An Ophthalmologist’s View on Establishing Preventative Healthcare in India

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Preventing blindness with affordable eye screening devices; Dr. Senthil and his team serve over 20 clinics across India with access to over 2000 patients

WDr. T Senthil Welcarehether the challenge has been becoming the first doctor in his family, attempting to change conventional approaches to preventative healthcare or leaving a stable career in order to provide diagnostic eye care services to a massively underserved market, Dr. Tamilarasan Senthil, CEO and founder of Welcare, has met every obstacle in his path head on. Dr. Senthil started Welcare in order to fulfill an innate desire to provide scalable healthcare services—he explains that the impact he’d have as an individual doctor was too shallow to fit his cause: “I’ve always wanted to do something different from other doctors. I wanted to create impact on a larger scale. I wanted to do something that would reach large numbers, let’s say 10000 patients in different locations, all while creating a valuable business. That’s the reason that I started working on this business model.” As CEO of Welcare, he sets up affordable eye care services at diabetes clinics, general hospitals and other health centers throughout the country.

Changing Mindsets Towards Preventative Healthcare through Business

welcare-eye-screening-of-man-640x480Using the platform of his eye care services, Dr. Senthil explores an important aspect of working as an impact healthcare entrepreneur: spreading awareness of preventative measures to existent diseases. As a trained ophthalmologist, the lack of awareness towards preventative eye care bothered Dr. Senthil. “In India, 60 million individuals suffer from diabetes and its ensuing complications. Many of these patients suffer from diabetic retinopathy,” he explains. “This can cause a permanent loss of eyesight. Despite this, the number of people who visit ophthalmologists is very low. Even today in India, people don’t wear sunglasses because they are convinced that it is a fashion statement. It’s not something that can prevent radiation into your eyes, or stop you from having cataracts in the future. This mindset has to change in order for people to embrace the concept of preventive healthcare in India. Someone will be going to the diabetologist for 5 years but he’ll never go to the ophthalmologist. These are educated people! I’m not talking about uneducated people. Even amongst diabetologists, the awareness about retinopathy is very poor. They’ve never bothered to get their eyes checked.”

Creating this awareness involves patient interaction on a series of levels. Apart from installing eye care services in healthcare centers, Dr. Senthil implements a variety of methods in order to increase the level of education on diabetic retinopathy: “We tell diabetologists to get their patients to check their eyes every year. I think that’s important. When a patient is in a clinic, we make sure that they can see their own retina on the computer. If somebody has a problem, we explain it to them, we let them know that ‘this is a hemorrhage’. Once they see the issue, they are more motivated to reach out to the doctor. It gives them something to relate to.”

Balancing Entrepreneurship

Welcare now serves over 20 clinics across the country and has access to over 2000 patients. How does Dr. Senthil find the time to sit down for interviews while attempting to change the face of lower tier eye care services in India? “My wife takes care of the clinical part, the surgeries and all of that,” he answers cheekily. “That’s the reason I can spend time here discussing with you.”

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