If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that technology has made a huge impact, bringing along with it a plethora of opportunities to explore and take advantage of. It is impressive to see how the youth of this country have adapted to technology in their day-to-day lives. Such has been the advent of technology that we’ve got the older generations trying their hand at it too.
I think one of our biggest advantages is that India is a very young country, filled with smart minds and enthusiastic individuals who are always striving to make the best of everything given to them. Or ‘’Hustling’’ as we like to call it. In the past few years, due to the enthusiasm that technology has inspired, we have seen huge behavioral changes in the way we access multiple services. Earlier we used to stand in long queues to pay electricity bills, take time out to walk to the store to shop for necessities, book cabs a day in advance, run to the bank for transactions, and stand in queues to book train tickets. Today, it is a common practice to recharge phones, pay for utilities, order clothes online, make transfers, and all of this using just a smartphone device. 10 years ago if someone would have told, you would a get a cab in 2 minutes by just a few clicks on your phone, it would have been hard to believe. Today, it is an accepted reality; such is the power of technology and this said technology is penetrating into all domains including healthcare. Healthcare is an important domain in which technology is crucial to meet the rising health needs of the country.
Anecdotal reports suggest that a whopping 700 million people have no access to specialist doctors in India, 80% of the population live in rural areas of the country and have minimal or no access at all to primary healthcare. The most shocking fact of the matter is that 90% of specialist doctors practice in the top cities of the country, whereas 90% of the demand is from people residing in places outside tier 1 and tier 2 cities. There is huge mismatch in patient demand and supply of doctors.
Even though central and state governments have initiated various universal healthcare programs, successful implementation of such schemes is still a distant dream. Government hospitals offer treatments, but the poor infrastructure and the lack of skilled staff makes it difficult for people to avail these services. A lot more needs to be done and that is where technology can help. Moreover, at the pace at which the country’s population is growing, we would need twice the number of doctors that we have already in order to meet the WHO standard. Startups like DocsApp, are working hard towards making high quality healthcare accessible to the masses.
Today, we are a tech savvy generation; we like to be served quickly, we cannot even wait to think, we just Google it! From going to our mom’s kitchen for a home remedy when we were down with the flu, we’ve evolved to searching for online solutions. According to statistics, 5% of the Google search keywords are related to health and medical conditions. There has been a paradigm shift, people are comfortable with talking to doctors online, and it is more convenient for the people to seek virtual help for all health issues and ailments. The younger generations in 20-40 age brackets are looking online for doctor consultations, medicine delivery and getting labs test done at home and the like.
The future hospitals as I see will be 70 % online and 30% offline. People would get their OPD (Outpatient Department) consultations done easily over the mobile and consult the doctor via video chat. At junctures where a physical examination is mandatory by the doctor, they would visit the hospital after which they would further follow-up with the doctor online. Primarily, procedures and surgeries would continue to happen at the offline hospitals. What we see at DocsApp today is that we provide specialist doctor consultation for more than 1500 patients a day, which is higher than any other offline hospital. This is an indicator of the world that we are going to see where patients will primarily access doctor online and meet physically only when absolutely necessary.
For countries like the US and China, healthcare is primarily driven by Insurance companies and the State. On the contrary, in India people have the liberty to choose their preferred medical care because a majority of the population, 85% approximately, pay for their medical consultations right out of their own pockets. That being said, new and innovative ideas will be welcomed as it serves a dual purpose; infrastructure costs of offline medical care will be brought down drastically which will make doctors will also be able to serve patients beyond any geographical limits and consultations will be cost effective.
In the future, geographical constraints will be a thing of the past. As the access to high-speed internet is increasing, video consultation is becoming seamless and convenient. We wouldn’t be surprised if VR consultations would become a real thing in the years to come.
The changing behavior of the young populace combined with the strong need for innovative solutions is how we can solve the mammoth healthcare issues in the country. Online healthcare solutions will be the only and preferred option in the days to come. The internet has democratized multiple industries like travel, music, retail etc. The impact in healthcare domain is truly waiting to unfold in the next 10 years. Better IOT devices for vitals tracking, cloud software, AI helping doctors in diagnosis, are all happening as we speak. DocsApp and other online health solutions are rightly positioned to transform the future of the Indian healthcare system.
About the Author
Satish Kannan is the Co-founder of DocsApp, a mobile platform where people can consult specialist MD Doctors within 30 minutes through chat or call from the location of their convenience. Satish always had an inclination towards healthcare solutions. He believes that taking the time to plan the assignment is crucial for the company’s success. Being in the healthcare industry for many years, he has learned its various functions at various levels which include hospitals and hospital management. He has also extensively worked on importing new equipment from markets around the globe.