Virtual healthcare is the next step to healthcare industry. With close to 70% of outpatient department consultations could very well be replaced through virtual healthcare. This means patients who have to travel from their home or office to the clinic or hospital don’t have to waste their time doing it and they could very well get their issues resolved through virtual healthcare. This also signifies the opportunity for better healthcare services to reach the remote areas in developing countries like ours.
Practo has relentlessly worked towards building ground-breaking tools that helps in addressing and strengthening doctor-patient relationship. By providing precise information (MCI approved degrees) about a healthcare provider, Practo helps patients to make better and informed decision. On the other hand by giving comprehensive health history (digital records) it helps healthcare providers in giving accurate diagnosis and treatment to their patients. Apart from authentic information, Practo is leveraging technology and building products like Practo Feedback and Practo Consult to ensure that the patients can access a trusted and secure platform which can be used to build a better channel of communication between healthcare provider and their patients.
To shed some light on the healthcare industry and how Practo is leveraging technology to change this space, we caught up with Varun Dubey, VP – Marketing and Head of Monetisation at Practo.
There are a number of startups in the healthcare space at this point. What according to you is the pain point that healthcare industry faces today?
When we started 8 years ago, we realized two important aspects – the first thing was that the huge technology wave that was sweeping various industries, had completely missed healthcare and second, that healthcare is vast complicated problem that can only be truly solved if one takes up the challenge to solve it end to end across – doctors, and clinics and hospitals and diagnostic centers. In the last few years as we have expanded to multiple international locations, we’ve realized that this approach is in fact unique in the world. Nowhere is anyone trying to integrate the entire healthcare system into a single platform – which is critical to truly improving it for both consumers and providers.
We look at healthcare from both, the consumer and the provider side. If you look at the consumer side, the problems are considerable – there is lack of information about the provider, about the treatment, about the options as well as lack of accurate health history creates considerable challenges in getting the right care.
Additionally, the overall experience even when you have a provider figured out, is quite poor – getting appointments is hard, even when you go with an appointment, you will have to wait for hours. In enterprises too, you have to wait in long queues, sometimes you will reach a hospital and realize that it can take you almost a whole day to even get a bed and get admitted – when leaving, consumers have to wait for hours to just settle the bills and getting all their records collated and more. These are of course, patients who are lucky enough to have access to doctors. There are hundreds of millions of people who have literally no access to qualified doctors which means they end up either coming to the big cities for treatment, or worse, they don’t get the treatment at all – which leads to their health suffering, which leads to their work suffering, which in turn leads to their families and their overall economic situation suffering too.
On the provider side too, there are considerable issues – they too have unreliability of appointments – patients will often call and take an appointment and then not show up – which leads to providers double booking the same time – and then if both patients turn up, one has to wait. Do this over multiple patients and it becomes evident why the wait times are so long. Secondly, most patients won’t show up with their medical histories or will often either knowingly or unknowingly leave out key details – which then impacts a doctor’s ability to provide the right diagnosis and treatment – which ultimately harms the patient. The problem doesn’t end there, even post the right diagnosis, there are huge issues with not really sticking to the prescribed dosage and schedule – which will often lead to partial cures, relapses, and in many cases drug resistance – which means now a stronger drug has to be prescribed which is obviously not a good thing.
If you look at these in isolation, it may appear to be simplistic issues but they are not and they have far reaching consequences on the overall health and wellbeing of our people, the affordability of healthcare itself as well as their ability to contribute to our country’s growth and development.
We believe that unless we connect the entire healthcare ecosystem on a single common platform where suppliers and providers can not only connect and discover each other but where the whole ecosystem works in concert to ensure healthcare delivery becomes more widespread, and more efficient. For example, imagine you meet your doctor, and he prescribes a few tests, the tests can be scheduled for home sample collection with a single click, once the report comes in you can share it with your doctor online, and he can tell you his diagnoses in five minutes. A few minutes after that you can share it with another doctor too, just to get a second opinion and again, you can do it online with someone in another city or one near you.
If a procedure is prescribed you can discover hospitals near you that offer those and then easily book yourself one. When you arrive at the hospital, you can share your health history with one click, and ensure the doctors know everything they so they can take appropriate measures – whether it something as simple as avoiding drugs you’re allergic to or something more serious like a pre-existing condition they need to be careful about. Once you finish, you can pay online – either through your insurance provider or through a wallet and can even order your emdicines to be delivered home. If your illness is more long term, you can even connect devices that will monitor and send the information to your doctor remotely so he can keep a check and monitor your progress till full recovery.
This is how healthcare should work, simply, effortlessly, for both patients and providers. This is what we are trying to build with Practo – and we are doing it globally.
What are the current user trends that you are observing in the market?
For us, users are both consumers and providers so let me tell you the trends we are seeing on both sides.
On the consumer side, we see considerable demand for information accuracy, reliability of appointments and more and more desire to keep a digital history of their healthcare information. As you know, we collect feedback from verified patients on Practo and most of the times patients put out really detailed information about their specific condition and their experience with the provider. This has led to a very interesting trend where patients are now seeking not just a specialist, but a specialist who has, in the past, worked on the specific issue they are facing. This is great for patients as they are able to get to a specialist who has past experience in their specific issue – which improves speed of diagnosis, reliability of treatment and helps them get better faster.
On the provider side, we are seeing really fast adoption of software and technology. Doctors are ensuring they provider more details about themselves in their profiles, they are ensuring that the details are always accurate and upto date. They are pushing consumers to book appointments online as that improves reliability in the whole system itself.
In tier 2-3 cities, we see rapid adoption of our Tablet product, Practo Tab, as doctors are looking to move to newer, more portable devices that they can have with them all the time.
Further vast majority of doctors using our software are generating digital records, and sharing them with patients – this is ensuring that patients have a convenient, zero effort way of building a digital health history which becomes valuable when they have the next healthcare event.
So I think overall, both consumers and providers are moving towards faster access, better treatment, more efficiency in the healthcare system overall.
What kind of product do you think the Indian healthcare space needs? Where will the innovation happen in the Indian healthcare space?
We think first and foremost, the healthcare industry needs to be completely digitised. Secondly, it needs a common platform that connects the different stakeholders that have been largely in silos.
Once this is done, it will catalyse further innovation to be built on top of this platform to fulfil specific needs. For example, let’s say tomorrow someone builds an app that can help detect developmental problems in infants or young kids. Without the platform, the developer will have to make the app, find the customers, find the doctors and other providers and then convince each of them to try the app out. Instead, if they could plug into the platform, they could immediately reach hundreds of thousands of doctors and millions of patients who need this solution, instantly. Paediatrics is one example, it is easy to think about similar solutions for diabetes, and other diseases as well.
Healthcare, globally, is a massive problem to solve. It is one of the fundamental needs of humanity and I believe as an industry, collectively, we are 1% done.
Where do you think the space will go 5 years from now? What is the future with regards to building innovative services that benefits doctors and patients?
The future of healthcare is even more exciting than one could have ever imagined. Innovative services are being built from end to end that are catering to patients and healthcare providers alike.
For example: at Practo we have pioneered the healthcare hyperloop which is a full stack of healthcare solution that connects a vibrant marketplace with tens of millions of consumers to a strong community of healthcare providers including enterprises most of which are running Practo’s software. These services are integrated deeply with each other and work in concert to provide services that weren’t otherwise possible to do. It maps the entire journey of a patient right from booking an appointment, finding a lab, getting a second opinion, patient experience feedback, medicine reminder to delivering medicine at the patients doorstep. This is the entire journey of a consumer from being unwell to healthy again and if you look around, and Practo is the only company that solves this problem end to end. This is what is causing the healthcare disruption and is bringing more and more consumers and enterprises to Practo as well.
I imagine a world where all your health records are digital, where test reports and fitness stats flow into this account automatically and healthcare providers can access it from anywhere anytime. Patients can consult with a doctor, any doctor, anywhere in the world by sharing medical records. A world where people can live healthier, longer because technology helps them in making better healthcare decisions. That is the world we’re trying to build at Practo. A world where mankind can live healthier and longer lives by making better healthcare decisions. It is important to build a company for its perpetual existence. It is a need that the world wants a consumer healthcare company and we would love to be that company.