Opportunity in Adversity: Telemedicine-Watershed Moment?

Experts in telemedicine discuss the impact the COVID-19 public health emergency has had on the practice-related aspects

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As it often happens with major catastrophic events—natural or human-made—many societal practices change irrevocably. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all afraid to touch any surface exposed to the public. Technology-enabled workflows now enable patients to complete most of the registration formalities prior to the visit, be it for consultation or a clinic visit. Registration kiosks in hospital lobbies may soon be enabled with facial recognition software to eliminate the need for touching any surface.

Routine examinations are also going virtual, with many diagnostic procedures now possible through remote-controlled devices. Caregivers are beginning to do their patient rounds through virtual visits. This trend is predicted to only grow in the coming years.

In a webinar by Entrepreneur India, featuring experts in telemedicine, the discussion was on impact this public health emergency has had on the practice-related aspects and how they can prepare for the future once the emergency dilutes.

Saurabh Arora, Founder and CEO, Lybrate

The critical need for social distancing among physicians and patients will drive exceptional demand for telemedicine, which involves the use of communication systems and networks to enable either a synchronous or otherwise session between the patient and provider.

“So on the supply side, that is, on the doctor’s side, we are seeing a change in behavior where doctors themselves are adopting technology,” says Arora.

“The ministry of health and family welfare has come up with a complete set of guidelines which beautifully outlines what is it that you can and cannot do, what is allowed and what is not. In a nutshell, the summary is that telemedicine is the way to go,” Arora further elaborates.

Rajat Garg, Co-Founder and CEO, myUpchar

The startup is bridging the gap between people, physicians and health systems, enabling everyone, especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with physicians through virtual channels, helping to reduce the spread of the coronavirus to mass populations and the medical staff on the frontlines.

“The Pandora’s Box has been opened. People have experienced what a higher quality consultation looks like and they are not going to settle for anything less. So, it’s just more of us as an industry pushing people to experience this level of consultation. Across millions of users, once they experience that, they are not going to go back.” says Garg.

Kiran Kalakuntla, Founder and CEO, ekincare

For the times ahead, the fear of contracting coronavirus becoming the new norm will continue to drive demand for e-healthcare.

“Online consultations for different medical situations, apart from COVID-19 cases, will continue,” explains Kalakuntla. “It is like the e-commerce moment for healthcare. Much of the technology such as wearables and big data science that provide access to patient’s historical data on demand already exists, and more is rapidly being developed as the benefits of e-healthcare are becoming more evident.”

There is an unprecedented opportunity today to use telemedicine technologies in the complete continuum of care. However, healthcare enterprises clubbed with technology partners such as ekincare need to make them more user-friendly. It has to be a seamless platform that replicates the in-person visit experience as much as possible. The same guiding principle applies to seamless communication on home-care models.

The most important aspect of designing for picture perfect experiences is gaining a close understanding of the telemedicine consumer journey in the new post-pandemic era and identifying the high-impact touch points for digital engagement. Kalakuntla further suggests that individual patient populations differ in their digital engagement preferences, whether by socio-economic status, or any other demographic factor.

Every health system has to design the digital experience that is suited for their patient populations while remembering to address the needs of caregivers who will deliver and manage the experiences.

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