How a Pandemic Has Changed the Way India Delivers Healthcare The gaping hole in the availability of doctors for a medical consultation physically is now being fulfilled by telemedicine

By Rajat Garg

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The sudden onset of coronavirus has made healthcare a paramount factor in everyone's life. The hospitals are unable to fulfill the ever-increasing demand for consultations. OPDs and non-COVID related treatments have taken the backseat. Existing institutes are being pushed to cater to the demand for consultations. The gaping hole in the availability of doctors for a medical consultation physically is now being fulfilled by telemedicine.

Telemedicine existed peripherally for the majority of the population a few months ago. The lockdown has proved to be a forceful push in the adoption of telemedicine technology by patients. Apart from technological advancement, telemedicine has more to offer. The comfort of getting medicines at your doorstep with safe and fast delivery has acted as an add-on. The affordable prices that are being offered by the online players have an exceptional impact on the people.

With the onset of coronavirus, several of the small and medium-sized hospitals, nursing homes are under a lot of economic pressure. They will either close or merge with larger hospitals to survive as the economy would be cash-stricken in the near future. The mergers of these institutions will in turn require implementation and use of tools like HIS, EMR (electronic medical records) across the whole institution in order to replace the traditional paperwork with the latest digital systems.

The next big pillar of healthcare in India is the presence of a million pharmacies even in smaller towns. However, the availability of high-quality medicines is an issue as pharmacies partner with local pharmaceutical companies and doctors to make a mini nexus. While this ensures that patient's revenue is well captured in the local ecosystem, it deprives patients of high-quality medicines especially in tier II and tier III cities. With teleconsultations, standardized prescriptions will have drug names, which will make the above practice a thing of the past. Patients can get a prescription online, walk to any pharmacy, and take medicine based on drug name vs brand name. Chemists all over India can also be brought onto a common platform to procure high-quality medicines from authorized pharmaceutical companies. myUpchar chemist app already provides such a platform to over 10,000 chemists across northern India.

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, policymakers have turned towards telemedicine as a critical part of ensuring that people have access to healthcare while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The issuance of telemedicine guidelines has been the much-needed nudge from the government. In a matter of a few months, the Indian healthcare ecosystem has moved ahead by 10 years. The coronavirus pandemic has brought the opportunity to revamp and adopt the digital process and automation in healthcare. It will bring in the transparency, accessibility, and accountability which a patient needs.

The ground reality of the healthcare system in India is that we have several inferior quality clinics and quacks operating in every nook and corner. The lack of trained staff or required provisions in these health facilities can put the patient at risk. These practices are more common in tier II and III cities. At the same time, online consultations work in a very structured manner. The online players are working through standardized prescription writing, treatment algorithms, etc. The standardization being brought into practice by these online platforms will eventually build a strong pillar in the healthcare sector.

The coronavirus crisis has proved to be a challenge as well as an opportunity for the healthcare industry. The hospitals are packed with COVID-19 patients and people are afraid of visiting hospitals for the fear of getting infected. Thus, many people are preferring online doctor consultations and home delivery of medicines for proper healthcare. Telemedicine allows the benefits of face-to-face consultation and zero chances of transmission of the virus.

The people's willingness to pay for online services was considerably low compared to offline services. Since the doctors realized this behavior, they preferred offline consultations and drove people to their hospital or clinic for checkups. The coronavirus crisis has turned the tide in favor of online consultations. As people are turning towards online platforms, the doctors have also shifted their attention. As users realize that 85-90 per cent of the cases do not require physical attention they'll move to telemedicine for good.

These platforms have seen a three-four times increase in demand across the industry. Due to COVID-19, people are relying more and more on online consultations. myUpchar is such a company that is focusing on servicing patients at these harsh times. The capacity to fulfill the consultation and medicine needs is being scaled by the company to provide quality consultation to people. And based on the fact that telemedicine addresses customer needs of quality and ease at affordable prices in a much better way than its substitutes, it can forever alter the customer behavior in favor of telemedicine.

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Rajat Garg

Co-founder, myUpchar

An alum of the Delhi College of Engineering and then Stanford University, Rajat has previously founded companies like Shimply and Social Apps HQ. Rajat’s greatest passion now is finding ways to take medicines and verified medical information to every corner of India.

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