The Covid-19 pandemic is a terrible human tragedy. But it has also acted as a catalyst for rapid business and economic changes. Certain trends, which grew steadily in the past two decades, including e-commerce, digital healthcare solutions, food delivery, work from home and more, suddenly became ubiquitous as lockdowns mandated remote operations and large-scale dependence on technology.
With the telemedicine guidelines now in place and mandatory health insurance for health workers, technology has redefined India’s healthcare infrastructure to a large extent. The country is no longer unequipped and inadequate as was the wont in the pre-pandemic era. Instead, India is now ready to roll out the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination drive, thus underlining its rise in efficiency and service quality in the healthcare space.
In the new normal, the traditional healthcare narrative in India is changing fast. New-age developments in healthcare infrastructure and service excellence will be led by homegrown healthcare startups, with telemedicine and online pharmacies setting the tone for the current wave.
India is home to around 5,295 healthtech startups, out of which 133 are funded eHealth startups. The eHealth market in the country is expected to reach $10.6 Bn by 2025. However, it will only be 1.6% of the total addressable healthcare market, pegged to reach $638 Bn by 2025. This amply indicates the huge headroom for growth and the massive opportunity that can be leveraged by the eHealth sector.
Among the sub-sectors under eHealth, telemedicine has the highest potential and may reach $5.4 Bn by 2025. Some of the major startups in this category include Practo, Lybrate, DocTree, DocPrime and CallHealth.
eHealth In India: The New Norm In The Post-Covid Era
When Covid-19-induced lockdowns were implemented in India, people were forced to stay at home and had no option but to adopt digital health solutions as much as possible. To help the nascent ecosystem, the government also implemented several measures such as setting up telemedicine guidelines and the National Digital Health Mission, which are expected to be game changers in the coming years. In brief, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of IT in healthcare.
There was more. Several public-private partnerships (PPP) came up during this phase to bolster the fight against the pandemic. For instance, Practo partnered with Thyrocare to conduct novel coronavirus detection tests, authorised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Similarly, Bengaluru-based home healthcare startup Portea Medical collaborated with the Karnataka government and launched a telemedicine service to diagnose Covid-19 cases.
Such initiatives during the pandemic peak accelerated India’s eHealth sector’s growth. And it is likely to retain the momentum in the upcoming years, thanks to growing public awareness and adequate support from the government.
Emerging Trends In India’s eHealth Sector
Emergence Of Paratelemedicine Solutions
Hospitals will use telemedicine solutions to connect paramedics with intensivists (critical care physicians), cardiologists and neurologists for faster healthcare delivery. In fact, paramedics can use these solutions to communicate with top specialists even before a patient boards an ambulance. Thus, the use of paratelemedicine will ensure timely treatment, reduce costs and help people avoid unnecessary transportation.
Use Of AI-Integrated Software
An increasing number of healthcare providers will implement AI-based software for a wide range of services, from determining skin cancer from skin images to detecting a pulmonary nodule (a growth in the lung) from a chest X-ray. For instance, Qure.ai uses artificial intelligence to detect abnormalities in X-rays, CT scans and MRIs.
These software programmes can also decide the next best steps or the best set of questions that a patient should be asked after gathering basic information. This is how AI-powered chatbots operate on digital health platforms.
Rise Of One-Stop Healthcare Solution Providers
Due to telemedicine’s growing popularity, online diagnostics, online pharmacy/epharmacy and other digital healthcare-related services, eHealth players are looking to diversify their service portfolio and become one-stop solution providers to people’s health and wellness requirements.
Consolidation In The eHealth Space
Given the huge scope across the sector, several startups and large hospital chains are looking to diversify their services and offer a plethora of digital solutions. As the sector matures over time, large hospital chains may acquire eHealth startups or bigger digital health players may do the same to ensure revenue and reach. Moreover, with corporate giants like the Tata Group and Reliance Industries showing their interest in digital healthcare, the sector is expected to see major mergers and acquisitions in the coming years.
These new opportunities and many more, as featured in the latest release from Inc42 Plus — India’s eHealth Market Opportunity Report, 2021 — that are likely to catalyse and ensure unprecedented growth in the eHealth sector, especially as the pandemic is pushing the entire ecosystem and its consumers towards digital solutions/platforms for advanced, timely and cost-effective services.