India has reached a total of 205 million internet users in October 2013 (137 million in urban and 68 million in rural areas)*. Beyond Emails, communication and social media, internet has also become a medium to access a plethora of information in any domain. Webchutney findings from a survey** reported that 72% respondents admit to using internet to access healthcare related information and 8 out of 10 respondents have looked for information not only for themselves but others also.
The following are some key trends in the Internet Usage for Health & Medical Needs
Understanding Diseases, Diagnosis & Treatments
There is a huge amount of healthcare related information available online today, including journals, articles, YouTube Videos, blogs and publications by reputed healthcare providers, Institutions & Organizations. It is not uncommon today to search online and diagnose a medical condition using symptoms. The consumers of healthcare in the internet age want to be better informed before making any decision and hence, have a pro-active approach to resolving any medical condition. There are many online resources, particularly international web portals such as WebMD, Medicinenet, Mayo Clinic, rightdiagnosis, etc., that are popularly used to diagnose medical conditions, perhaps before making a doctors’ visit or after to confirm the diagnosis. These portals provide a plethora of other health related information in areas of disease research, drugs, treatments and healthy living etc.
Searching for Doctors/ Hospitals
Growing incomes, Knowledge and awareness have also fueled the sentiment to get the best available in healthcare. People are increasingly searching for doctors across locations, specialties and ratings to avail the best there to suit their requirements. Platforms like Practo and Medindia facilitate online search of doctors across such parameters
Awaiting on a phone line or in a queue outside the doctors clinic is soon becoming a thing of the past. Today majority of reputed hospitals and doctors are working on creating a strong online presence, not just to address their branding and marketing requirements but to also create a more seamless, direct and easy contact process with patients/public. Click on this link for more information in this area
Availing healthcare from your desktop is an emerging concept that intends to provide instant primary medical consultation/assistance irrespective of patient location. This could be extremely useful to time- starved/ busy people and the elderly who can save the effort on commuting to and fro the clinic. Consultations are given through video conferences, phones etc. on a one to one basis. However, this concept has its limitations in the type of medical conditions that can be treated, depending on the complication, tests required and where personal examination of the patients is indispensable. Some of the popular US online clinics are Teladoc, MDLIVE, American Well and Doctor on Demand. Many states in the US are reviewing their medical practice rules, so availability may change. In India too icliniccare is one such provider that offers 24/7 doctor consultation online
Booking Nurses/ Caretakers online
Given the growing aging population and the emergence of nuclear families in India, has increased the need to monitor the heath of the elderly / sick remotely, or to arrange for paid assistance at doorstep when required. In some cases, it is also the post- operative care that has moved from hospitals to home beds. Many companies have surfaced to meet this requirement. In India, industry estimates of the market size for home healthcare are aboutRs 12,600 crore***. Portea Medical, India Home Health Care, Health Care At Home, Homital all have websites and provide easy booking / contact to avail these services
**Indiasocial.in “Catching the e-Healthcare Bug Survey”2011
*** Economic Times, Apr 15, 2014