Mumbai-based Abhishek Shah is an investor turned entrepreneur who, in December 2015, after working for more than two years at a family fund, and having invested in a handful of health tech startups personally, launched his own digital health startup, Wellthy Therapeutics. The idea to establish his own company came during his time at an “entrepreneur in residence” program at Lightbox Ventures in early 2015.
“I spent some time thinking through the problem I wanted to solve. Given my family background and that my parents were chronic disease patients, all roads led back to digital health,” Shah, CEO and founder of Wellthy Therapeutics, told KrASIA.
The app connects with a patient’s medical devices, such as a glucometer and wearable devices like those released by Fitbit, to continually record their health status. Users also manually key in information that can’t be tracked by gadgets, such as their meal histories and water intake. This information is logged not only to help patients understand their physical conditions, it is also used by doctors to develop insights about their patients’ lives outside of clinics and hospitals.
“A large part of managing chronic diseases, apart from taking medicines, depends on the kind of life you live every day. Since you can’t get 24/7 access to a doctor, the app acts as a companion to help a patient manage their condition better,” Shah explained.
The app also works like a personal health coach and nudges users to change their daily habits or routines for the better. For example, it suggests that users be conscious about what they eat, gives them alternate recipes, and generates reminders to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, exercise often, check blood pressure or glucose levels, and take medicine. Shah claimed that suggestions made by Wellthy steers them toward healthy living, minimizing physical strain that may lead to medical emergencies or physical decline.
“Healthcare as a service is not designed to help patients outside the hospitals. It felt like it was a problem that needed solving where tech, patients’ data, and proven clinical outcomes can all intersect to be able to drive better health for patients,” he said.
Shah said Wellthy Therapeutics app is designed to be used for patients suffering from chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and kidney disease. For each condition, the app has a customized disease management program that has been clinically tested. Wellthy’s app is the result of three years of research and development.
“We did clinical studies, clinical pilots, to systematically improve the product. We not only wanted to deliver world class care, but also prove that the product does make a difference,” he said.
Creating a healthcare network
The Wellthy app can only be accessed by patients who are using services or goods offered by pharmaceutical, medical device, and insurance companies that Wellthy has partnered with.
“We have partnered with major companies and are in continuous talks with more to cover all big brands, so that more users can access the app using the code behind the medicine strips or on the box of medical devices,” Shah said. In 2019, Wellthy partnered with pharmaceutical company Cipla, which also acquired an 11.71% stake in the company. It has also sealed a deal with the Switzerland-based pharmaceutical and diagnostics company Roche, which manufactures the widely used blood sugar monitoring device Accu-Chek.
To access a large number of patients, Wellthy largely relies on the reach of device manufacturers and pharma companies. “Patients are free to see any doctor, but the system works better if the patient sees our partner-doctors, as they can have hands-on access to the patient’s data as they are already linked into the system,” Shah said. He claimed more than 25,000 patients use the Wellthy app in around 500 cities. In 2018, the company raised USD 1.2 million in a seed round from several investors, including GrowX Ventures, Japanese VC firm Beenext Ventures, and a few angel investors.
The company earns revenue from its network of healthcare partners, and the service is largely free for users. “Our enterprise partners have a vested interest in knowing who the patient is, their conditions, and other such information,” Shah said.
Overseas and product expansion
Earlier this month, Wellthy Therapeutics raised USD 4 million in its pre-series A round led by Saama Capital. The company said it will use this cash to expand its geographical reach in Southeast Asia. This year, Wellthy started operating in Singapore. “We built the platform keeping in mind that it works for emerging markets in Southeast Asia,” Shah said.
The company has recently struck a partnership with Aviva Life Insurance in Singapore, as well as with a pharma company that Wellthy did not wish to name. Now, it’s actively seeking other link-ups.
While Wellthy currently only taps patients who have chronic conditions, the company wants to utilize its fresh funding to offer its product suite to individuals who are suffering from other diseases. Right now, the company is working to accelerate the launch of its respiratory digital therapeutic portfolio.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.