The remarkable growth in internet penetration and smartphone usage along with telemedicine, online pharmacies, Electronic Health Records (EHRs), health and fitness applications, and wearable devices have made healthcare more accessible, convenient, and patient-centric than ever before.
India's health tech market is projected to reach $25 billion by 2025. Especially post-COVID, the growth has seen unprecedented heights. Though the surge in health tech in India has been fueled by the pandemic, it is actually a series of developments that have paved the way for this surge.
The growing and aging Indian population has been propelling the surge in demand for healthcare services. Though India has the highest youth population in the world, the growing number of elderly citizens has heightened the need for healthcare services across the board. The increasing healthcare costs in India have made quality healthcare inaccessible to many. This financial strain has created an environment ripe for cost-effective health tech solutions.
Technological Transformation in Healthcare
The remarkable growth in internet penetration and smartphone usage has democratized access to health tech services, making them easily accessible even to the users of Tier 2, Tier 3 cities, and small towns. Telemedicine, along with internet-based features like online pharmacies, Electronic Health Records (EHRs), health and fitness applications, and wearable devices like smartwatches and ECG monitors, have made healthcare more accessible, convenient, and patient-centric than ever before.
Mr. Amol R Deshmukh, CEO and Founder of MedRabbits, said, “Healthcare and technology have typically featured at opposite ends of the spectrum. Doctors, patients, and the entire healthcare ecosystem were either not willing or not able to adopt technology readily like the other industries. Come the pandemic - everything changed. While doctors and hospitals became inaccessible due to the fear of the virus, technology came to the forefront and coerced patients, doctors, and hospitals to adapt.”
Mr. Deshmukh also mentioned that following that period, all participants within the ecosystem became at ease with the utilization of technology. Consequently, patients, doctors, and hospitals presently perceive greater advantages in employing technology to meet their healthcare needs and provide services.
Key Factors Driving Health-Tech Growth
Mr. Gautam Chopra, Founder and CEO of BeatO, pointed out three key factors that have significantly contributed to the growth of health-tech in India:
- Increased Personal Health Awareness: The pandemic has made individuals more conscious and aware of their health. This heightened awareness has resulted in the adoption of health-tracking devices and virtual healthcare consultations especially for non-communicable diseases and chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension etc.
- Greater Tech Exposure Among Healthcare Providers: Hospitals and healthcare professionals have become more tech-savvy, making it easier for health-tech startups to integrate their solutions into the healthcare ecosystem. The familiarity with technologies among doctors and other medical personnel at the secondary and tertiary healthcare levels has lowered barriers to adopting digital tools.
- Collaborations with Ecosystem Partners: Ecosystem players like insurance and pharmaceutical companies have ventured into partnerships with health-tech startups. These collaborations have resulted in mutually beneficial outcomes, fostering greater confidence among the ecosystem players. This synergy accelerates the growth of startups by providing access to wider distribution channels and lower costs for the users.
Ongoing Challenges in Health-Tech
Mr. Anuj Parekh, Founder & CEO of Bharatsure, shared that health-tech, in India, has definitely experienced massive development in a limited timeframe, but keeping the size of the whole market in mind, the industry is still in its early stages of growth. “Though it has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare system, there are a number of factors that poise as challenges such as government regulation, data privacy, and rural healthcare access,” he added.
Mr. Parekh also mentioned that India still faces challenges in access to medical professionals, especially on the rural front. While health techs are making it possible to provide healthcare for rural population through telemedicine, the shortage still persists.
“An increase in the number of medical professionals will help address this and there needs to be talk around human resource development. With the emergence of AI, medical professionals could also be using sophisticated models to create efficiencies in the system. Data exchange and interoperability of systems is still a big issue for health techs. While the national health stack is a step in the right direction, it is a very big challenge to implement primarily with challenges around data security and privacy,” he added.
The full-scale implementation of the stack is still some time away and health techs will not meet their full potential unless the stack is implemented. Fintech too would not be at its current glory without the support of Aadhaar and UPI.
Mr. Chopra said that health-tech companies must adopt a patient-centric approach due to the prevalent practice of consumers paying for healthcare from their own pockets.
He said, “A patient-centric approach necessitates the establishment of trust and credibility, primarily through the demonstration of robust health outcomes. It is essential to recognize that building this trust is a gradual process, requiring patience and perseverance. The ultimate goal should be to provide high-quality care that surpasses the experiences one might have in the physical healthcare system while maintaining affordability at the same time.”
A patient-centric approach necessitates the establishment of trust and credibility, primarily through the demonstration of robust health outcomes. It is essential to recognize that building this trust is a gradual process, requiring patience and perseverance. The ultimate goal should be to provide high-quality care that surpasses the experiences one might have in the physical healthcare system while maintaining affordability at the same time.