10 points justifying the growing presence of online healthcare portals in India
Although the software industry seems to take the limelight in India, there is an emerging light being shed on the healthcare industry. Valued at 50 billion in 2011, the healthcare industry in India is said to double by 2015 thereby forecasting a promising and bright outlook. Interestingly enough, the sector has seen a shift from providing offline services to providing online services. There is a growing convergence of demand and supply for digitization and this is becoming apparent in the healthcare industry in India. In fact the online hospital market is estimated to touch 2 billion by 2015. As a result of the increase in online interactions among the stakeholders of the industry, there have been significant improvements in revenue.
- Over the last decade, there has been a rather conspicuous paradigm shift in the general vision of healthcare. Public and private enterprises are beginning to focus their efforts in preventive care as opposed to episodic care inclining towards a patient-centric approach. Decentralization, wherein there is a dissemination of political economic power to lower levels of authority, has been an imminent phenomenon in the recent health care policy reforms. As such, an online platform is necessary to personally attend to the requests and demands of patients individually.
- Certain healthcare policy changes have been made and implemented as to endorse reimbursements, and investments, whilst eliminating regulatory barriers that may otherwise hinder such growth in this sector. State governments like Maharashta and Andhra Pradesh have launched free medical helplines across their respective states as a means of investing in healthcare. Many startups have been founded, one of which, known as iClinic, has launched many telemedicine centers in as many as eight towns. There have also been initiatives made by the government as a whole. As of 2014, the government retained 100% FDI, which was previously speculated to be capped at 49% for health-related services. There has been reductions in import duty taxes on medical equipment as well as reductions in custom duty on life saving equipments up from 25% to a staggering 5%. Therefore, in order to regulate and adopt such advancements in technology, an online platform where ideas can be exchanged, problems can be solved, innovations can be shared, and medical databases can be stored and organized, is essential.
- Innovative and new business models are abundant and have profusely grown and developed in the recent years incorporating all advancements in technology and optimizing data analytics to efficiently and proficiently deliver healthcare in a cost-effective manner. An example of such a model is Mera Medicare, which is “a unique business model that has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry by changing the way customers and healthcare professionals interact with each other. Mera Medicare provides an effective-tail platform to both healthcare professions and customers while solving their key challenges. “
- This decade has also seen a numerous advancements in communicable technology thereby enabling families of the most rural places to connect with the people living city center. Mobile phones have applications that can take orders in one simple click. Smartphones and tablets focus on customer engagement and communication.
The development of the geographical information system (GIS) is vital in healthcare delivery wherein public and private sectors are beginning to gradually optimize the efficacy of the data integration and spatial visualization power GIS has to offer. The digitalized mapping can be used in epidemiological research to track sources of diseases and movements of contagions thus allowing agencies to respond in a more effective manner to outbreaks of disease. Risk factors can easily be identified and intervention can be targeted using the data provided by GIS. GIS also enables one to store electronic medical records catering to each individual privately. GIS also provides demographic analysis such as to estimate demand for types of services in different areas of the region and also identify physicians in close proximity to the patients. The concept of pervasive video is also extensively used in the healthcare sector. Video communication has enhanced customer and patient interaction around the globe. Such a concept has blossomed opportunity for small scale business in rural areas and also has allowed patients to engage in healthcare practices that they would otherwise lack without video communication.
- Infrastructure and hi-tech devices now feature user-friendly attributes that allow the majority to reap the benefits of such efficient, cost-effective medical devices. Web Real-Time communication, which supports browser-to-browser applications without the need of internal or external plugins, has increased interoperability thereby making it more feasible for consumers to use the associated technology. Wireless connectivity has also allowed more consumers to engage in medical devices and computer applications as it eliminates the gruesome technicalities of the cable wires and bulky boxes which were once used to activate such technological devices. The use of sensors to capture data has also been used to understand early signs and symptoms for example, which can then be identified, analyzed, and assessed though means of online communication.
- With better infrastructure comes more enhanced modes of delivery. In the recent years, there have been developments in the healthcare domain. An initiative known as the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) was launched to improve quality of health care delivery. This facilitated in strengthening sub-centers and branches of hospitals, regularizing the provision of adequate high quality drugs and equipment to PHC’s, strengthening disease control mechanisms, and last but not least, creating school health check-up programmes with constant monitoring. There has also been a gradual transition from paper files to electronic mediums taking place over the region. Statistically, the HIT(Health information market) is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 22.7% from 2015
- There has also been increased inflow of foreign investments in the healthcare sector especially with the new act allowing 100% FDI in pharmaceuticals. The hefty investments and presence of large global companies are bound to enhance local capabilities and further incorporate newer technologies and devices. There has been an influx of patients from other countries for organ transplants, orthopedic, cardiac, and oncology problems in the recent years and this borderless treatment requires sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective communication. This has given rise to many electronic medical record (EMR) systems, which offer a platform to exchange medical data accessible by anyone connected online. The endless availability of medical forums and resources has the potential to generate valuable insights for intervention, identification of symptoms, and generally better health management.
- There has also been a surge in demand for proactive and preventive care. This includes screenings, and diagnostics to prevent diseases and illnesses. With the dissemination of information regarding the importance of good health due to the ubiquitous presence of social media, there is more awareness among the people to maintain good standards of health. Thus, the demand to take preventive care has increased.
- There is a relatively increased willingness for consumers to drive their own personal healthcare. This may be the result of the numerous choice and variety that is provided in terms of healthcare provider. Consumers are more involved in decision making and so healthcare providers need to provide such a platform to maintain the consumer base. This is facilitated by an online presence of a healthcare portal for example.
- The healthcare industry has also been experiencing rising healthcare expenses as a percent of total GDP. This is due to the mass investments in healthcare associated infrastructure, devices, technological gadgets, and general enhanced modes of healthcare delivery undertaken by the government. The increasing demand for healthcare services and providers, necessitates an equal quantity of supply, which can be catered online so as to save in-person visits and hospitals beds for more severe and serious cases.
It is estimated that the healthcare marketplace will be worth $280 billion by 2020, which will contribute to eight percent of GDP. With the roles of the stakeholders constantly changing, the Indian market place is becoming very unique. There is still a very large gap that exists between demand and supply, and this has made the online medicine market in India a hotspot for investments.