The tele-medicine interface that grew multi-fold during Covid-times

Doctor Online

Image: Associated Press

Read on for insights and statistics from Practo and Dr Alexander Kuruvilla.


If shuttered shops, sinking graphs and televised AGMs narrate the tale of sagging business in Covid-times, here's a tale of a business that has grown multi-fold.

With doctors and nurses achieving the cult-status of "Covid-warrior", healthcare apps such as Practo too have jumped the bandwagon reaping the benefits of changing consumer behaviour. The business at Practo has evolved to becoming India's largest tele-medicine app with subscribers soaring to eighteen crores.

The lockdown and shutdowns have only shifted the spotlight to digital. Digital not only helps patients and businesses but could help save the country as much as $10 billion in 2025 according to a McKinsey report. The benefits would hold only if tele-medicine replaced 30-40% of in-person outpatient consultations. Apps such as Practo are certainly helping push India towards this objective.

For those unaware, over 18 crore patients across 15 countries have connected with over 1 lakh+ verified healthcare providers through the Practo interface. Their recently released quarterly health insights report (based on data from five crore subscribers) and the need to understand its technology landscape forms the basis of this mail-conversation with Dr Alexander Kuruvilla, the Chief Health Strategy officer at Practo.

Image: Practo

Sify: Could you run us through some of the top insights?

Dr Alexander Kuruvilla: Based on the 5 crore customer insights study, we found a 500% increase in online doctor consultations since March 2020 [to May 31, 2020]. 80% of all telemedicine users experienced Practo for the first time. We also realized In-person doctor visits drop by 67% and 44% of the teleconsultations were from non-metro cities.

We also realized that Indians consulted doctors twice a month, using telemedicine.

Image: Pexels.com.

More insights from Practo:

Over 200% Growth:

● COVID-19 continues to be India's top most concern: Unsurprisingly, concerns related to COVID-19 grew by 200% with 50% of all  GP consults accounted for Coronavirus related symptoms

● Tele-Ophthalmology saw the highest growth among other specialities, grew by 700%: With a significant amount of time being spent in front of screens and the rise in irregular sleeping patterns,queries related to eye and vision increased significantly

● Tele-ENT witnessed 600% growth: Seasonal allergies were confused with  COVID-19 symptoms

● Tele-Orthopedics was among the top consulted speciality by millenials: Bad work postures resulted in back pain among millennials leading to an increase of 400%

● Delay in immunization worries parents of newborns, Tele-Paediatrics witnesses 350% growth

More than 100% growth:

● Gynaecology, GP and Dermatology emerged as the top most consulted specialities: Together, they accounted for 51% of the overall consultations

● Tele-Gastroenterology received a large number of consults from first time users: Majority of the consults were related to digestive problems caused by a sudden drop in active lifestyles

● Tele-Dermatology witnessed a growth in newer set of queries on skin issues caused by stress. Stress has been having an adverse effect on people's skin, hair, nails apart from the regular issues that are common during summer

● Mental health concerns rose notably due to uncertainty, loss of income, and   job-related pressure besides COVID-19 fears

● One in every three consults from women were for Gynaecology

Image: Associated Press

Sify: How did Practo's tele-medicine usage grow by such a large margin?

Dr Alexander Kuruvilla: The purpose of our brand is about leveraging technology in order to help people live longer and healthier lives. With doctor-patient interaction at the very core of our offerings, we've been able to address every touchpoint of this relationship. It is vital that we stay relevant for both, our consumers and providers, and also stay ahead of the curve.

For our consumers, Practo is a platform which enables them to access everything that they need to take good care of themselves and their families from finding the best doctors to making consultation easier. Practo on the other hand also gives healthcare providers a platform for them to build their presence, to grow their practice or business, and to engage their patients in a way that was never possible before. Even though the market has been changing constantly, needless to say Practo as a brand has been constantly evolving itself and is up-to-date with the ongoing trends.

Image: Practo

Sify: Could you share an overview of Practo's technology platform?

Dr Alexander Kuruvilla: At Practo, we built our first iteration of telemedicine solution a couple of years ago. We wanted to ensure patients and doctors can connect at any time, communicate asynchronously or synchronously depending on their needs. We also wanted to ensure the experience is fast and seamless, so both patients and doctors can focus on health rather than technology.

There are four dimensions to this.

Connect at Anytime: We have built a smart matching algorithm that connects a patient to verified and registered doctors, depending on the patient's health problem, the doctor's area of speciality and his availability. Once we have identified a pool of available doctors, we reach out to them in real-time to accept a new consultation. Our unique approach allows us to connect a patient with a doctor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Communicate the way patient or doctor wants: We support 3 modes of communication on our platform. Real-time text-based chat which allows patients and doctors to talk asynchronously; where patients can share documents and photos with the doctor real time. For cases that require more attention especially where visual and verbal cues are important, we also support audio and video chat allowing patients and doctors to have an experience very similar to a physical appointment.

Fast and Seamless: Our technology enables doctors with an option to respond swiftly to ask patients the relevant questions instantly, along with a way to share their prescriptions at the click of a button. Patients can then use these prescriptions to place a medicine delivery or test request at the click of a button. This enables patients to complete their entire healthcare journey seamlessly.

Doctor Training: All doctors on Practo's online consultation platform undergo a training exercise basis the protocols and guidelines prepared by a panel of senior experienced doctors from the Industry.

We have spent years refining each of the dimensions of our product creating one of the best teleconsult experiences for both patients and doctors. The goal really is to make the experience closest to an in-person consultation by enabling real time interaction and ensure that patients have access to a verified doctor, at all times.

The Practo Insights report is available here, opens a PDF in a new window.

About the author:
Sairaj is an Associate Editor with Sifydotcom covering business, finance and technology.



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