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How Telemedicine Is Transforming Healthcare In Tier II & III Cities The lack of trained staff and inferior quality of treatment is one of the major issues in such areas as it puts their life at risk

By Rajat Garg

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The healthcare scenario for tier II and III cities is completely different from that of tier I. When myUpchar started, there were no players focused on serving tier II and III areas. Most of the online healthcare industry was focused on the urban population; there was no quality healthcare services for tier II and III. Around 80 per cent of myUpchar's users come from tier II and III Indian cities. Telemedicine has been there for a very long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it to the forefront. For tier II and III cities, such a concept is fairly new but it surely has a great potential to transform the healthcare scenario.

For healthcare needs, tier II and III people mostly rely on quacks for their healthcare solutions. The lack of trained staff and inferior quality of treatment is one of the major issues in such areas as it puts their life at risk. Apart from that, the current COVID-19 crisis has worsened the situation for people living in tier II and III areas. Due to the shutting down of local clinics, a major problem for doctor consultation has arisen. The subsequent lockdown has added to the difficulties as travelling long distances for treatment is challenging as well as risky. In some parts of India, heading out of the homes even to the chemist stores is not a good idea due to safety concerns. In such a scenario, telemedicine is helping in providing this audience quality healthcare services without travelling at all.

Another big pillar of healthcare in India is the million pharmacies available even in smaller towns. However, availability of high quality medicines is an issue as pharmacies usually 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. With teleconsultations, standardized prescriptions have drug names, which will make above practice a thing of the past. By this practice, patients can get a prescription online, walk to any pharmacy and take a medicine based on drug name vs brand name. Smaller pharmacies surviving due to current nexus will either collapse or merge into pharmacy chains which will bring digital processes and transparency. Gaps in the supply chain can be quickly identified and plugged by software solutions. Pharmaceutical companies will have an end-to-end visibility of the consumption patterns and can plan better.

There is a lack of standardization protocol seen in the practice of writing prescriptions, although this concept is being followed by the telemedicine companies. The standardization brought into practice by online players will eventually build a strong pillar in the healthcare sector for India. We can expect platforms like myUpchar offering telemeds services to be on the rise as there will be consultation demand in the market even after this tense situation ends.

The only gap that seems to be unfulfilled at this time is the self-diagnostic services. There is a need for integrated diagnostic tools that will allow people to diagnose their ailments at home. With a little guidance, people can then diagnose their issues under a doctor's supervision. If this cavity is fulfilled, there will be very few cases that would actually require a visit to the hospital or clinics. All the proceedings from consultation to getting medicine delivered at home will then be completely online.

Telemedicine has been in the background for a long period but the Corona pandemic has brought the facility to the forefront. The comfort of getting doctor consultation and medicine delivery without stepping a foot out of house can be addictive and relieving. Online medical records and follow ups have also proven to be prominent in building trust in online players. The digitization in this sector will bring in the transparency, accessibility, and accountability, which a patient really needs. With a slight nudge from the government like issuance of telemedicine guidelines, Indian healthcare ecosystem has moved 10 years ahead in a matter of months. COVID-19 pandemic has brought an opportunity for the government and industry to revamp, adopt the digital processes and automation, and bring the much needed transparency, accessibility and accountability which a patient needs.

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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