In an era, where everything is available at the click of a button it is no surprise that even a specialist doctor or a clinical examination could be done online. The online doctor consultation is a coveted field in India and is able to offer services like telehealth, telemedicine, telecare and digital health care services. According to the survey conducted by Accenture in 2017, over 70% of the consumers are willing to experience health care services virtually, while 20% have already experienced virtual healthcare.
Many startup companies are looking to make it in the industry as it is currently on rise. The consumers expectations for the convenient healthcare system is evolving while the healthcare industry is continuously striving to meet people's needs with the help of technology. The telemedicine market in India is expected to reach $5.4 Billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 31%.
The online doctor consultation allows dissemination of specialized knowledge among the medical community through advanced networks, reviews, emergency medical consultations during epidemic or crisis among others. According to a report by Practo, online doctor consultations have increased 500% since March 2020, as five crore Indians are now accessing healthcare online amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Telemedicine Industry in India
The telemedicine industry is expected to create more than $5.4 billion market opportunity by 2025. Practo and DocPrime, mFine, CallHealth and Lybrate are some of the leading startups in India’s telemedicine market. The COVID 19 outbreak has created many challenges on traditional healthcare systems, as citizens have not been able to consult with the doctors physically.
This situation has led the government to change the regulations around remote delivery of healthcare services and allow telemedicine via video, audio or text. Telemedicine will not only help these startups address the spread of Coronavirus but also improve access to healthcare among the rural areas. Innovative technologies are allowing health organizations to enhance the access and reduce the burden on hospitals through real time consultation with doctors through smartphones tablets, laptops or PCs.
Telemedicine will reduce the time of consultations and improve the quality of healthcare services in rural areas, removing many of infrastructural challenges. While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends every country to have a ratio 1:1000 doctor to patient ratio, India only has one governmental doctor for every 1,139 people.
According to a report, India has a shortage of 600 thousand doctors and 2 million nurses. This leads to limited face to face consultations among patients. Secondly, India also has a shortage of hospital beds, which makes hospitalization difficult and there needs to be better infrastructure and facilities whereas with the help of online consultations the healthcare sector can reduce its problems.
Growth of online consultation in India
Online consultation has become popular in India because it is easier and safer to access healthcare via call, video or chat with the doctors especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health ministry has urged people to take advantage of telemedicine services during the lockdown. And since then the usage of online consultation apps and medicine delivery services have been on the rise.
The pandemic has encouraged people to use the platform and consult a certified medical practitioner rather than resorting to self-medication. The online consultations are known for specialties such as Gynecology and dermatology, while other specialties like mental health, pediatrics, ENT, ophthalmology and gastroenterology are all well known departments.
The telemedicine sector is steadily increasing not only across metropolitan cities but also smaller cities like Hoshiapur, Karnal and Durgapur. The online doctor consultation platform Mfine is seeing a demand from states which has low doctor to patient ratio since India went under a lockdown. The app has also seen new user signups and consultations from users in states such as Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkand, and Uttar Pradesh where the doctor patient ratio is the lowest in the country.
Many other healthcare startups are seeing an unprecedented surge in demand as they shift healthcare delivery on to the internet, promote telemedicine, encourage online medicine bookings and use chatbots to answer patient queries. The support rendered by the national and state governments, their subsidiary concerns, and allies such as the ISRO have contributed a great deal to facilitate the development of telemedicine as a well-recognized field.
Importance of online consultation or Telemedicine Market
India has seen a tremendous increase in demand of telemedicine for healthcare services. According to Statista, the industry is bound to touch $280 billion by the end of 2020. Though the healthcare sector is seeing a giant leap in providing services to the consumers, it has still not been able to expand its market in rural areas. Around 75% of the rural population is struggling with insufficient infrastructure and technological awareness. Which is why online consultation can help with:
- Bringing quality healthcare services to the rural areas of the country.
- Benefits the people of rural areas in bringing down the disparity in healthcare offerings between the rural and urban areas.
- Provides access to qualified healthcare providers, specialized consultation, accurate prognosis, timely diagnosis and effective course of treatment.
- The people of urban areas, who have an access to world class hospitals and treatment facilities but don’t have the time can seek help by online consultations.
- The patients can have a real time interactions through video conferencing solutions, or store and forward models which can capture patient and disease related information through dictation, photos, videos, radiology, etc.
- The patients can get the benefits of an actual visit to the doctor without having to do so.
- Not just consultation and treatment, but many other services can be fulfilled through telemedicine, which brings together the best of both worlds - medicine and telecommunication.
- It helps in the disseminations of specialized knowledge among the medical community through advanced technology and peer to peer reviews.
- It also very useful for emergency medical consultations in the times of an epidemic or crisis.
The target audience of online consultation market
- People who are willing to try telemedicine
- Application developers and network operators
- Third party suppliers and healthcare service providers
- Potential Investors
- Government organizations
- Research Institutes
The Future of Telemedicine Industry in India
With the growing attention for telemedicine services, countries around the world are developing a regulatory framework for the industry. While India is already one of the top 10 countries in the telemedicine marketing the world, adoption of a regulatory framework will help the segment grow rapidly.
Tattvan Mishra, founder and CEO of Tattvan E-Clinics said that, “India has seen considerable growth in the telemedicine sector however, the growth was not rapid due to the lack of proper guidelines and regulations. In the coming years, I expect a high investment from the private sectors in the field of telemedicine. I think the telemedicine industry has a bright future and may become a multi-billion industry in the next 3-5 years.”
Online consultation platforms have supported healthcare needs of Indians at a time of lockdown. Saurabh Arora, the founder and CEO Lybrate in a press statement said that, “It is the need of the hour to contain the spread of virus. The healthcare burden on the country is gigantic around this time and platforms like ours can definitely help share it. People can consult doctors on Lybrate across specialties and so on other platforms, letting hospitals tend to more serious patients”.
Besides telemedicine, other healthtech segments such as online pharmacy, medicine technology and medical devices have also called for increased regulatory clarity so that startups can focus on the model rather than tweaking their operations. When it comes to the online consultation market, the COVID 19 crisis could bring about a lot of clarity and growth just like fintech sector got a push in India after the demonetization in 2016.