It’s fascinating to look back on the advancements in technology and see how far the world has come in the last two decades. At the same time, the manner in which technology has proliferated and come to become an integral part of our daily lives has led to the diminishing of distances. Tech has made it possible for people in remote areas to access health and related services as well as interact with doctors and caregivers, without having to travel vast distances.
One of the recent trends is growing use of online medical consultations. Easy access to internet through smartphones and internet-enabled feature phones has empowered consumers. The advent of internet and massive flow of information it generated led to a revolution that began with WebMD, a US firm, which began in 1996 as online publisher of news and information on health, general well-being and medicines. Soon, many more such websites followed, offering a level of transparency ever seen before. They were no longer bound to visiting a doctor at the slightest hint of an ailment. By simply going online and looking up the symptoms, they could self-medicate for common ailments. The relevance of these medical portals only increased over the years. With penetration of technology and internet, it became even easier to communicate virtually with doctors and other healthcare professionals. Thus, the trend of online chat and call-based consultation began and it gained with arrival of smartphones and mobile applications. Replicating its first mover initiative, WebMD unveiled mobile app in 2008, weeks after the app store was launched. This was followed by the emergence of a new segment called health-tech that heralded the arrival of an age wherein healthcare services like booking appointments, consulting doctors and buying medicines were a matter of few taps on phone screens.
In India, nearly 70% net users access it on their mobile phones. India has 300 million plus smartphone users and around 400 million internet users, with rate of digital penetration in the rural regions growing at 26% against 9% in urban areas. With India’s steady progress towards digitisation, a healthcare revolution is underway, driven mostly by proliferation of digital, net-enabled devices.
As the significance of smartphones grew – from a technological marvel that signalled the age of mass digitisation, to an indispensable means of communication – the way we consumed so many different services, including healthcare, also changed. Terms like online doctor and e- med consultation coined in the beginning of present century have become truly relevant today. Healthcare mobile applications are driving greater convenience for consumers by enabling them to consult doctors online through chat, call or video. Also, armed with the capability to facilitate treatments and consultations through chat, new-age healthcare firms such as DocsApp are taking patient care to a whole new level.
Tele-health services such as chat have emerged as cost-effective alternatives to complement traditional healthcare services, proving particularly beneficial for people living in rural and remote areas. With online healthcare platforms like DocsApp, rural patients no longer have to travel hundreds of miles the nearest centre to see a specialist. These digital platforms facilitate easy and efficient communication between patients and health specialists through mobile apps, providing doctor consultations on chat/ call to the patient. Tele consultation is also beneficial to healthcare workers in remote locations, as specialists can provide them with the right education and training, virtually. These kinds of consultations would have been deemed to be impossibility just a little over a decade ago. But with high-speed mobile and broadband internet and apps, today a patient from Guwahati can reach a doctor in Bangalore within seconds, proving that the implications of digitisation are truly massive in the realm of healthcare.
The role of mobile apps in the delivery of healthcare is especially noteworthy, which have become essential to improving accessibility for both patients, as well as healthcare professionals. Mobile apps have also enabled to people to manage their health easily and efficiently, not to mention that of their family.
(The writer is co-founder and CEO of DocsApp)