Better care for India’s growing elderly population has become a serious concern for policymakers. The country’s poor record in taking care of its elders (defined as anyone above the age of 60) is reflected in Global Age Watch Index, published by Help Age International, a global NGO dedicated to the welfare of old people. As per the Index, India ranks a poor 71st out 96 countries on elderly care. With rising levels of urbanization, literacy, and overall economic growth, people are living longer and healthier lives; settling into nuclear families, and women are bearing fewer children.
“In the process, extended kinship ties weaken and the nuclear family becomes an independent unit. This weakening of ties with family members reduces social interaction and financial and physical support for the older generation,” says a 2011 study in the Indian Journal of Gerontology. The rising cost of living, with young professionals moving to different cities in India and abroad for better job prospects, has left them vulnerable.
Key to their welfare is the provision of dedicated healthcare services. Vedaant Aggarwal, the son of a Delhi-based entrepreneur and primary school teacher, and a class XII student in Modern School, Vasant Vihar, offers a solution. Already a CEO at the age of 17, he is heading a start-up called Our Health Mitr (OHM) Healthcare Services that is dedicated to plugging a major gap in urban India’s healthcare infrastructure.
Established earlier this year, OHM Healthcare Services is an innovative healthcare solutions provider that “uses a high-tech, high-touch approach to in-home healthcare services”. According to his profile in India CEO, it offers “proactive healthcare for family, especially elderly & family of people working away; routine and emergency medical care services from trusted, highly-trained professionals; routine health checks; high-tech tracking of all health records and vitals; diligent and transparent record-keeping of all health checks, medical history, as a ready reckoner; 24×7 medical emergency services; and importantly, an emotional connect with family, especially lonely elders through its dedicated Health Mitrs and its one-of-a-kind social network.”
Last month, the start-up announced that it had received an undisclosed amount of ‘Pre-Series A’ funding from a major healthcare organization. What were the events that led to the creation of OHM Healthcare Services? What inspired the Class XII commerce student?
He harks back to a wet day in July 2015 during his internship with Earth Saviours Foundation, an NGO which cares for hundreds of senior citizens abandoned by their families.
That day, the monsoon wreaked havoc on the NGO’s Rangpuri Pahari centre, a home for nearly 200 senior citizens, in the Vasant Kunj area. “Before I could dwell on the devastation, I spotted Mr. Ravi Kalra, our NGO’s founder, simultaneously reassuring the residents, supervising the last bit of the evacuation, and acknowledging and thanking the volunteers. It was a moment that perfectly embodied his leadership spirit and ethos. I aspired to be like him,” he said.
Inspired by Kalra’s actions, Vedaant speaks of how he spent the next few weekends helping build a temporary shelter for the residents and raising emergency funds. In the process, he also built an inventory database for the NGO because it was impossible to restock medicine and food without one. “Realizing how basic databases could transform organisations, I began integrating this technology-driven approach by digitizing records and files for other NGOs,” he said. “In India, where technology’s potential is still under-utilized these databases took on far-reaching ramifications.”
However, the real inspiration behind OHM Healthcare came closer to home, and under difficult circumstances. A year after his internship, Vedaant had discovered that his grandfather was bedridden and alone in his hometown of Chandigarh. Despite his condition, the once formidable businessman refused to leave Chandigarh and live with the family in Delhi.
“For close to a year, I hardly saw my father as he bore the eight-hour round-trip to Chandigarh every weekend to ensure my grandfather’s appointments and prescriptions were in order,” says Vedaant with a certain degree of despondency. “When I did see him, his stress about the unreliable, transient health aides meant to care for my grandfather was palpable.”
In these trying times, Vedaant began searching online for better in-home healthcare services. Instead of solutions, what he found was a gaping shortfall for innovative home healthcare solutions. “I began to envision a service that leveraged technology to streamline healthcare delivery and communication while tending to senior citizen’s emotional needs through a social network,” he said. “And with that, the idea for OHM Healthcare was born.”
One of the unique features OHM Healthcare Solutions offers is “an emotional connect with family”, especially lonely elders “through its dedicated Health Mitrs and its one-of-a-kind social network”. Remembering his grandfather’s struggles before his eventual demise, Vedaant decided to integrate social networks for senior citizens in OHM’s healthcare package.
“Through our unique social media app, Sehat Mitr and Sehat Sahelis connect patients to other senior citizens in the area with similar interests, facilitating social interaction and emotional well-being,” he said. Who are these Sehat Mitrs and Sahelis? They are professionals trained in basic health care practices. These Sehat Mitrs and Sahelis require a basic knowledge of operating tablets, reading reports, attending to basic healthcare needs of the patient; in other words, a de-facto attendant.
What’s next on the horizon for Vedaant? His plan is to pursue a degree in the United States from a reputed business school. What about his start-up? “I am currently building the app interface for OHM,” he says. In case, one hasn’t forgotten, the boy is also preparing for his class XII boards exams.
To find out more about Our Health Mitr (OHM) Healthcare Services, click here.