Healthcare tech in India needs a new life: Experts

Call for a gamut of services that don't merely end at appointment bookings
Last Updated 01 January 2016, 19:34 IST
A Frost & Sulivan report had analysed self-monitoring devices as the leading trend within the healthcare devices bracket in India. While self-monitoring falls within the purview of remote patient monitoring, the challenges in India are far more complex.

“The key element in remote patient monitoring is — ‘Who is monitoring it?’,” says Dr Sunita Maheshwari, Chief Dreamer, Telerad RxDx and President of Telemedicine Society of India.

“Remote patient monitoring requires a whole network in terms of a technology, a health care worker at the other end, and operationalising the whole thing. And, in India, I don’t think we are there in any way, shape or form,” she said.

“Currently, in India, some aspects of telehealth are being implemented, more so at the clinic-to-hospital level, wherein general practitioners connect with specialists for a second opinion,” she said, adding, “From a patient’s perspective, telemedicine, in the form of second opinion, is taking off with a whole range of platforms including Mediangels, HealthcareMagic, etc, that enable the second opinion... that’s about as far as telemedicine has come in India.”

However, it is the home healthcare market that is going to take momentum, she opined. Home healthcare includes the entire gamut of home-based care in the delivery of medicines, nurse visits, pathology, etc. This segment has gained glaring interest among India’s health care giants, including the Apollo, Manipal and Fortis chains. However, it is still not remote in that it still involves someone physically going and reaching out to patients. “It’s about time that there is a value addition in this segment. As the cost of it comes down (right now the cost is still high), it will take shape,” she said.

Natural extension
“Even on eCommerce and mCommerce platforms, with operations scaling within delivery services in food, grocery and home services, healthcare seems like the natural extension.” 

However, “One of the areas that is perhaps slightly over-funded is that of appointment booking, and then there is under-funding for an app that probably scans lesions. While, yes that has been done, teledermatology has hardly picked up — these guys are really struggling with funding.”

There is only so much that appointment booking technology can do, especially in India, where the doctor-patient ratio is at 1:1,700, as opposed to a WHO-prescribed 1:1,000 standard, said Ranjith Menon, Executive Director, IDGVI.

“Appointment booking is only one aspect. Problems lie beyond just the doctor-patient interaction, and those need to be solved,” he said. “There are a few appointment booking apps in the market that have raised money, but they will have to extend their offerings to solve greater problems like timely identification and validation of symptoms to sustain in the market,” he said.

The market currently hosts players like Practo, Qikwell, Lybrate, Ziffi, ZocDoc, etc. that offer appointment booking services.

Remote healthcare/self-monitoring devices that help identify and validate symptoms, and technology that enables doctor-to-doctor interaction, are going to be the way forward, he asserted. “In the next 3-4 years, we can find such technology going to market in a strong way,” he said.
(Published 01 January 2016, 19:33 IST)

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