Many of us spend time caring for our aging parents, at least in India. However, all of us know that it is not an easy journey without the help of ‘others’ that now includes technology.
Technology has become an integral part in this effort, helping us feel less guilty, when we cannot be around. The e-healthcare services are becoming a boon for many with the emergence of e-Health or m-Health.
They are growing at a rapid phase, the e-Health sector in India is worth only Rs 6,000-6,500 crore, according to India Brand Equity Foundation report. It is only a miniscule when compared to the overall Indian healthcare market worth Rs 6.68 lakh crore. It is expected to grow to Rs 18.7 lakh crore by 2020, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9 per cent, according to IBEF report.
The Digital India mandates that e-Health would cover online medical consultation, online medical records, online medicine supply, pan-India exchange for patient information etc. “Information technology has surely got a place in the healthcare industry,” says Shameem C Hameed, CEO, ZH Healthcare, Kochi headquartered e-Health provider.
It is an area where technology can bring lifesaving impact to the human population. With increased internet access globally now more people have access to the tools and technologies that can make a significant difference in their healthcare.
The ad film makers have successfully captured this in the Netmeds ad, where the daughter, who is recently married and away at her new home, is able to order medicines online and gets it delivered to her father.
One major outcome of this technology advancement is the conversion of health records into digital formats. “‘It is accessible and, affordable to individuals and their doctors without hindrance,” says Hameed.
Now many startups are entering into the e-Health space aggressively. The major healthcare startups in India are Practo, NetMeds, Portea, MedGenome, Goqii, Lybrate, Attune, WelcomeCure, 1mg and Relisys.
Recently, health tech startup Portea Medical acquired Health Mantra, indicating consolidation through mergers and acquisitions in the sector. Cloudex Healthcare Solutions, PSTakeCare, MedybizPharma are other startups which are enriching the e-Health space in India.
Globally, digital health startups attracted $5.8 billion (roughly Rs 39,241 crore) in funding in 2015 alone. So what is in store for customers. “The visible changes are convenience, cheaper healthcare services and access to global experts,” say Dr Amarjeet Singh a medical practitioner in Delhi.
According to Prashant Tandon, co-founder of Sequoia Capital-backed 1mg.com, consumers in different parts of the country can access a m-Health platform, through ePharmacy, eDiagnostics, eInsurance to get medication at their doorstep. Since it is done through a well tracked system, it will strengthen authenticity in the supply chain.
The reduced costs, the amount of information available and the speed of doing business on-line are creating a revolution in the way that health business is conducted. “Access to the required technology is an issue for e-health, as for all information communication technologies,” says Tandon.
The convenience makes it attractive for the consumers. In India there is only one doctor for 1,700 patients and the country produces roughly 50,000 doctors every year.
This clearly indicates that with the advent of technology into the healthcare segment, more people, especially in the tire 2, 3 cities will get easy access to quality healthcare.
“Information Technology has the potential to change all the prevailing rules in the industry. The e-Health sector is expanding fast in the country and the future looks promising,” said Sinewraz, Founder, of Kochi-based Cloudex Healthcare Solutions, which provides radiology reporting services to hospitals and medical imaging centres online using cloud based technology.
As this segment evolves in India, a number of challenges need to be addressed. One among them is the legal aspect.
Currently, there is no law that governs or regulates the e-pharmacies and e-health. The government has been examining this aspect closely, since lack of suitable policies, or lacunae in their implementation, could prevent growth of an effective e-health services in India.