Growing Prevalence of Telemedicine in India is Nothing Short of a Boon

Growing Prevalence of Telemedicine in India is Nothing Short of a Boon

In recent years, India has witnessed significant transformation in its healthcare sector, reflecting the nation’s commitment to provide quality healthcare services to its citizens. The Union Budget 2023-24 stands testimony to this commitment, where the government allocated ~INR90k crore – a 2.7% YoY growth – towards healthcare. However, providing quality healthcare to rural areas and ensuring effective last mile coverage has always been a significant challenge. The government’s investments in initiatives such as Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) has helped take significant strides in overcoming such obstacles by leveraging telemedicine to make healthcare services accessible to individuals in remote areas or those who are unable to travel due to age or medical conditions. This flagship initiative (introduced in 2019) was started in response to the pressing need for a comprehensive and integrated digital healthcare ecosystem.

By virtue of integrating Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Automation, Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data into modern day apps, these technologies are further augmenting the reach and capabilities of telemedicine across the nation. For instance, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, telemedicine played a pivotal role by shouldering massive caseloads off from hospitals and facilitating virtual consultations with doctors. One of the most popular applications of tele-health is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), utilizing information technology to collect patient data outside of traditional healthcare settings or hospitals.

You can read more about RPM in one of our previous blog posts here –

Over time, consumer preferences have been shifting from ‘volume-based care’ to ‘value-based care’, reiterating the need for quality healthcare which is both accessible and affordable. This ease and ubiquity have propelled the demand for telemedicine across the nation. Govt. of India, under ABDM, provides telemedicine services ‘e-Sanjeevani’, that has a very strong uptake of telemedicine beneficiaries (growing from <1m in Nov 2020 to more than 100m in Feb 2023). This cloud-based platform operates under two modes – AB-HWC (allows patients to connect with doctors and specialists through health workers and medical officers in Health & Wellness Centres) and OPD (allows citizens to access outpatient services through smartphones or laptops). e-Sanjivani has become the world’s largest telemedicine services system serving more than four lakh patients daily.

In addition, multiple health-tech startups (~5,500 startups in India) have also leveraged the COVID protocols to scale up their telemedicine capability. Some of the leading providers that are redefining the way people access quality healthcare in India include:

  • Practo, headquartered in Bangalore, provides medicine delivery, online consultation, and diagnostic tests via app. Additionally, they provide support in 15 Indian regional languages, though 100K+ onboard doctor partners catering to over 300M+ patients globally.
  • PharmEasy (healthcare app), headquartered in Mumbai, provides consumers with a wide range of medicines, comprehensive diagnostic test services, and teleconsultations. The Company fulfilled 8.8M transactions in 2021 and currently has over 25M+ registered users on their mobile app.
  • 1mg company, headquartered in Gurgaon, provides healthcare services like e-pharmacy, diagnostics, e-consultation, and lab tests. As of Nov-22, the company had 40M+ unique users and 500M monthly page views. Tata and 1mg are actively focused on reducing service delivery time and has experienced robust demand from Tier II and III cities, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • Other players include NetMeds, MyUpchar, Lybra+e, Docprime, mfine, etc.

This growth in demand has rendered strength to the telemedicine market in India, which is expected to grow at a staggering 38% CAGR during 2020-2025. One of the pivotal pillars driving this growth is the exponential rise and penetration of internet in India, increasing from 248M in Jan-18 to ~692M as of Jan-23, representing a 23% CAGR over the five years. As the digital infrastructure improves and more individuals embrace technology, telemedicine is poised to continue its upward trajectory in India.

However, it is important to note that telemedicine is not intended to replace all in-person doctor consultations, as certain medical conditions require physical examinations or procedures. Telemedicine should be seen as a complementary approach that enhances healthcare accessibility and efficacy while maintaining a patient-centric focus. Some inherent systemic challenges still pose hurdles to the relentless growth of telemedicine in India:

  • Regulatory Framework and Legal Compliance: Telemedicine operates within a regulatory framework that is still evolving in India. Issues such as licensing, prescription guidelines, cross-border telemedicine, and liability are yet to be fully addressed. In addition to that, ensuring robust data privacy and security measures is crucial to protect patient confidentiality and comply with regulations.
  • Reimbursement and Insurance Coverage: The lack of standardized reimbursement policies and insurance coverage for telemedicine services can create financial barriers for healthcare providers and limit patient access.
  • Cultural Acceptance and Trust: Cultural norms and traditional beliefs around healthcare may influence the acceptance and adoption of telemedicine in India.

As a result, establishing clear and comprehensive regulations that strike a balance between patient safety, quality of care, and ease of telemedicine practice is vital for sustainable growth. As Telemedicine involves storage of sensitive patient information, building trust among patients and healthcare providers, educating the public about the benefits and effectiveness, and addressing any misconceptions are crucial for its wider acceptance in the country. Furthermore, developing reimbursement mechanisms and encouraging insurance providers to include telemedicine in their coverage can promote the growth of telemedicine in India.

In conclusion, telemedicine has emerged as a promising healthcare solution in India, offering convenience, accessibility, and value-based care. With government support, technological advancements, and changing patient preferences, telemedicine is expected to become an increasingly preferred choice for individuals seeking healthcare services, transforming the way healthcare is accessed and delivered in the country.

Author: Deepanshu Arora

Assistant Consultant, Strategy Consulting

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