Covid-19 pandemic ushers in unprecedented digital transformation in India’s healthcare ecosystem

One of the biggest developments in digital healthcare has been the rise in e-pharmacy investments.

Updated: Nov 12, 2021 3:32 PM
Covid-19, doctor consultations, patient care, monitoring, diagnostics, healthcare, skill development, medicine delivery, e-pharmacyOnline access to consultations and information can be crucial in eliminating lack of information and basic healthcare coverage in the rural and remote parts.

By Vaibhav Tewari

The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in an unprecedented digital transformation in India’s healthcare ecosystem. The adoption of advanced technology and innovations had been low prior to the outbreak.

However, today, we are witnessing a rapidly growing digital channel usage across the board — from doctor consultations, patient-care, and monitoring to diagnostics, healthcare awareness, skill development and medicine delivery etc.

The pandemic has presented several critical requirements which necessitate adoption of innovative, effective and technology-driven solutions such as remote and home healthcare services.

The efficiency and capabilities of scale and outreach displayed by technology driven out-of-hospital healthcare services have been well acknowledged and supported by authorities as well as medical industry stakeholders including institutional healthcare providers. The private sector healthcare startups responded to the pandemic by significantly allocating their resources to build infrastructure and support for quarantine, isolation and remote treatment of the pandemic patients.

At the same time, as the hospitals and physical diagnostic labs saw decline in footfall due to the pandemic concerns, the caregivers focused on doorstep diagnostic and delivery of non-COVID-19 care for chronic illnesses etc. Due to the government advisories, the out-patient department services in most hospitals across India remained affected and e-consultations have become the new norm.

One of the biggest developments in digital healthcare has been the rise in e-pharmacy investments. The online pharmacy industry in the country has grown tremendously (from 3.5 million households reached before pandemic to over 9 million households by the end of the first wave) in the pandemic period. This growth has been faster in non-metro cities and rural towns indicating a robust market demand and acceptance across India.

Considering India’s huge chronic disease burden, most families purchasing medicines online are recurring customers which can ensure steady flow of revenue if good service quality is maintained. Massive VC funding in existing and emerging e-pharmacy brands are now set to expand the segment even further. A prominent consulting firm has pegged the CAGR for e-pharmacies in India at over 65% and predicted a 7x growth from 2019 numbers by the end of 2023 itself.

Almost all major conventional healthcare providers from the private sector that constituting the bulk of medical services in India have now started acknowledging the critical nature of digital healthcare services. The leading players are already offering digital care solutions such as home delivery of care, medicines and testing services, and the offerings are only going to expand by the day. Among the technology driven healthcare brands, we have seen even services such as home dialysis and chemotherapy on offer in the country, and there are a lot of firsts being achieved. As a whole, the digital healthcare ecosystem is growing at a CAGR of over 27% and is expected to cross the $500 billion mark by 2024.

From the government sector also, there has been a lot of dynamism and support for the digital healthcare services. The Prime Minister has recently announced a pan-India rollout of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). This is going to be a game-changer as it envisages digital connectivity between all the healthcare ecosystem stakeholders and the provision for keeping of Electronic Health Records of people in their digital health ID.

Another path-breaking step by the government has been the unveiling of e-Sanjeevani which is the first-of-its-kind online OPD service by any national government for its citizens. The advanced technology driven platform is also available in the form of an android smartphone app. Launched under the provision of the Ayushman Bharat Yojna, the e-Sanjeevani platform offers easy and free pan-India doctor consultations and is of great benefit during the current pandemic. The launch is also a great encouragement for the overall growth of digital healthcare services in the country.

With the masses across India getting used to e-commerce services for almost all their needs, it is high time that the digital healthcare services are expanded in a similar way. Online access to consultations and information can be crucial in eliminating lack of information and basic healthcare coverage in the rural and remote parts. Putting it succinctly, India is responding to its worst healthcare crisis by developing a robust, universal and sustainable digital healthcare environment for all.

(The author is Co-Founder and CEO, Portea Medical. The article is for informational purposes only. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)


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