From 43 courses in 2016, to a current spread of over 130 courses across 13 specialisation areas, Medvarsity Online expects their portfolio to expand to 250+ courses with increased focus on skilling professionals aligned to the government’s goals as part of Ayushman Bharat. Gerald Jaideep, CEO, Medvarsity Online tells Viveka Roychowdhury that his company is looking to transform medical education through technology, constant updation, a global faculty pool and a wide circle of local clinical partners
What were the gaps in India’s medical education system that Medvarsity tried to address when it was first started by the Apollo Group 19 years ago?
The prominent gaps that we saw in healthcare service sector almost two decades ago was a major shortage of skilled workforce. The problems of not having enough skilled doctors and nurses to handle the ascending number of patients and diseases at that point of time was a huge issue. Even at later stages when the government started making efforts to improve the hospitals and infrastructure, knowledge building platforms and resources for the healthcare professionals were almost negligible. Moreover, sources to develop required skills to deliver quality health was getting defeated at multiple stages of the professional workforce. The issue of lack of healthcare professionals to the patient ratio still exists, but thanks to technological advancements, there is hope for advancement.
What was its vision /mission statement? What was the 2016 rebooting, rebranding all about?
With the health industry being worst affected due to lack of teachers, in medical and nursing colleges, the seed to create a virtual medical university was sown and that is how Medvarsity was born, in 2000. It came from a need to impact healthcare in India. We are looking to transform medical education through technology. Our aim is to help doctors and other healthcare professionals upskill their talents to provide better care. Our vision is to ‘Impact Healthcare through Education.’ By creating a platform where students and medical professionals can access the latest in medical education and engage with a global faculty group, we’re ensuring that every Medvarsity graduate is better equipped to save lives.
The reboot of 2016 was required to integrate Medvarsity across all aspects of medical education. We launched a recognisable brand identity and established partnerships with some of the largest healthcare providers in the country. The rebirth also involved a deeper integration of technology across all aspects of our training and therefore build a better engagement with the learners of tomorrow.
The increasing cost of medical education has been cited as one of the reasons why doctors resort to overcharging patients as a way to maximise earnings after years of expensive study. Don’t the Medvarsity courses, internships/ observerships add to this burden, especially since they are currently not accredited/certified by the government?
A direct relationship between cost of education and how much doctors charge is a conjecture at this moment and we really don’t have a basis for making that assumption. On the other hand, the unavailability of skilled professionals would mean that the few skilled/qualified doctors are likely to charge higher for their services. That’s simple supply demand mismatch and therefore prices will go up.
Medvarsity has worked hard to democratise medical education. We have courses starting at ` 2500 and going up all the way to ` 10 lakhs for an international masters programme. Even in the case of our international masters, we are offering the courses to our students at 50 per cent of the price offered by the principal university. Therefore, one can argue that as more and more medical professionals have access to high quality training, the cost of medical services should start declining for the general public.
How does a graduate from one of your programmes benefit? What is the value add?
The healthcare sector in India is predicted to have a compound annual growth rate of 22.9 per cent by 2020 and is valued at $280 billion. These strides being made by India is palpable in the revenue and employment opportunities generated in the health sector. Healthcare organisations are making huge investments, like acquisitions of smaller healthcare organisations, expanding to every nook and corner of the country either through technology, provision of services, setting up drug stores and many more citizen-benefitting initiatives. This boom has resulted in a great need for healthcare professionals. Thus the demand for healthcare professionals has been huge and constantly on the increase.
Courses by Medvarsity promote focussed learning, emphasise skill enhancement programmes and are regularly updated based on inputs from a global faculty pool. While our alumni often see an immediate improvement in their careers, our focus is on long-term impact on healthcare. Medvarsity courses help professionals upskill their clinical expertise, gain management and leadership skills via live virtual interactions with leading experts across the globe and open up various multiple career opportunities in management and healthcare.
The Fellowship in Emergency Medicine seems to be one of the flagship courses of Medvarsity. Describe its pedagogy as a template for your other courses.
Fellowship in Emergency Medicine (FEM) is a one-year programme designed to train students with the international standards of training in emergency care. This course will help doctors to enhance their knowledge and skills required for prevention, diagnosis and management of acute and urgent aspects of illness and injuries affecting patients of all age groups. It will enable students to build competencies in triaging patients, identification and treatment of life-threatening emergencies, resuscitating a critically ill patient and performing lifesaving procedures in addition to having good communication and counselling skills.
Medvarsity has had the privilege of creating a substantial impact in the practice of emergency medicine in India. Over the last 10 years of our FEM programme, we have trained and upskilled over 3000 emergency medicine doctors. We can proudly state that 60 per cent of all EM physicians in India are our alumni.
India’s medical education system is in a transition phase, with the Medical Council of India (MCI) recently dissolved and the Board of Governors taking over. Long term, it will make way for the National Medical Commission (NMC). How is Medvarsity engaging with this ecosystem, given that it is a private sector undertaking and is not regulated by MCI /NMC and therefore cannot award a formal degree?
The government’s move to dissolve MCI was a surprise move and while we were expecting the announcement of the NMC before the dissolution of MCI, this move did catch all of us by surprise. We have been working with Niti Aayog and influencers in the government to expand the role of private entities like Medvarsity in upskilling medical professionals. Till such a time that the government doesn’t constitute a national body to review this request, Medvarsity and other online education companies will need to focus on upskilling and reskilling of the professionals rather than granting a formal degree.
Who are your global partners in terms of content, instructors etc?
Our courses are developed and accredited by some of the top universities from across the world. We have courses for all levels of healthcare practitioners and they have different accreditations considering its forte and relevance to that particular clinical and non-clinical skills. For example, we have the courses relevant for only nursing community which is powered by ATI Nursing Education (US) and ATI is the leader in nursing education. Further, we have courses designed and accredited by top universities such as eCornell, Royal Liverpool Academy, Amity University amongst others. These not only increase the credibility of each course’s material and certification programme, but also puts us at the top when it comes to online medical training.
Who are the clinical partners for the courses? How do you go about shortlisting and collaborating with such partners?
We have partnerships with leading hospitals in India including Apollo, Columbia Asia, Max Cure and others. Our alumni are spread across most hospital groups in the country and are also spread across 38 different countries across Asia, Africa and North America.
We look at multiple aspects when we consider signing up a clinical partner. This covers their current accreditation standards, departmental staffing, leadership structure, focus/investments in education and in specific cases, review by our academic partners on their competencies in specific treatment areas. Therefore we shortlist hospitals which are aligned with our goals, training needs and the courses we offer. There is also a lot of research, inputs and feedback received from different stakeholders which also impact our selection of partners.
What has been Medvarsity’s growth over the years and your plans, targets for the next few years?
Medvarsity has consistently been growing at 30 pre cent YoY and we’re a profitable, self sustaining entity. We invest 40 per cent of our revenue in technology and new course development to ensure that our students are constantly abreast of the latest developments in the industry. In 2016, we had 43 active courses and today we have over 130 courses spread across 13 specialisation areas and covering a large set of healthcare professionals. Over the next couple of years, we expect our course portfolio to expand to 250+ courses with increased focus on skilling professionals aligned to the government’s goals as part of Ayushman Bharat.
How does Medvarsity engage with government/public hospitals and public health professionals?
At this point of time, we have limited engagement with government hospitals. We do offer a Masters in Public Health programme in partnership with the University of New South Wales where the student is required to spend two weeks as part of a community health centre and we’ve tied up with Apollo’s PHC in Aragonda for the same.