Embracing the digital era: A doctor’s journey
New Delhi: Are we ready to adopt the technology that can transform the lives of millions?
In the present world, all aspects of our lives – personal, social and professional – are dependent on mobiles. Due to the enhancement of mobile penetration and related technology, we now expect responses within a few minutes.
When was the last time you had to patiently wait for a service?
Every service – food, transportation, entertainment - is available at the touch of a button. People are willing to pay for services that facilitate convenience and save time.
So how can a crucial service like healthcare be ignored in this scenario?
The healthcare scenario in India is in need of a complete overhaul. Healthcare is one of the largest sectors in India and the country has emerged as a preferred medical tourism destination around the globe. According to the Ministry of Tourism, India’s medical tourism industry is expected to grow by 200% by 2020, hitting $9 billion and become 20% of the global market share. The number of foreign tourists coming into the country on medical visas was nearly 234,000 in 2015. By 2017, the number of arrivals more than doubled to more than 490,000, according to government figures. Still, 70% of India’s rural population do not have enough number of doctors. A huge number of Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) have no doctors to function with.
So, the big question is how to improve the delivery of healthcare services without compromising on quality and affordability. Going by the above numbers, it’s clear that we have highly skilled medical professionals and world-class infrastructure; what we need to solve for now is access, affordability and convenience.
Efficient access to Healthcare
While India faces an acute shortage of doctors, a sudden improvement in this regard is difficult to achieve. What can be done is - increase the efficiency of existing medical professionals so that wider set of patients can gain access to healthcare services.
Doctors and patients – Connecting digitally
It takes time for the doctor-patient relationship to flourish; however, the paucity of time makes it difficult. Average consultation time in India is 10 times lesser than the most developed countries.
Wouldn’t it be great if a doctor knew about the patient’s background, medical history and other details before the consultation actually began? This is the power of digital healthcare.
While patients would benefit from healthcare access at the touch of a button, for a doctor, digital healthcare would mean an analytical approach towards better practice management. It would enable the doctors in not just efficient scheduling and reducing response time, but in understanding the patient better and provide him/her with better quality care.
Should doctors push for digital healthcare?
Patients often have the tendency to self-medicate or delay the diagnosis until the ailment becomes severe. Such behaviour can result in secondary infections and even, reduced chances of survival.
This behaviour can be changed gradually with help from efficiency in the way patients reach out to the doctors.
Digital healthcare can help minimize the time gap from patients’ side to near-instant consultation. They can also benefit from services like on-demand diagnostics and medicine delivery. Instead of wasting their time in figuring our different medical centres or pharmacies, patients can get these done from the comfort and ease of their homes.
What is the first requirement – Digital presence
I believe that if a doctor is not present online, then the chances for patients to locate him decrease dramatically, more so in today’s ‘internet-connected’ world.
Working through my own initial reservations, I have realized that digital practice management has helped me in completely removing the routine tasks. Several processes become automated along with regular updates to keep a track. Increased awareness amongst patients and improvement in patient experiences have their own ongoing benefits.
Sometimes, I am astonished at the ease with which outstation patients book an appointment with me. Also, patients become more self-aware and responsible towards their own health when they have access to health information. Digital healthcare also makes it easier to deal with patients from diverse backgrounds and age-groups.
Key components of building a digital practice
Trust forms the foundation for any doctor-patient relationship. Trust can be built and reinforced by bringing in transparency and providing required information to the patient. It can help in spreading positive sentiment about your practice and credibility quotient. Hence, trust becomes the key currency for digital practice management.
There are three key components to the digital journey of a doctor:
Patient Experience: Better the experience, greater the trust. And a great patient experience can be ensured by providing necessary health information online. This ensures more transparency and helps the patients in feeling empowered. Digital platforms also provide a platform for such experiences to be published, so other patients can read, benefit from it and make an informed choice.
Ease of Booking: These days, patients don’t have much time for consultations out of their busy schedules. Digital healthcare can help with instant bookings, automatic scheduling, real-time updates and accurate location details to remove any sort of miscommunication.
Digital Prescriptions: Paper medical records can get destroyed or damaged over time. Digital prescriptions can help in storing a complete medical history of a patient even in the case of multiple doctors without worrying about decay over time.