What was your strategy for launching your digital healthcare platform Apollo 24I7 in February this year? How has the platform made an impact during the existing crisis?
Since its inception, Apollo Hospitals have played a pivotal role in transforming India’s healthcare ecosystem by leveraging cutting edge technology and data. Technological innovation is one of the main pillars of the patient centric and consistently evolving Apollo ecosystem.
In the last few years, there is a gradual change in the needs and wants of the patients. With time becoming the new currency, the patients expect access to quality healthcare with least amount of time required as an investment. This led us to a few pilot initiatives to further understand the patients and design an evolved offering using technology and data science.
Backed by our long-standing legacy experience, extensive research and technological prowess – Apollo 24|7 was created with the belief that expertise is for everyone – we want to equip individuals with validated data and best-in-class resources to take care of their health, well-being and safety. After close to a year of preparation, Apollo 24|7 was launch this year in February.
In the last few months as the country is facing the pandemic, our patients have been successfully using this digital platform for consultations with Apollo doctors and buying medicines they needed. The unprecedented nationwide lockdown has surely accelerated the acceptance to this concept, and we are witnessing high level of interest from both existing and new patients. We are glad that during such times, Apollo 24|7 could bring the Apollo expertise to everyone home and served over 15 million users on the platform from over 440 cities of India.
How are you using artificial intelligence to provide state of the art digital healthcare to patients?
With increased aggregation of health data, we foresee a larger share of decision making to be based on artificial intelligence when it comes to maintaining our health. We are taking proactive steps to provide our users it’s benefits from the get-go. As an example of this commitment and vision is our latest AI-powered bot that assesses an individual’s risk contracting coronavirus on the basis of their cough quality. We believe that this will enable data-based decision making instead of panic in today’s fast-changing healthcare environment. Our AI-powered bots are unique, as it combines the expertise of our Apollo doctors as well as leverages Apollo hospital data besides critical global sources of health information, such as WHO.
We are happy to share that more than 15 million Indians have taken advantage of this AI driven bot from Apollo 24|7 and stayed ahead of the curve during this pandemic times.
What kind of consultation, medical help are you providing to Covid patients through your platform?
We had anticipated high pressure on Indian healthcare systems during this pandemic and the rising curiosity and information gap amongst the people with respect to medical aid. Apollo 24I7 has been created keeping in mind that all the medical needs are taken care off for the people, irrespective of place and time.
The following services are available on our platform:
• Tele- consultation with Apollo doctors: With over 7000 Apollo doctors available on the App across 50+ specialisations, one can access quality healthcare anytime and anywhere. We ensure 24|7 doctor availability within 15 minutes of booking so that everyone can avail expert opinion from the comfort of their home.
• Home delivery of medicines: Users can book pharmacy orders on the app and get them delivered in less than 4 hours, no matter where they are, because of Apollo’s largest network of pharmacy outlets.
• Diagnostic tests with home collection of samples: Similar to medicines, users can order blood tests for a home sample pick up and get health checks done with just one click post their consultation
• Digital health records: An integrated platform provided to each user to store all health records being generated physically or digitally across the Apollo ecosystem. It allows the users to upload and save the prescriptions, health reports of all family members and access it anytime.
• Condition management: Users can manage diabetes better with personalised care by our certified coaches and physicians. They can choose the plan that suits their condition the best and leave it to the experts to take care of them.
• Covid-19 assessment: For any individual looking to connect with a healthcare expert to understand their risk of contracting the virus, Apollo 24|7 has created the AI-powered bot. The individuals are able to self-assess their risk by answering 8 simple questions; the data shared by individuals is strictly confidential. Based on their self-assessment, the bot gives them a low, medium or high-risk score. Along with that, it also provides them the risk-appropriate precautions and guidance. This AI-powered bot is unique, because it combines the expertise of our Apollo doctors as well as leverages Apollo hospital data, along with critical global sources of health information, such as WHO.
• Follow-up: For all our users, who might have further questions about the virus or would like to clarify their doubts can opt to connect with our coronavirus expert at no cost and without having to visit the hospital. Apollo 24|7 has got over 100 doctors to address user queries on the helpline. We have addressed close to 20,000 user queries around Covid during the month of April and May.
Your views regarding the future of telemedicine in India. How can it reach the hinterlands of India and bring the best healthcare to the villages and small towns?
We are sure that telemedicine is here to stay in India and what are witnessing now is just the beginning of the growth. Back in 2019, the Indian telemedicine market was predicted to reach US$ 32 million by 2020 and now it is expected to cross US$ 5.5 billion by 2025. There will be a behavioural change in the way people access healthcare in our country. People are already opting for telemedicine apps even for delivering monthly medicines, booking appointments, home based sample collection of tests.
This trend will be here to stay accelerating further the growth of telemedicine in India. With the smartphone users in Indian poised to grow to 500 million by 2025, this transition will be smooth and swift. Additionally, with increased usage and aggregation of health data, we should expect larger share of decision making to be based on artificial intelligence when it comes to maintaining our health. Talking about the hinterlands of India, due to the fragmented nature of the Indian healthcare ecosystem in India, quality doctors are not readily accessible to the patients in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities/ towns. The financial and logistical limitations also play a role in hindering this access. Adding to that, the current situation due to the pandemic outbreak prevents patients from travelling to their nearby hospitals/clinics to avail any medical services. In such a situation, telemedicine has very quickly become a boon for people living in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities/ towns especially now with the smartphone and internet penetration in India has improved considerably.
Platforms like Apollo 24I7 eliminates the geographical limitations by making healthcare accessible for patients in every part of the country at the click of a button. The platform is extremely user friendly and has been designed to make it easy and convenient for patients from every demographical background. Since the launch of Apollo 24I7, we have witnessed tremendous increase in online enquiries from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. 33 per cent of our registered users are from Tier2 and 3 cities. These cities also account to 23 per cent of our virtual consultation with Apollo doctors.
Have you observed any interesting trends regarding usage of the tele-consultation platform in the recent months?
As I discussed earlier, we had witnessed a shift in the patient behaviour in the last few years which was an increase in demand for easy and quick access to Apollo doctors and healthcare from ones home. Since the launch of Apollo 24I7 in February, we witnessed steady growth in the number of patients adopting telemedicine and with the outbreak of the pandemic the growth has accelerated by few times.
We are glad to see new patients who were not associated with Apollo in the past have registered on the platform and are availing the benefits of the services alongside the existing Apollo patients.
Apollo 24|7 has over 3 million registered user base and over a million users active every week on the application. We believe it’s the new normal for the post covid era. There is a sharp increase in the number of users opting for consult with an Apollo doctor and ordering medicines for home delivery from the app.
How are you ensuring privacy and security of patient data?
At Apollo, we deal with handling sensitive private data at large scale for decades now. Our entire technology and operations process has privacy and security embedded into it. Access to data is based on industry standard principles like principle of least privilege, compartmentalised access based on roles, etc. Also, all of our AI work is done on anonymised data without any personal identifiers. On the privacy regulation front, we are compliant with all current regulations like IT act and will also be in compliance with PDP bill when it becomes law.
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