A billion-dollar business built on the support of tech-savvy patients in India – that’s what one can expect the current online video consultation platforms to grow into. This outlook would probably find acceptance from many of India’s digital health entrepreneurs. A promising outlook like this owes its gratitude to a new breed of online consultation platforms, fueled by algorithms and venture capital, making it easier than ever to get a medical consultation.
Scope of digital video consultation platforms in India
India is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital consumers, with a count of 560 million internet subscribers in 2018, second only to China. Indians had 1.2 billion mobile phone subscriptions and downloaded more than 12 billion apps in 2018. India is digitizing faster than any other country, and there is plenty of room to grow (just over 40 percent of the populace has an internet subscription).
What lies ahead for digital consultation in India
With robust telemedicine guidelines in place, doctors will be able to write prescriptions based on telephonic, textual or video conversations — chat, images, messaging, emails, fax and others. This will allow users to consult certified medical practitioners without going out of the house and reduce the risk of transmission of diseases. Consider the current situation – The number of users accessing online medical video consultation platforms with doctors has seen a rise during the nationwide lockdown post the COVID-19 outbreak.
What remains to be accomplished
Large-scale deployment of e-Health activities will have to consider the financial, medico-legal, and technical issues. These issues can range from the primary identification of which e-Health activities are most beneficial to patients and physicians to the identification of standards for managing the private, secure, and accurate transmission of personal health information across a networked community.
Currently, there are 4 primary methods of telehealth – mobile health, remote-patient monitoring, store-and-forward and Live video.
Consider this – there are close to 30,000 gynecologists in India. At the same time, there are less than 8000 dermatologists in India. Most of them seem to be in cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru. They wouldn’t possibly be able to consult patients across the country in-person? Online video consultations can be the only saving grace.
In the last 2 years, many companies have joined the telehealth bandwagon. However, sometimes, they might look at this healthcare platform with an e-commerce mindset. That’s a big mistake. Doctors have to ask the right questions to get a grasp of the situation. The online consultation is not an alternative to real-time healthcare. Only 70 per cent of the problems can be solved with online healthcare. A doctor also needs experience at a hospital. Similarly, there should be regulations about how many hours each doctor should be allowed to clock in for an online portal.
Today’s healthcare system is facing many challenges, including growing aging populations, a rise in chronic conditions and co-morbidities, and increasing constraints on the healthcare workforce. As the industry works towards finding solutions to address them, the industry must also embrace the shift to digitization, starting from online video consultations with doctors.