[TechSparks 2020] Going digital is a must for robust healthcare system, say founders of Practo, 1MG, Pristyn Care

At TechSparks 2020, the founders of Practo, 1MG, and Pristyn Care say COVID-19 has played a significant role in changing consumer mindsets and accelerated adoption of digital healthcare services.
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Considered "good to have" for long, digital healthcare became a "must have" amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors, healthcare workers, and patients realised the importance of online healthcare, with teleconsultations becoming de rigueur.

At YourStory’s flagship event, TechSparks 2020, healthtech stakeholders unanimously agreed that while surgeries and physical exams for operations needed to be done in person, mentally preparing patients and doctor consultations could be done with teleconsultation services to reduce the  number of physical visits.

The panel included Shashank ND, Founder and CEO, Practo; Prashant Tandon, Co-founder and CEO, 1 MG; and Hasimarbir Singh, Co-founder, Pristyn Care. It was moderated by Ashish Agrawal, Principal, Sequoia Capital India.

Addressing the audience virtually, Harsimarbir Singh, Co-Founder of Pristyn Care, which focuses on simplifying the surgery process for patients, said the company lost 60 to 70 percent business earlier this year, but began recovering from August onwards by helping people complete certain processes digitally.

“For surgeries that couldn’t be avoided, we saw patients worrying about waiting in line for admission or sitting in reception amidst the coronavirus crisis. We began helping them by enabling remote admission and online consultations with doctors regarding the surgery. [They] needed to visit the hospital only for tests or surgery. Teleconsultation reduces doctor visits by three times when it comes to surgery,” Harsimarbir said.

Speaking at Techsparks 2020, founders of leading healthtech startups say digital healthcare is a must to ensure a robust healthcare system. 

Digital health a necessity now

Speaking about the accelerated digital healthcare, Shashank ND, Founder and CEO of Practo, said digital healthcare was vital to build a robust healthcare system

“In healthcare, there are three dimensions to any service: access, cost, and quality. What we have seen in teleconsultation is the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more. In dimension of access, 25,000 doctors enabled teleconsultation during COVID. Teleconsultation solves the access problem across India. The fact that you can do this from your living room means costs come down. Post consultation, you can order tests and medicines online, which ensures convenience."

He explained that COVID-19 has played a significant role in causing a change in consumer behaviour towards digital healthcare.

Prashant Tandon, Founder of 1 MG, said healthcare was a multi-stakeholder ecosystem play. It takes time to drive change, but COVID had changed accelerated change.

“Earlier, digital healthcare was considered a convenience play. With COVID-19, it has moved to the mainstream play. We are at the beginning of a significant change in how healthcare will be delivered.”

Prashant revealed that almost 20-25 percent of conversations for their doctor partners were now moving towards teleconsultation. “Telemedicine's first regulation draft came in 2001. Nothing happened for 19 years. COVID led to guidelines being released in three days," he added.

Beginning of a significant change

Harsimarbir said every sector goes through transition and now is the time for healthcare to change. He said the “core of existence” of healthtech and teleconsultation players was "tested and redefined" during COVID- 19.

The panelists agreed that healthcare was a highly regulated space with multiple stakeholders.  

“Digital health has been active for 10 years in India, but it is only this year that we saw a grassroot policy for teleconsultation. The NDHM policy is most encouraging - all consumers get a single health ID, all companies can get their records linked, and KYC is digitalised. This will enable interoperability of data. This is going to be much more complicated than UPI, but also extremely beneficial,“ Shashank said.

Speaking about technological disruption in the healthcare industry, Prashant said data science would be central to build a preventive, personalised health care model. Apart from this, IoT devices, image processing technologies will also come into play.

“Across this entire spectrum, receiving and analysing data and delivering services, from the lens of privacy, IoT and AI/ML have a large role  to play,” he added. 

The panelists unanimously agreed that the healthtech disruption that would have taken place over three to five years had happened within a year due to  COVID-19. While the pandemic has indeed resulted in change in consumer behaviour, "a lot of innovation still needs to be done to ensure quality treatment online".

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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