Coronavirus: Healthtech startups and telemedicine prove to be the need of the hour

With a country-wide lockdown to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, healthtech startups are turning out to be quite helpful for many across India.

27th Mar 2020
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With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide, most of us are self-quarantined and taking precautionary measures. The situation is further amplified with an ongoing economic slowdown.


Several countries have announced nationwide lockdowns, and closed their borders to mitigate the spread of the virus. India too announced a 21-day lockdown, effective from March 25.


As the government urges people to stay indoors, healthcare professionals are doing their best to help. Hence, most hospitals have closed down their Outpatient Departments (OPDs) because of the risk of transmission. But, fear not.


Healthtech startups are taking these challenges into stride by working on different ways patients can opt for virtual OPDs using teleconsultation modules, where doctor-patient communication can happen remotely. 


Startups like Practo, Dozee, Medlife are stepping up to help people fight the COVID-19.


Healthtech

India has also taken a huge step towards accepting telemedicine with the government releasing guidelines for the same.


Hailing this as a monumental step, Shashank ND, Co-founder and CEO of Practo, says,


“Access to quality healthcare has just been made simpler and reachable to masses. Clarity in regulations around telemedicine and digital healthcare was the need of the hour, especially, in the light of COVID-19. We would like to congratulate the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Niti Aayog, and our PM Modi, who's been a huge advocate of digital technology. The guidelines call out the specifics clearly, leaving little room for speculation.”




Sudden surge in numbers

For e-health company Medlife, ensuring continuous delivery is key during these turbulent times. Since 70 percent of its customers are chronic patients who need their medicine frequently and are more at risk, it is necessary to ensure that supply is not disrupted and all of its orders are fulfilled.


Ananth Narayanan, Co-founder and CEO of Medlife, says,


“These times, when there are problems regarding policies across state borders, we want to make sure that the supply continues. We are also working with various manufacturers to ensure that masks and sanitisers are available.”


Medlife has seen a 3X increase in its orders thanks to coronavirus.


Practo too saw an increase in consultations by 3X to 4X in the last three weeks. The startup says that 53 percent of all its General Practitioner eConsults in the last two weeks were related to coronavirus. Queries regarding fever, cough, cold, sore throat, and body ache have shot up by 30 percent in the last two weeks on the startup’s platform.


“The coronavirus outbreak has brought in a situation where people are finding it necessary to consult doctors as even the smallest of symptoms can be a sign of the infection. Healthtech companies are playing a major role in helping people by making doctors available on call, video, and chat – telemedicine. They are connecting millions of patients with doctors via call, messages, and video calling so that they get proper medical attention and clarify their doubts from the comfort of their homes,” says Alexander Kuruvilla, spokesperson for healthtech startup Practo.


He added that online consultations can act as the first line of defence, helping curb self-medication and reduce overcrowding at hospitals and clinics. It can also help in providing medical attention that a symptom or an illness deserves.

Helping hands

Healthtech startups believe that this is the best time for them to step in to solve critical issues while avoiding contact.


Startups like Navia Life Care and Dozee are working closely with hospitals and doctors to understand and solving their problem on priority.


Gaurav Gupta, Co-founder of Navia Life Care, says,


“Our teleconsultation module along with our highly effective EMR module would act as a powerful tool for doctors and patients. We are providing this service at zero onboarding cost to the doctors. Patients can download a free app on their phone and consult with the doctors easily. We are also coming up with a helpline, where our AI assistant will help you in consulting with your doctor.”


On the other hand, Dozee, which helps doctors to remotely check on patients’ progress and flag off possible deteriorations well in advance, is now offering Free Health Monitoring Devices to COVID-19 quarantined residents in Bengaluru.


This portable device gives continuous respiration data without wires or needing any technical expertise. It is attached to a thin sensor sheet, which goes below the mattress. It is to be kept right underneath the patient’s chest area. This initiative is supported by sleep solutions brand Duroflex.


Mudit Dandwate, CEO, Dozee, states, “This is enabling care at home, unlocking the value of telemedicine and reducing pressure on our healthcare system. Our aim is to be a health companion to all Indians and this is a small step towards the residents facing a lockdown in Bangalore. Continuing our objective, we are closely working with NGOs, hotels, hospitals to create step-down ICU set up using Dozee.” 




Creating awareness

To help the coronavirus pandemic, doorstep health test provider Healthians has launched a chatbot to spread awareness about the virus, where individuals can ask questions and receive verified information. 


The chatbot will disseminate accurate information about the coronavirus to the masses and dispel myths and doubts. The chatbot is simple to use and has been customised for the Indian audience.


“We have received many queries from customers calling and panicking with minor symptoms and wanted to consult a doctor or get tested. We want to help out as many people as possible with the right information. We quickly responded to the situation by making it easy for people to get self-informed and it is our responsibility to create this awareness. The bot is trained to answer frequently asked questions on the new coronavirus,” says Deepak Sahni, Founder and CEO of Healthians. 


Ecommerce platform for seniors Seniority and digital healthcare platform DocsApp have joined hands to offer a similar service. The collaboration will help Seniority provide exclusive medical assistance from DocsApp to older adults and their family members.


Individuals from across India on the platform may avail free online consultations across all departments from doctors at the convenience of their homes, without possibly exposing themselves to the virus on the platform. A 24x7 helpline support080 4719 3443 – has been launched to enable people to have access to skilled medical professionals during such critical times.


“Being a senior care brand, we are especially empathetic to the elderly in such challenging times and consider it our duty to spread awareness about the current situation. Our collaboration with DocsApp will help us reach out to a large number of people who are prone to virus infections. The safety and welfare of everyone around is of prime importance to us and we sincerely hope that we are able to fight back together in such unforeseen circumstances,” says Ayush Agrawal and Tapan Mishra, Co-founders of Seniority.


In India, 694 people have been tested positive for coronavirus and 16 people have died because of the disease, according to data by Worldometer.


(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)

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