Healthcare and Lifesciences
Telemedicine as a game-changer for Healthcare providers
05 Jan 2024

In the below section, we will delve deep into the telemedicine landscape in India. In an era defined by technological advancements, there is transformative potential of telemedicine to address the longstanding healthcare disparities in rural areas. This issue invites you to discover how technology can be used as a tool to provide quality medical services that were previously beyond their reach.

India is a large country with a diverse population of more than 1.4B. Majority of the people in India, roughly 70% of them, live in rural areas without proper healthcare infrastructure. India has a doctor-to-patient ratio of roughly 1:1500, which is well below the WHO's recommended ratio of 1:1000. Simultaneously, rising healthcare costs in India are further posing a significant challenge to the healthcare industry. India therefore needs an inclusive healthcare delivery approach that is secure, affordable, connected, sustainable, and efficient. One way to close the gap is with technology.

The use of technology to provide healthcare services is known as "telemedicine." It is a type of healthcare delivery where medical services and consultations are given remotely with the use of telecommunications technology. It eliminates the need for patients to physically attend a medical facility to receive care from medical experts, including physicians, specialists, and mental health providers. A broad range of services is included in telemedicine, such as online consultations, remote patient monitoring & diagnostics, e-pharmacy etc. The telemedicine market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21% for the period 2023–30 to reach US$ 5.2B in 2030 (Exhibit 1).

Factors driving growth in the industry 

Several factors are driving growth in the telemedicine market in India (Exhibit 2):
  • The widespread availability of internet and mobile networks in India, with over 730M active internet users, is expanding the accessibility of telemedicine services
  • Increased awareness about the importance of healthcare with a growing focus on preventive healthcare measures have led to an increased demand for telemedicine services
  • Ongoing technological advancements, such as improved connectivity, mobile applications, and healthcare information systems, have made telemedicine more effective and user-friendly
  • Government initiatives like National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) is fostering the growth of the telemedicine market by introducing a comprehensive digital infrastructure and framework for healthcare services
  • COVID-19 has also accelerated the adoption of telemedicine as a safe and convenient way to access healthcare services
Key impediments to the growth of the industry

In addition to several initiatives and growth factors, the seamless nationwide implementation of telemedicine services remains an obstacle in India. For large-scale implementation of telemedicine in India, there are problems to be addressed (Exhibit 3):
  • A significant portion of the population has limited digital literacy. Difficulty in using technology, smartphones, or internet applications can be a barrier to access telemedicine services
  • India lacks a comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework to ensure the safety and effectiveness of telemedicine services and address key issues like medical licenses
  • Lack of robust technology infrastructure presents a significant risk to widespread implementation of telemedicine
  • Cultural attitudes toward healthcare practices and a preference for in-person consultations in the country can hinder the acceptance of telemedicine
Way forward for healthcare providers to capitalize on the telemedicine opportunity

Healthcare providers have an opportunity to capitalize on this growing market to address the unique challenges in the Indian healthcare industry. Here are some steps that healthcare providers can take to capitalize on this opportunity (Exhibit 4):
  • Investment in technology: Invest in the development of robust and user-friendly telemedicine platforms, mobile applications, and infrastructure to ensure a seamless patient experience. For instance, Apollo Hospitals is strengthening its telemedicine platform Apollo 24/7 by expanding its partnership with Google Cloud to develop various features including AI-based assistive technology for physicians
  • Integration with medical devices: Integrate medical devices and wearables for remote monitoring of patients' health conditions to create a comprehensive patient experience. For instance, BeatO has developed Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) sensors for Type 1 Diabetes, providing accurate readings and generating reports synced with their app, facilitating easy sharing with doctors and enhancing user convenience
  • Data security and privacy measures: Implement robust data security and privacy measures to instill trust among patients, particularly concerning sensitive health information. For instance, Lybrate employs HTTPS technology for transmitting information over the internet and utilizes Amazon's AWS cloud infrastructure to secure data
  • Collaboration with government and other agencies: Collaborate with government and technological entities to extend telemedicine services in the country. For example, the Yolo Health Foundation and HealthATM India are partnering with state governments, government hospitals, and private healthcare facilities to launch a transformative healthcare initiative across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Arunachal Pradesh, involving the introduction of 500 health ATMs
  • Education and training programs for providers: Provide training and educational resources to healthcare providers to aid their adaptation to telemedicine practices and technology. For example, Intelehealth offers critical training for all stakeholders, including health workers, doctors, supervisory staff, and project leadership
  • Strategic partnerships: Form partnerships with technology providers firms to establish a holistic healthcare ecosystem through telemedicine. For example, Insta by Practo provides a Hospital Management System (HMS) to its clients, comprising hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers, via cloud computing
  • Marketing and public awareness campaigns: Invest in marketing and public campaigns to raise awareness about the benefits of telemedicine and how to access these services. Recently, the digital health platform Tata 1mg Labs provided free anemia screening to 10,000 women and children in underprivileged areas on JRD Tata’s birth anniversary
Thus, the future of telemedicine holds several exciting possibilities as technology continues to advance and healthcare systems evolve, offering a lifeline of healthcare access to underserved communities. Additionally, it aids healthcare providers in expediting and simplifying workflows with precision and transparency. As this technology continues to evolve, it has the power to bridge healthcare gaps, enhance medical services, and improve the overall well-being of rural population.

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