Jana Care – Revolutionizing Diabetes Diagnosis and Treatment through Accessible Mobile Technology
Jana Care is an early stage medical technology company leveraging connected devices to address the global diabetes epidemic.
The Business Model:
Jana Care is an early stage medical technology company leveraging connected devices to address the global diabetes epidemic. Jana Care aims to enable doctors and patients to prevent, diagnose, and manage diabetes through its unique dual-pronged strategy: the Aina mobile-compatible blood test device, and the online Habits platform.
Though 400 million people worldwide are diabetic, only 200 million have been diagnosed; of those, only 40 million are receiving therapy. 80% of people suffering from diabetes live in low-to-middle income countries, with a majority living in India. These gaps in diabetes diagnosis and treatment results in costs to healthcare systems and patients worldwide. Jana Care’s core business model focuses on closing those gaps through accessible, scalable technology for diagnosis and long term monitoring that can be made affordable enough for patients in the developing world.
Still in its early years, Jana Care has already developed the Aina blood tester, which utilizes dry chemistry to run near-instantaneous blood tests for key diabetic indicators. Jana Care is for-profit, earning revenue by selling the Aina device (less than $50/ea) and individual tests (less than $1/ea) to hospitals, clinics, and individual patients. Jana Care has also developed the Habits platform for personalized digital health coaching for diabetes sufferers. The data gathered from the Aina/Habits platforms feeds into predictive analytics to help doctors and patients better manage the disease. Ultimately, Jana Care may also license its platform and technology for other test developers to build upon.
The Operating Model:
The success of Jana Care’s business model was dependent on three core ideas: speed to market, access to key constituents, and innovative product development. As a result, the founders designed an operating model centered in alignment with these objectives, enabling the company to achieve success so far.
Access to Key Constituents: Target Market and Strategic Partnerships
Jana Care founders Sidhant Jena and Michal Depa chose to launch Jana Care in Bangalore, India – despite having met and conceived of the idea in Boston. The decision to begin operations in Bangalore – conducting research, developing products, and running initial rounds of testing – was well grounded. India presented the perfect opportunity – with millions of diabetes sufferers in the Bangalore area alone, and a growing emphasis on private healthcare systems focused on providing low cost services with superior outcomes. By launching in a hot zone for diabetes, Jana Care had immediate and direct access to patients – and could ask them detailed questions about the processes by which they were diagnoses, and how they managed their condition. This customer research proved invaluable, as the founding team gathered information about key challenges facing patients: transportation to and from hospitals, long wait times to see doctors and undergo tests, and little to no follow-up help from qualified professionals after they left the clinics.
Bangalore is also known as the home of Narayana Hrudayala Hospital (or NH), conceived by Dr. Devi Shetty as a way to deliver affordable, optimized care for the masses. While NH began as a heart hospital, Dr. Shetty had expanded it to include an entire ward focused on diabetes. Jana Care entered into a partnership with NH to gain access to patients and the doctors treating them, for their insight as well as to run initial clinical trials of their devices.
Speed to Market: Rapid Prototyping
In the medical devices industry, the lean startup model doesn’t quite apply: any “minimum viable product” must work perfectly from the start, as there is little room for error in healthcare. Additionally, in a field where intellectual property drives competition, getting a product developed and launched expeditiously is imperative. The Jana Care founders needed to rapidly prototype and test new iterations before attempting to gain approvals from regulatory agencies and seek patents. This necessitated embedding themselves in a vast market that would allow them to conduct product trials in hospitals such as NH. Jena estimated that he could run 6 clinical trials in a local diabetes hospital ward within 6 months; in the United States, merely getting approval to run one trial could take 6 months. Proceeding with Jana Care in India enabled the team to refine its core product offerings quickly; the Aina device entered mass production within a few years of the company’s conception. The Aina gained the advantageous position as first mover in mobile-connected blood testing devices.
The Bangalore startup ecosystem also enabled the rapid prototyping of Jana Care’s Habits platform, a mobile/web application that helps patients manage their diabetes. The data produced by the Aina device, combined with user inputs about diet and exercise, enable Habits to provide customized plans to users that will help them live a healthy, normal lifestyle. Proximity to engineering talent meant that Jana Care could use multivariate testing to refine the Habits platform, increasing its user-friendliness and thus, its user adoption and retention rates.
Innovative Product Development: R&D and Intellectual Property
The Aina is capable of running multiple tests (including the necessary HbA1c) in under five minutes, and can be produced inexpensively for developing economies, delivering value to its target beneficiaries. These innovative factors resolved core healthcare system issues by enabling patients to undergo preliminary testing before seeing a doctor – and providing the doctor with key data points at the start of any appointment. The platform’s low cost made adoption into local hospitals and further-afield clinics affordable and therefore possible.
The most important factor for this technological success was the decision to run all research and development in-house at Jana Care. In order to make the Aina device truly mobile – able to function in rural clinics as well as urban households – it was necessary to translate the traditional wet chemistry tests done in medical labs to dry chemistry that was more stable in volatile conditions. Jana Care hired its own innovative scientists to address this challenge. With the dry chemistry tests in hand, Jana Care developed the mobile-device compatible Aina in house to protect the intellectual property of both components – essential in order to compete and continue to provide value going forward.
The intellectual property ownership around Jana Care’s technology can also lead to an extension of its core diabetes focus down the line. Jana Care ultimately seeks to improve global health through accessible, scalable technology. Thus, Sidhant Jena hopes to open Jana Care’s technology platform to other developers of new chemical tests, allowing them to engineer tests that can be run through Jana Care’s proprietary device and dry chemistry strips. Thus Jana Care will maintain market dominance via the diagnostic device, and the online ecosystem of health management support through Habits.
“Designing For Better Health Outcomes.” Designing For Better Health Outcomes. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://www.healthitoutcomes.com/doc/designing-for-better-health-outcomes-0001>.
“How This Startup Got Its Simple Diabetes Test to Market Faster by Leaving Canada.” Financial Post How This Startup Got Its Simple Diabetes Test to Market Faster by LeavingCanada Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://business.financialpost.com/entrepreneur/why-this-startup-went-to-india-to-help-solve-the-global-diabetes-epidemic?__lsa=62bd-54aa>.
“Interview with Sidhant Jena.” Personal interview. 11 Aug. 2015.
“Jana Care Website” Jana Care, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://www.janacare.com/index.html>.
Kumar, Ashok. “”Crossing the Valley of Death in Low-Cost Diagnostics” Presented by Ashok A. Kumar.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPmpIgSda9A>.
“The Social Impact of Mobility.” DATAQUEST. N.p., 27 Oct. 2015. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://www.dqindia.com/the-social-impact-of-mobility/>.
Student comments on Jana Care – Revolutionizing Diabetes Diagnosis and Treatment through Accessible Mobile Technology
Great post, Sonali. The use of visuals and layout helped with the delivery of your message. I have a deep experience with diabetes although I do not currently have the disease. Both of my parents are diabetic, and several good friends from grade school were diagnosed with Type I diabetes. I didn’t realize the large number of individuals that are not diagnosed (50%) or that India contained the largest population of patients.
I appreciate their strategy on making economically accessible devices that can be developed quickly. Do you believe Jana Care could have been success in the United States or did it take a large constituency of resource-constrained people and a more agile healthcare system? I am also curious to see the long-term viability of Jana Care. There appears to be a trade-off between organic growth and scale. Utilizing larger hospitals, networks, and companies with more resources, you can make the argument that you can scale these products and ideas much more effectively. Balancing maintaining control of your company and growth with bigger, quicker impact is a tough decision.
Love this, Sonali. Really interesting. I love the section in which you explain the benefits to having launched in India, where the speed to market was so much faster. I thought that was fascinating, and a great point to consider when thinking about the pros and cons of launching domestically or internationally.
Two questions for you. 1) Though this is a lower-price model, this still seems a relatively high cost ($50) per device for people well below the poverty line – especially in developing countries. Do you see a future in which a lower-priced model will be available, perhaps as a non-profit arm of the company? Given the partnership with NH, it seems as though there may be a similar mission orientation, and could be an interesting opportunity. 2) It may be far too early to know this yet, but are there any other applications for this technology that have yet to be explored? It seems as though Jana has really thought through the practical side of their product and the various use cases, and so I am curious to know what else these lessons could be applied to.