If business entities in India can deliver groceries in 10 minutes, shouldn’t they be able to deliver the same for medical emergencies? Prabhdeep Singh, CEO and co-founder of StanPlus, which calls itself “pioneers in private ambulance services”, believes it should be easier to dispatch ambulances for patients in need than delivering groceries.
(Image above of StanPlus CEO and co-founder Prabhdeep Singh)
“Delivering groceries in 10 minutes is a far more complex problem to solve than ambulances. This is because an ambulance is a dark store, where all the inventory is already stored. All operators have to do is make sure they move as soon as the call comes. In terms of groceries, someone has to go to a dark store, pick up the items and then deliver it to someone. In our setup, only one step is required — moving from Point A to B. If you do your fleet mapping properly, which includes mapping where people live and where emergencies largely occur, you can create stations nearby to ensure your ambulance arrives in 10 minutes or less. It’s an easier problem to solve than groceries,” says Prabhdeep, speaking to The Better India.
Of course, he does acknowledge that it’s not just a problem of logistics.
“Clinically it’s a difficult problem to solve. That’s why we are building this system with a clinical mindset and not just looking at logistics. We are building StanPlus as a Clin-Ops company,” he adds.
What StanPlus does is aggregate and standardise hospital ambulances from private operators and government-run services, besides mom-and-pop ambulances, through its proprietary technology platform. It also operates its fleet of 900 Advanced Life Support (Red Ambulance) ambulances, where paramedics offer “360-degree emergency care service”.
In other words, StanPlus is a “full-stack medical assistance” venture which addresses everything from software and hardware to telephony systems, ambulance drivers and paramedics. In addition to ensuring a seamless end-to-end emergency medical service network, they also claim to have set up their training modules for both clinical and non-clinical staff.
Currently, its average response time (Ambulance ETAs) is less than 15 minutes compared to a national average of 40 for conventional medical emergency services in India. This comes down to StanFleet, a tech stack, which matches the patient’s requirements with the appropriate vehicle as its geospatial data systems play a role in dispatching the closest ambulance to execute the trip. But they are aiming to bring ambulance ETAs further down to 8 minutes after their latest round of funding earlier this month, which saw them raise USD 20 million.
With funding raised through a combination of debt and equity, they are also looking to expand their presence as well. “We are currently partnered with 50 hospitals across 5 cities, but our objective is to take it to 500 hospitals over 15 cities in the next 18 months,” says Prabhdeep.
He goes on to claim that StanPlus picks up emergency calls in less than 6 seconds and gets ambulances on the road in under 4 minutes. Also, during the peak of the second wave (COVID-19), when most hospitals and private operators were raising their rates indiscriminately, he claims that StanPlus was offering their services for 40 to 50% lower than market prices. On average, StanPlus claims to offer their services at 10-15% lower than market prices.
From 2014 to 2016, Prabhdeep was studying for his master’s degree in business administration (MBA) in Europe. Living and studying abroad while his parents were back in India, he wondered that if something bad were to happen to them how would he manage the situation living far away. Understanding the feeling of helplessness of someone living at a distance from their loved ones—either in India or abroad—convinced him that this was a problem worth solving.
Soon after completing his MBA in 2016, he founded StanPlus alongside Antoine Poirson and Jose Leon despite popular advice from others that said this was an impossible problem to solve. Prabhdeep gave up a multi-crore salary offer from a large multinational to establish StanPlus and was determined to solve this problem one way or another.
At StanPlus, the ambition is to integrate across all the channels and categories where a patient or their family may reach out in the event of an emergency. After all, when there is a medical emergency in India, patients or their loved ones usually call the family physician, employer or the nearest hospital and even sometimes their insurance company.
“We are building our entire structure on being omnipresent — building an operating system for medical emergencies in the country. We are partnering with large hospitals, employers and making sure insurers understand what it means to service and pay for that emergency. This system works by integrating across these categories and channels. At the same time, by building an ambulance network through technology (hardware and software), we want to be the last mile in healthcare delivery, i.e. 8 minutes away from the patient. We want to be so present across categories that patients or their loved ones will call us directly or through their insurance company, employer, family physician or hospital. We want to be on the first call the patient or his/her family member makes in the event of a medical emergency,” he explains.
In the event a patient or their loved one calls the nearest hospital, this is how StanPlus works. As part of the process of integrating with the given hospital, StanPlus manages its emergency line and ambulance delivery system. So, a patient calls the nearest hospital, which in turn is partnered with StanPlus to provide that emergency assistance.
“What we do is take over the entire patient logistics, which includes emergency and non-emergency from the hospital. Once we take over, hospitals witness an increase in footfall, decrease in overall costs and increase in patient NPS (net promoter score, a market research metric that allows you to obtain feedback from patients),” he adds.
What if a patient is calling the human resource (HR) manager of their employer given how companies are mandated to set up their employees with insurance? StanPlus also runs the emergency desk or health security desk for their employer.
“That 1800 number given to you by your employer is the one answered by us. However, we will soon be launching a D2C model with an app, our phone number, website and being present on platforms such as MyGate, Ola Electric, etc. One way or another you will end up calling us, and we will help you find the nearest hospital that can cater to your needs, the right kind of ambulance or help, and guide you step by step through the triaging, treatment and transport process. We are present with you across these decision making steps,” explains Prabhdeep.
As StanPlus began its operations in 2017, they realised that mere aggregation of ambulances is not the solution because the quality is so low. As Prabhdeep and his team started talking to more doctors, they were asked not to become just another aggregator.
“Instead, they want us to manage the high risk, high visibility and high complexity cases on our own. Hence, Red Ambulances were born to take care of these cases. Red Ambulances do 70% of the total cases that we pick up. All clinically complex cases are done on Red Ambulances. These ambulances have capabilities in pediatric, neonatal, geriatric, bariatric, etc. If there is a complex mission, Red Ambulances is the best system to do it,” he claims.
Complex missions include how do you move a 200 kg person four floors down and transport them to a hospital, take care of a patient on a ventilator who requires a transfer from one hospital to another and manage an emergency that has happened at home and needs support in less than 15 minutes or else, etc. For standardised non-emergency transport like dialysis, oncology and post-surgery transport, StanPlus relies on qualified partners who they’ve onboarded to their platform.
“We have a very complicated and multivariate analysis that we do before onboarding any partner. This is of course not a one-time process, but a dynamic set-up to ensure the quality of partners remains as per the standards we desire on our platform,” he adds.
Their average ambulance ETA stands at 15 minutes. Prabhdeep says reducing the wait time to 8 minutes will require more capital and technology. Given the state of emergency medical services in India, there is a need for more companies like StanPlus to solve this problem.
“Imagine losing so many lives unnecessarily because the ambulance doesn’t arrive on time. We want this industry to be funded and entrepreneurs to look actively at the emergency care space,” he says.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)