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Virtual Consultations Cannot Replace Hospital Visits : Suresh Ramu, Co-Founder And CEO, Cytecare Cancer Hospitals

Cytecare has seen diagnoses and treatments being delayed during the pandemic simply because people could not travel to the hospitals.

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Over the last one-and-half years, healthcare has moved online. From diagnostic tests to health checkups and medicine delivery, Indians are getting increasingly comfortable with accessing medical services at the click of a button. Does this mean that hospitals will become defunct in the post-pandemic world? Will patients never return to physical healthcare settings?

“While it’s true that there has been a dramatic increase in the adoption of online consultations since the outbreak of Covid-19, over the last few months, we have been witnessing a majority of patients coming back to in-person consultations at the hospital,” says Suresh Ramu, Co-founder & CEO of Cytecare Cancer Hospitals in Bengaluru.

As a leading cancer care hospital, Cytecare has seen diagnoses and treatments being delayed during the pandemic simply because people could not travel to the hospitals. Annual health check-ups and tests for suspected cancers were postponed; compliance to cancer treatments and follow-ups were lower.

However, experts expect virtual consultations to continue being a valuable tool to help bridge the yawning healthcare gap, even after the pandemic has ended. “There is immense value in patients having easy access to various medical specialists from the convenience of their homes, especially in the case of follow-up consultations or getting a second opinion,” adds Ramu.

The ability to offer remote consultations has helped hospitals to offer critical care and reduce the risks of coronavirus transmissions, while dealing with limited hospital resources. Virtual consultations helped patients as well as doctors to improve compliance and the quality of care, despite the global crisis.

Yet, given that the expertise for cancer diagnosis and treatment are currently concentrated in hospitals, and that too in urban centres, it’s natural for patients to return to the hospitals for timely diagnosis and quality care.

Same, but better

In many ways, the pandemic has instilled a more systematic sense of functioning in the healthcare sector. Whether it’s offering hassle-free appointment scheduling and online payment links or reducing administrative delays and delivering electronic health reports, the patient experience at hospitals has fundamentally become more positive.

“Waiting time at the hospitals has to be optimized for the patients. Small steps, such as adhering to the scheduled consultation time frames, can make a huge difference to the patient experience,” says Ramu, as he goes on to add that patient experience and patient satisfaction go hand-in-hand.

At Cytecare, the patient journey is driven by empathy and care. The hospital - rated amongst the highest in the country in terms of patient-centric care - has family meetings to help the patients as well as their near and dear ones better understand the disease and its prognosis.

Similarly, psycho-oncology and counseling sessions, together with mind-body wellness programs, including yoga, not only help with the acceptance of the diagnosis and treatment, but also to remain highly compliant and provide better clinical outcomes for patients.

“We also have a unique concept of patient navigators, who are cancer survivors, available for counseling and speaking to patients and their family members. They provide the right guidance as well as hope for cancer patients,” says Ramu.

Interestingly, architecture and design also play an important role in delivering a patient-centric experience. Thoughtful design, intuitive processes and smart technology that inspire a sense of privacy, safety and comfort go a long way in making patients feel at ease in hospital settings.

“Cytecare has been designed such that we bring the clinician or the clinical team closer to the patient rather than asking the patient to move around,” explains Ramu. “Aggregating as many similar services on the same floor or next to each other is a simple way in which hospitals can become more patient-centric,” he added.