? Any workforce crunching done so far?

Considering the current situation, where everyone, from CEOs to managers are working from home, our team members have adapted themselves to these challenging times really well. Pets and kids walking by and waving at the camera help us in embracing our human side in these desperate times, coupled with an obsession to help more and more individuals with online consultations, medicine delivery and lab tests that are critical; especially now more than ever.

You seem to have had a number of collaborations in the recent past, how will these strategic partnerships boost your business, especially in this economic downtime?

MediBuddy DocsApp’s vision is to provide high-quality healthcare to all. In the fight against this pandemic, it is extremely important to be able to connect with medical experts and get credible information. At MediBuddy DocsApp, we are focusing our efforts on raising awareness and ensuring the availability of trusted medical advice to help control the spread of the disease and panic.

We have also extended our medical assistance to MyGate, CRED, Zee Digital, PhonePe, Shemaroo Entertainment, Lokal, Seniority etc., and will be working with more partners to reach out to communities, increase awareness and provide only doctor consultation support to their customers.

Moving forward, in times to come, what are the changes that DocsApp will incorporate for better customer services and business viability?

At MediBuddy DocsApp, we worry about customers, their experience and needs. We will continue to focus on the customer. With a customer-first attitude, we will improve our range and quality of service to ensure a great experience for the user.

With a partner network of over 90,000 doctors, 7,000 hospitals, 3,000 diagnostic centres and 2,500 pharmacies covering over 95 per cent of all pin codes, MediBuddy DocsApp will continue to focus on enabling healthcare services like online specialist doctor consultations, lab tests, preventive health checks, delivery of medicines, etc. to customers across India. Our focus is to provide best-in-class, end to-end-services in digital healthcare.

How will you strategically utilise the funds you have recently raised?

We will utilise the funding in further strengthening our doctor base, patient reach and develop our product to move a step closer to its mission of providing high-quality healthcare to billions.

Do you personally feel, this could be a good time to invest in healthcare? What would be the investment scenario in the coming future?

Yes, with tailwinds supporting the industry and e-health becoming the new normal, there is a lot of interest in the investor community. However, at the end of the day, business, health and growth of right metrics will only help onboard investors.

For now, we are well capitalised, our plan is to make it grow and ensure access to high-quality healthcare to all.

What are the new business opportunities that you think can bring a complete transformation to  the healthcare sector here on?

People always resist change. COVID has been a tailwind situation. Like demonetisation was to digital payments, COVID is making an adaption of online health exponentially faster. More people will be open to talking to a doctor online. Entry to healthcare for an individual will start with teleconsultation and then move to physical consultation, labs and others, as required.

How will the coming times encourage or discourage the start-up community within healthcare?

Times are changing rapidly, and we should change accordingly. Start-ups who adapt to it and take decisions/actions faster will grow faster and survive.


How HSSC is skilling COVID Warriors to take on the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit healthcare staff across the world the hardest as they are the COVID Warriors fighting this pandemic on the frontlines. In addition to the many nurses, doctors and paramedical staff who have tragically succumbed to the virus, the healthcare workforce has realised that they need new skills to fight this novel coronavirus. Filling this gap is India’s Healthcare Sector Skill Council. Ashish Jain, CEO, Healthcare Sector Skill Council gives more details to Viveka Roychowdhury of HSSC’s recently launched online learning platform which offers modules on the skills most in demand during this pandemic like diagnostic strategy, prevention, quarantine and isolation

 What is the role of the NSDC’s Healthcare Sector Skill Council in preparing a workforce for India’s healthcare needs?

HSSC, an industry-led body working under the aegis of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), provides industry-ready skilled and certified healthcare workforce for the country. It works closely with the industry to understand the needs of the sector and offers training based on the industry needs.

HSCC has developed several healthcare qualifications as per the sector needs that are available for training today. The trainees are assessed by HSSC on the quality standard set in consultation with the industry and successful trainees are certified by HSSC under Skill India Mission, providing an assurance to the employer regarding the skill set and competency of the certified person.

Various industry partners, State Skill Development Mission, universities, state school boards and training institutions are HSSC partners for training the quality healthcare workforce.

HSSC also supports skilling mandates of various Central Ministries such as Communication & IT, Rural Development, Minority Affairs, Social Justice and Empowerment, and Defence, for training and facilitating certification of healthcare workforce.

How does the Healthcare Sector Skill Council operate, who are the industry partners?

Like all sector skill councils, HSSC is approved and institutionalised by NSDC as per the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015.

HSSC is guided by the Governing Council, its various committees, experts and premier institution for development of the qualification, training, assessment and certification for healthcare qualification.

The Governing Council is chaired by Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman, Medanta-The Medicity and other members are Dr Pratap Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospital; Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS; Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, CEO, Fortis etc.

Manipal Health, Max Healthcare, Narayan Health, PD Hinduja, CII, AHPI, KIMS, Dr Lal Path Lab, GE Healthcare, Pfizer and J&J Medical India, etc. are also among the founder members.

HSSC has constituted the Regional Committees that have healthcare organisations as members from the respective regions and work closely with the Governing Council.

Also constituted the HSSC Academic Committee that is chaired by Dr Devi Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Health and HSSC Accreditation Board that is Chaired by Dr Arun Agarwal and Co-Chaired by Girdhar Gyani, DG, AHPI, along with Dr Ravi Kant, Director, AIIMS Rishikesh; Dr Nitin, Director AIIMS Raipur and Dr Mishra, Director, AIIMS Jodhpur.

HSSC has close association with leading healthcare associations like NABH, AHPI, IMA, CAHO, CII Healthcare Council and industry partners which are growing day by day.

Which have been the most in demand skilling options provided by the Council?

  1. Fresh skilling (duration from 4-18 months)
  2. Recognition of Prior learning
  3. Upskilling of existing healthcare professionals

How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the delivery of healthcare services in India, given that there is a lack of nurses and doctors and many are falling to the infection as well?

This is an unprecedented situation and the entire world is struggling with it currently. As in other parts of the world, in India as well, the healthcare infrastructure and workforce are under tremendous pressure to deliver the healthcare services to cope with COVID-19. In our country, the healthcare sector has so far been able to meet the needs, and is continuously striving hard to ramp up the infrastructure to deliver the requirement going forward.

Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has provided the list of 100,000 HSSC-certified trainees who are trained under Skill India to provide healthcare services. HSSC, working closely with NSDC and its training partners, is all geared up to train healthcare professionals for specific needs of the country that will support in delivering healthcare services.

We salute our doctors, nurses, allied health professionals who are doing a humongous service to the country risking their own lives.

What are the shifts in the healthcare delivery due to the pandemic? How will this impact management/owners of healthcare facilities and healthcare workers in turn, in terms of the new facilities which need to be created, and new skills which need to be acquired?

Healthcare delivery is also set to change given the pandemic. More and more services would shift from healthcare premise to home as many healthcare services would be provided at the patients’ home. It would be only services that need to be delivered within the healthcare facility like surgery, etc would be provided in hospitals.

India is taking necessary steps such as re-skilling and upskilling of the allied health professionals, doctors and nurses to manage healthcare delivery in light of COVID-19. Training programmes including online training modules are being used to train the workforce.

Give us more details of the HSSC’s recently launched online learning platform on COVID-19.  

HSSC has developed online modules for healthcare workers to prepare them as COVID Warriors. The online tool also includes the assessment and feature to provide certification to successful candidates. The modules cover basics of COVID-19, diagnostic strategy, prevention, quarantine and isolation aspects during COVID-19 as well as last office care. This course is aligned to various guidelines issued by the Government regarding COVID-19 protocols. This course is already used by thousands of professionals across the country.

As the virus is too infectious, there are social distancing norms to be followed. Thus, telemedicine has become a realistic option.

Are there any courses being offered by the Council towards telemedicine, digital health, etc.?

Yes, HSSC has developed the course for Telemedicine Service Coordinator that supports telemedicine. This course provides skills to trainees for coordinating tele-consultations, use of telehealth equipment and technology in the area of remote-patient monitoring devices, tele-diagnostic kits, video conferencing, etc. This person acts as facilitator for the telemedicine.

What are the skills now in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • Infection control and waste disposal protocols
  • Telemedicine
  • Sanitisation and disinfection of facilities
  • Awareness about personal and workplace hygiene practices
  • Management of workplaces in light of COVID-19 infection
  • Disaster management
  • Mental health and emotional wellbeing

How does HSSC manage on the accreditation front?

Currently, there is no change in accreditation guidelines of the training partners. HSSC is exploring possibility of online training in certain select areas through its learning portal.

How are these courses priced, and are they accessible to aspirants across the country, especially those in non-urban areas?

HSSC does not decide the fee for the course, except for some which are provided directly through the HSSC online portal. It is providing course through its online learning portal making it accessible across the country, including non-urban areas. In addition to it, it is partnering with organisations that have presence in non-urban areas to maximise the reach.