Few years ago, Syed Ahmed underwent an MRI scan and had to wait for three days to collect the radiology report. This triggered the idea for Syed and his friend, Kalyan Sivasailam, to create a digital platform for faster results.
This was the genesis of 5C Network, a Bengaluru headquartered healthtech startup, founded by the two engineers – Kalyan and Syed – in 2016. 5C Network’s platform reduces the turnaround time to come out with the radiology test results – in just 42 minutes, and also ensures higher degree of accuracy.
A graduate of National Institute of Technology (NIT) Surathkal in Karnataka, Kalyan says he was always fascinated by the radiology technology. Syed did his master’s in electronics from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and Kalyan had interned as a student with Syed.
“The whole idea was whether can one get these radiology reports in a fast and accurate manner,” says Kalyan.
At the same time, there were other things which were falling in place for 5C Network in terms of the ecosystem with better internet speeds, greater usage of apps, higher adoption of technology in the healthcare sector, increased computing power, etc.
“We saw many of these things coming together and believed that digital can be the final piece of technology enabler for radiology,” says Kalyan, who adds that around 800,000 scans are done every day across the country.
5C Network has created a technology platform to bring together all the participants such as radiologists, hospitals, and diagnostic centres.
Once the scan is done, the image is sent to the startup’s platform, where it is routed to the best available radiologists to analyse and provide the results.
“Our proprietary image compression algorithm helps in transmitting these images, and our advanced viewing techniques provides high fidelity of these images,” says Kalyan.
Also, the startup’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform helps radiologists in finding the specific cause of the ailment. According to Kalyan, their AI model has helped them to garner higher degree of accuracy. More importantly, the platform also garners the case history of each scan, which helps to come out with accurate results.
For example, the results of a lung scan of a person residing in a area dominated by mining industry can vary with somebody who does the same thing, but is residing in some other location. This is called disease indices burden and the platform of 5C Network will provide these inputs to the radiologists.
“All these things are happening live across the platform and we are able to give the radiology report results in just 42 minutes,” says Kalyan.
The market and growth
The radiology market is highly fragmented with these services present in hospitals, diagnostic centres. and even private clinics. According to industry reports, the Indian radiology market is estimated at a size of around Rs 45,000 crore.
In 2016, 5C Network started doing 26 radiology reports a month, and has now reached an average of 80,000. It has around 350 radiologists on its platform with 600 clients across the country.
Kalyan claims, “We have set the quality process with high accuracy standards, which helps radiologists deliver faster results.”
Today, 5C Network, with around 45 employees, has clients both from hospitals and diagnostic centres. The startup operates on the pay-per-use business model, and the co-founder claims the radiologists on the platform earn much more than their peers at hospitals or diagnostic centres.
The startup has raised around Rs 5 crore in funding till now from Unitus Ventures, Axilor, and the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), the technology business incubator of IIM Ahmedabad. It is looking to raise another round of funding soon.
Given the vastness of the radiology market in India, there are other startups like DeepTek and Qure.ai to name a few. However, Kalyan believes the USP of 5C Network is a combination of technology, processes, and superior service levels.
5C Network was also part of GE Healthcare’s startup accelerator programme, Edison, in its first batch. The other startups that were part of the programme include DeepTek, Orbo, Predible, and Synapsica.
Nalinikanth Gollagunta, MD, Wipro GE Healthcare, South Asia, said, “Their strength lies in their ability to match their unique technical knowledge and deep business skills to real world healthcare problems. Each of these startups are working on areas that are extremely relevant to GE and our customers.”
Speaking about the challenges, Kalyan says, “The overall concern is not so much from the business point of view but to reduce the error or delay in the report.”
In future, 5C Network plans to expand in both domestic and overseas market. “Radiology is a massive market and is digitally underpenetrated. We have still much more to do,” says Kalyan.
It plans to further improve the quality of diagnostic standards and also improve on its machine learning capability for increased accuracy.
Kalyan says, “We have the perfect launching pad of going international, and there has been interest from countries like Bangladesh, Kenya, Myanmar, and Tanzania to name a few.”
Besides, 5C Network is also actively looking into the tele healthcare segment, which could provide services in the area of tele pathology.
“Anything to do with objective analysis of radiology, then 5C Network will be the place to come,” says Kalyan confidently.
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