They are all seated on one floor, headphones plugged in, talking on multiple phones—not telemarketers but doctors teleconsulting in hushed voices. The centre is sectioned with dividers at shoulder height, creating small cubicles—made of mud and covered in traditionally painted murals. The walls are tall and unusual—they’re made of bamboo.
Everything about this office is familiar and yet nothing is. We’re in India’s first and largest teleconsultation centre on ayurveda.
Each day, over 8,000 people call the 250 doctors seated across centres. The one we’re in is located in a satellite town in NCR. Thursday mornings are a busy time here. Busier even than at Practo, India’s largest doctor network, which hosts 150 calls from patients every day.
All of this is the product of 55-year-old ayurvedic doctor Partap Chauhan. A man with a simple vision—make ancient Indian medicine accessible again. Chauhan founded Jiva Ayurveda in 1992—a single ayurvedic clinic in a village not very far from this teleconsultation centre. At the time, he was consulting patients over the weekends in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh.
Over the next 15 years, expats would invite him to Europe and the US to share his knowledge of ayurveda. Aided by the telecommunication revolution, he first set up a website to share this knowledge and consult in 1995. This eventually expanded to the teleconsultation centre we’re standing in.
The idea was to increase accessibility by integrating ayurveda with modern technology. To research and make its practice consistent and reliable. Chauhan achieved that last year. In a first-of-its-kind big data analysis, Jiva proved that Chauhan’s protocols for diagnosis and prescribing ayurvedic medicines were effective for over 75% of 353,000 patients, to varying degrees. Who were these patients? Jiva’s teleconsultation patients.
“That is remarkable. I can also say that ayurveda does not work for some people. But we know in modern medicine too that not all medicine works on everyone,” says Samir Brahmachari, former director general of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR). Brahmachari was also the former secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR).
Brahmachari was the one who actually analysed the electronic health records of Jiva’s patients. He co-wrote and published his analysis last year in the journal Progress in Preventive Medicine. This is noteworthy because most modern drugs are developed outside India by Big Pharma, and Indian patients hardly get the desired representation in early clinical studies. In contrast, Jiva has data on a wide swathe of the Indian population.