The boom in digital healthcare is India's opportunity to build global telemedicine companiesVinod Kumar Reddy
Be it online appointments, tele-consultation, in-home healthcare, genome-focused R&D, or alternate medicine consults, digital facilities can cater to a wide range of healthcare needs.
Digital healthcare facilities can allow dissemination of specialised knowledge among the medical community through advanced networks, technology enabled peer-to-peer reviews, emergency medical consultations during epidemic or crises, and many others can be achieved with.
In an era where everything is available at the click of a button or the swipe of a finger, it comes as no surprise that even a specialist doctor or a clinical examination report could be just this far.
Today, telemedicine and digital healthcare is a coveted field in India for many startups looking to make their mark in an industry that’s currently on the rise. Not just new entrants, but even the big ones have a presence through not-for-profit concerns and projects carried out jointly with governments and related agencies.
The significance of telemedicine
There has been a tremendous increase in demand of telemedicine for healthcare services, both nationally and globally. This sector has been growing at a tremendous pace, with the industry to touch $280 billion by the end of 2020, according to Statista.com.
In India, 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 percent of the rural population is struggling with insufficient infrastructure and technological awareness.
In such a scenario, where penetration of healthcare services hardly lives up to the mark, the concept of telemedicine makes so much sense. Access to qualified healthcare providers, specialised consultation, timely diagnosis, accurate prognosis, effective course of treatment, and lots more can benefit rural folk and bring down the disparity in healthcare offerings between the rural and urban areas.
In recent years, there have been some positive initiatives from the state and central government in this regard.
Populations in urban India, who have access to world-class hospitals and treatment facilities but are pressed for time, have plenty to seek from telemedicine. Through real-time interactions via video-conferencing solutions, or store-and-forward models that capture patient and disease-related information through dictation, photos, videos, radiology etc. for later reference, patients can reap the benefits of an actual visit to the doctor without having to do so.
Not just consultation and treatment, many other services can be fulfilled through telemedicine, which brings together the best of both worlds – medicine and telecommunication.
Dissemination of specialised knowledge among the medical community through advanced networks, technology enabled peer-to-peer reviews, emergency medical consultations during epidemic or crises, and many others can be achieved with digital healthcare facilities.
Telemedicine practices and solutions aren’t limited to general medicine or those that need a physician. The efforts by some of the healthcare majors in the country have borne fruit in specialties such as pediatrics, orthopedics’, dermatology, radiology, cardiology, neurology, oncology, HIV, and internal medicine.
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-recognised field.
Paving the way to growth
According to a study conducted by Assocham, India’s telemedicine market, which has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 20 percent, is slated to cross $32 million mark by 2020.
The big names aside, a quick look at most new entrants or startups functioning in the digital healthcare space will tell you how lucrative the space is. With most of them having received at least their seed or Series A capital from investment majors from India and around the globe, the foray into this space seems bright and promising.
From online appointment booking to tele-consultation, patient management systems, online pharmacies, in-home healthcare, genome-focused R&D, consultation in alternate medicine, and cloud-based health information systems, they cater to a wide range of healthcare needs of the young and the old.
Other opportunities that can be tapped include solutions that bring down consultation time, cut down costs, employ digitalisation to maintain patient records, use smart devices and health monitors for quick and effective diagnosis, use genomics for personalised treatment, and employ mobile apps for health education.
The current technology penetration, growing population, advancing economy, and accelerating healthcare industry are all responsible for the increased demand in digital healthcare.
The momentum being gained in the sector is indeed a reckoning that the time’s right and bright for India to embark on a journey in the direction of telemedicine. It’s time to plug the holes with new-age models and solutions that bring quality and affordable healthcare to the forefront through seamless technologies.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)