The future of healthcare in India lies in the adoption of digital technologies that will enable quality care to be extended to consumers in smaller cities and towns, said panellists at News Corp VCCircle’s Healthcare Investment Summit 2018 on Tuesday.
The panel of Portea Medical chief executive and managing director Meena Ganesh, DocPrime CEO Ashish Gupta, MyHealthcare CEO Shyatto Raha and Medlife CEO Tushar Kumar discussed how digital healthcare is evolving and what the market opportunity is in India. The panel was moderated by Amit Mookim, managing director for South Asia at healthcare consultancy IQVIA.
For Medlife, which started with drug delivery and now also offers online doctor consultation and laboratory services via a single consumer facing mobile app, the long-term objective is to solve as many problems as possible. “I don’t think that any e-pharmacy player would say that selling medicines is their only strategy. It is the initial go-to-market strategy. Ultimately, the objective is to solve every problem across the value chain,” said Kumar.
Responding to a question on whether online pharmacies would ever be able operate without discounts, which currently characterise the business, Kumar said: “We have to give discounts initially to hook customers but when the convenience of an online pharmacy begins to kick, other benefits start to flow and discounts will not be so important.”
The adoption of digital technologies is important for offline healthcare companies, too, said Ganesh. “Nearly 70% of our customers come to us directly and the remainder comes through referrals from hospitals. The primary reason that such a high portion is direct is because of our digital presence,” she said.
Another area that is seeing disruption using digital technologies is medical insurance. Gupta of DocPrime, the healthcare services venture from online insurance marketplace PolicyBazaar, said health insurance is still an under-tapped market and offers immense potential for growth.
“The majority of health insurance in India is still group insurance. Individual insurance started picking up only a few years ago. Spends are also still quite low, as a proportion of overall spends. As income levels improve, spends on medical insurance will also grow,” Gupta said.
Responding to a question from Mookim on whether the government’s Ayushman Bharat project would benefit the health insurance market, Gupta said that what government schemes do is build the ecosystem and help take quality healthcare beyond the top 20 cities to tier-2 cities. “When that starts happening, the market for insurance will also expand,” he said.
For MyHealthcare’s Raha, doctors have been the biggest stumbling block when it comes to the adoption of technology. “That’s why we work very closely with doctors so that they can have greater involvement in designing the treatment protocol. We also work with hospitals, which are a very important stakeholder but haven’t yet plugged into the digital ecosystem. Our platform tries to plug that gap so that healthcare can move into tier-2 cities,” Raha said.