How Digital Penetration will Lead the Way to Increased Telemedicine Practice in India?

Telemedicine has the incredible potential to expand access to quality care and provide basic medical treatment to the entire population

learn more about Amit Munjal

By Amit Munjal

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In the existing Indian healthcare system, there is a pertinent problem pertaining to doctor's availability and access to healthcare. People commonly complain of having difficulty in taking time off to visit their primary care doctor. As Per National Family Health Survey, private cares remain the largest source of health care for 63% of households in rural areas and 70% in urban areas. Only 2% of doctors are available in the countryside for 68% of the population

Shortage of Doctors

Besides this, shortage of doctors in rural areas as compared to urban areas leads to considerable travel expenditures of rural patients. For instance, WHO has prescribed a 1:1000 doctor-patient ratio, but this ratio in India is about 1:2000. Rural India has one-fourth the doctors as compared to urban areas. This is a huge issue with the chronically ill, who require complex and expensive long-term monitoring and treatment strategies. Telemedicine offers best solutions to address these shortcomings in the existing healthcare system.

What Role Can Digital Healthcare Play

Digital healthcare space can offer a change in the near future for the population. At present, 80% of India's population has no direct, physical access to specialist healthcare, which means a huge potential for telemedicine. Currently, Digital technology acceptance is gaining distinction in India's medical industry, with backing from both the private and public sectors. The industry has come up with mobile apps, telemedicine, devices, and set up innovation centres among other initiatives.

Is Telemedicine the Panacea to Issues Plaguing Healthcare

The telemedicine market of India is one of the most thriving markets. With growing linkages between internet and delivery of healthcare services, the concept of telemedicine especially in the rural & remote areas has gained greater importance. Factors such as inclining demand from consumers for cheap & quality healthcare services along with the limited access to doctors in rural areas have been leading the growth in demand for telemedicine services in India. The telemedicine market in India which has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 20 per cent holds the potential to cross $32 million mark by 2020 from the current level of over $15 million, according to the recent study.

Telemedicine has the incredible potential to expand access to quality care and provide basic medical treatment to the entire population. It is also the potential to provide healthcare delivery in a more convenient way for patients (for example: allowing those with mobility issues to see a doctor from home, remote post-hospitalization care, preventative care support, etc.), to reduce overall health care expenditures, increase patient engagement with a higher continuity of care across platforms, among others — which at the end of the day results in an overall increase of quality patient care.

As India's health system evolves towards the ambitious state, numerous fundamental factors are in place. Both the private and public sector should provide adequate investment, with encouragements to invest in local manufacturing and health care delivery in urban and rural areas.

Need for Robust Infrastructure

The infrastructure for healthcare delivery must be ready to meet expected growth in demand, as the income of middle class is rising. Trained workforce in each sector must be available across the nation. Consumers will need high levels of health responsiveness and should be prepared to take separate responsibility for health conclusions. Healthcare Analytics can serve as the pillar for effective application of these initiatives, tracking outcomes and providing ailment observation. The Indian government will need to expand the level of cooperation for steady implementation of healthcare initiatives.

Conclusion

The future of medicine is a very exciting thing to think about. Taking a look at then and now — less than a hundred years ago physicians were using leeches (some still are) and using amputation as the way to prevent infections from spreading, now we have antibiotics and robotic surgery. Medicine is an amazing field of science and practice and telemedicine is one of the next frontiers.

No doubt there are still a lot of things to figure out — in terms of legal, safety, ethical, and other considerations — but as telehealth progresses, the impact and outcomes can only be anticipated as being amazing. New technology is already on its way and augmented reality, virtual medicine advances, biotech, and wearables will be integrated into this landscape to provide additional methods for the provision of care, patient monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment. All of these will increase the level of physician-patient interaction that leveraged and facilitated by technology and will require new ways of thinking about healthcare, tech, and medicine as well significant amounts of user-centric and human orientated design thinking.

Telehealth is far more than a new means of visiting the doctor. It's the gateway to a new system of coordinated care platforms: Services that leverage the expertise of people with advances in technology. As these platforms become ever more sophisticated, while delivering better health outcomes at lower costs, they will fundamentally reshape the delivery of India's healthcare.

Amit Munjal

Founder and CEO of Doctor Insta

With an experience of more than 15 years in Investment Banking and Management Consulting, Amit has donned various hats successfully.He also serves as a mentor and a business coach to various dot coms as well as to Capital Innovators, a Start-up Accelerator Program in the US.  Amit is also a Charter Member of TiE, Delhi and Los Angeles Chapter of CFA Institute. He is currently founder and CEO at Doctor Insta founded by him in 2015.

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