How Is Telemedicine Acting As A Disruptor In The Health Tech Space?

With movement of people being strongly discouraged and the whole country under a lockdown now, there is a surge in demand about what people can do without stepping out of their homes. Amidst Covid-19 scare and the need to maintain social distance, people are now not open to the idea of letting someone come into their houses. In this context, telemedicine and e consultation service providers are turning out to be saviours. 

According to a McKinsey report, India could save up to $10 billion in 2025, if telemedicine replaced 30% to 40% of in-person outpatient consultations and there is digitization in the overall healthcare industry. The Health Ministry issued telemedicine guidelines aiming at decongesting healthcare facilities in the wake of Covid-19. This will also make healthcare accessible to remote areas in general and make faster intervention possible with the current immobilisation due to coronavirus making hospital and clinic visits difficult. In this scenario, home healthcare is witnessing a rise in the demand for video-based consulting.

Technology-based healthcare providers like Lybrate are seeing a significant rise in queries, especially in the last couple of weeks. The healthcare burden on the country is gigantic around this time and platforms like Lybrate can definitely help share it. People can consult doctors on it across specialties and so on other platforms, letting hospitals tend to more serious patients.

How do you think technology is going to bring about a change in which people have been perceiving telemedicine this far?

The scenario of COVID-19 would change the way people perceived telemedicine and the outlook of seeing the doctor in-person would also witness a shift post the outbreak. People will now be somewhat more comfortable seeking advice from doctors online. The government is also urging people to make use of platforms like Lybrate to support the measures of social distancing.

What teleconsultation can do now and going forward is that it can help push the concept of medical triage in the country, which is essential to ease the burden on healthcare professionals and infrastructure as a whole. Medical triage helps segregate emergency cases from non-emergency ones and earmarks the resources to those who need immediate care. The first consultations on tele-health platforms can let the segregation happen. This will make healthcare more accessible and also address the shortage of doctors in the country.

Going by the experience people have now, the sector will definitely see an upward trend going ahead.

On an average, what numbers of medical practitioners have been contributing on your platform?

On Lybrate, any doctor from any specialty and any demography can consult online. That has resulted in over 2 lakh doctors to be on the platform till date. We do not have a fixed panel of doctors and patients have the choice to choose healthcare practitioner and that is what differentiates us. Also, we have a stringent verification process, so all the doctors are verified on the platform. 

Is Machine Learning (ML) paving the way forward to come to customers’ aid?

Lybrate has best used technology in the form of machine learning to provide customised solutions to the users. The huge data we have generated since we launched the platform in January 2015, made us use machine learning to suggest customized healthcare solutions to our users.

Machine learning facilitates learning of users’ interest and preferences over time to create a customized Health Feed, consisting of health tips from doctors themselves and free answers by doctors to questions asked on the platform. This prevents users from getting bogged down by information not much of their interest.

Besides, when users ask queries on the platform, they do not know which doctor is best suited for them. Machine learning fixes this issue by deciphering users’ query across more than 15 parameters in real time and help them get answers from relevant doctors.

In the times of information overload, customized solutions are important for patient engagement.

How has technology disrupted the healthtech space and is it helping the space thrive each day?

Technology has entered every aspect of our lives and healthcare is one of the biggest beneficiaries. The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in radiology, diagnostic procedures, data management of patients and flow of information has transformed the way healthcare sector functioned. Technology is only going to be used more heavily in the healthcare space because of the speed and accuracy it ensures.

On an individual sphere, making the best use of digital services like Lybrate isn’t possible without relying on technology. 

For some, there might be initial hitch in using the platforms as they are not comfortable with technology. At Lybrate, we continuously learn from the user behaviour and accordingly keep working on our product to make it simpler and easier to use.

Telemedicine has been a major disruptor amid the pandemic. Can we bank on it solely?

Telemedicine has a number of inherent benefits which make it the best and safe option, especially in the wake of contagious outbreaks like COVID-19 now and SARS and MERS in the past. Telemedicine eliminates the need for physical interaction between people, even doctors and patients. Hence, it is possible to effectively conduct routine check-ups, monitoring, report evaluation and prescribing medicines or giving therapeutic advice via telemedicine. 

There is no risk of infection as well. In fact, telemedicine might become the standard procedure for routine check-ups and non-emergency treatments where surgeries, dressing or vaccine administering etc are not required.

What does Lybrate’s upcoming voyage look like?

In the short term, we are focussing on meeting the demands of online consultation on our platform that has spiked significantly on account of coronavirus crisis.

In the long term, we will continue making healthcare accessible to the people of the country and fix the issue of shortage of doctors by multiplying their presence, which is only possible when they are online and begin consulting remotely from where they are. 

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