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Right Click For Quality Healthcare

Online platforms like 1MG, Healthkart, Practo and Lybrate are leading the drive to empower customers by providing comparisons, information, ratings of service providers and transaction facility

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The healthcare eco system is witnessing a paradigm shift in the way the services are being delivered and consumed. It is moving away from being mostly a provider driven industry to a consumer driven industry. Much like the change in the retail industry, healthcare is moving from a destination-based set up to consumption-based set up. All these changes are driven by the underlying need to provide empowerment, convenience and enhanced experience to the patients and the proliferation is fuelled by technology and entrepreneurship.

To simplify the entire understanding of these changes, we can group them in four themes and discuss how these themes are driving the change that we see around us. The themes evolve over time from prevention to cure and provide option to both consumers and providers to enhance the experience of all participants, most importantly the consumer, in the healthcare ecosystem.

The first theme is the behavioural shift in individuals, which triggers from the need to have better and healthier lifestyle, especially in day and age of higher susceptibility of diseases. This behavioural shift in consumers has resulted in proactive users moving towards taking control of their health needs and less reliance on the broader healthcare system. Also incentive and engagement models are helping behavioural shift of consumers towards better health management.

Services and products that are modelled around helping such individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices are at the forefront of this change. These are services related to daily activities tracker, wearable and mobile technologies, monitoring, inducements and incentive models, coaching tools, and any services or products that are providing deeper insights and individualised mentoring to activate users. Due to the ease of use and ability to continuously monitor key vitals, the wearable technologies are seeing a huge surge in demand. Furthermore, insurance companies, employers and governments are providing incentives and inducements to help encourage people to make incremental changes in their choices over time. The most prominent product under this theme is the wearable technology product — a product which is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 18 per cent between 2015 and 2020 to reach a value of $31.3 billion globally by 2020. In India, we expect the growth of over 25 per cent from the current base of $6 million.

The second theme driving the evolution is the consumer empowerment. Consumers are getting increasingly participative in their healthcare needs either directly or through their associates or support and viewing health as general wellness. They are deciding on the need, timing and form of information and interaction with the eco-system. An empowered consumer uses technology to decide on the need of information and place of information and glides through a maze of information to form their own view before deciding on the time and form of external interaction with the healthcare system. They are participating in social communities, which provide valuable information, advice and help them in ‘Do-it-Yourself’ (DIY) diagnose. Products like DIY, analytics tools like IBM Watson and Google Verily, medical information and social Websites are at the forefront of this theme. At a step down level, we are seeing e-commerce models evolving to bring most components of customer empowerment on a single platform and layer it with the possibility of service and product transaction. In India, online platforms like 1mg, Healthkart, Practo and Lybrate are leading the drive to empower customers by providing comparisons, information, ratings of service providers and transaction facility.

The third underlying theme is the orchestrated approach to deliver services through personalised and distributed model of care. Service providers, keeping the consumer at the centre, seek the benefit of supplementary or superior knowledge, technology, analytic and diagnostic tools to personalise and enhance the quality of delivery. Most of these technologies require only a comprehensive patient management system and don’t require significant changes to work flow for the hospitals. e-ICU — a concept that is growing particularly in India and could be exported to regions with weak healthcare supply infrastructure — is one of the many examples of leveraging clinical expertise, processes and high-end technology for the benefit of the hospital as well as patients. In a country like India that has more than 5 million ICU admissions every year, there are only approximately 5,000 critical care physicians. An e-ICU is aimed at taking adequate critical care to patients at peripheral systems and minimising patient dislocation and disruption.

The fourth theme is the augmented treatment wherein healthcare providers have innovated their toolkit to provide more precision based services. Providers have upgraded themselves with technology and precision prescription to provide high level of care and optimal solution to the end-consumer. High tech visualisation instruments, imperceptible monitoring devices and 3D printing techniques are used to improve the level of care to patients. Added biometrics from embedded sensors are aiding in patient diagnosis and tracking. The increasing number of applications of 3D printing techniques in the healthcare industry, ranging from orthopaedics to dental to many more, is a strong evidence that such technologies are here to stay. In the operating rooms, holographic projections and augmented reality overlays allow physicians and surgeons to offer less invasive and more effective treatments. Robotic surgeries, on the other hand, have made complex procedures easy to perform with accuracy and assistance through minimally invasive surgeries. This has enabled doctors to take actions outside of their expertise. At the same time, 3D printers are enabling medical technicians to produce cost-effective prosthetics and implants that can be tailored to individual patients to ensure greater comfort and functionality, along with speedy recovery times.

Further, the outcome of these themes seems to set the ground for a revolution in the Indian healthcare system, which, just the way we saw in telecom industry, will help transcend the advancement and reach in delivery services across the entire section of population. This change or evolution will be embraced by consumers, both urban and rural, providers and government.

We expect the Indian digital healthcare market to evolve in a similar way as the global market but with an accelerated pace. Globally, the digital healthcare market constitutes 1 per cent of the total global healthcare spend and is expected to grow to contribute over 2 per cent over the next three years. Likewise in India, we expect the digital market to have a steep growth and contribute over 1.5 per cent by 2020. This growth will ride on the success and proliferation of the wireless technology, which today seems to be promising in India with smartphone users going beyond 200 million and Internet numbering over 500 million in the next there years. Worldwide, startup funding by venture capitalists has crossed $6 billion over 450+ transactions. Leading the pack are companies in the healthcare consumer engagement models, wearables and biosensing, personal health tools and tracking, payer administration, telemedicine and care co-ordination.
In India, venture capital investment in healthcare surpassed $250 million in the past one year, and we expect this to increase multifold in the coming years.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Amit Varma

The author is a managing partner in Quadria Capital

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