Ramya Subramanian, Co-Founder, Docty in an interaction with Kalyani Sharma talks about her company’s plans for Indian market and current status of digital healthcare sector in India
Tell us about Docty’s role in advancing the healthcare IT sector in India?
Over the last few years, the Healthcare IT system had been evolving at a slow pace but after the outrage of Covid-19, it has seen distinct movement alongside a trajectory in the applications ranging from remote access to essential healthcare to the treatment of chronic diseases.
Launched in 2018, Docty is a telehealth startup that was born out of a need to provide safe and reliable care to patients, and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Due to recent technological advancements, the service cost of the digital healthcare industry skyrocketed rapidly, making people unsure about the use of telehealth. Docty extends its cost-effective interactive ecosystem which seamlessly connects patients and their family members with healthcare providers.
Docty offers a whole scale set for an advanced telehealth experience:
Easy Access: Alongside its cost benefits, the platform offers an extra edge to its users as it operates on low data consumption and provides features like low bandwidth video consultations. This not only makes it feasible for rural communities but also ensures quality healthcare for patients across the globe.
Transforming with AI: With the integration of AI on its platform, Docty improves clinical diagnosis through tools like ’24/7 symptom checker’. It could determine an individual’s emotions through facial recognition and assist doctors in their diagnosis and endeavour to drive behaviours for improved outcomes. AI-enabled care helps to define and decide treatment regimes for patients suffering from complex diseases. The databases generated out of the entire health tech system have the potential to form the foundation of predictive healthcare soon.
Privacy: As patients rely more on telehealth during the ongoing global pandemic, the security risks increase exponentially. Docty ensures user privacy and data security by complying with HL7 security standards and providing end-to-end encryption.
Sensors and integrated wearables: Empowering medical professionals to keep a real-time update on a patient’s situation and providing timely remote care has been a successful change for the healthcare industry.
What is the current market scenario of telehealth in India and how do you see its future?
While the telehealth market had witnessed decent growth by the time COVID-19 hit the world, the pandemic has certainly fuelled it. Advantages like reduction in hospital visits for regular checkups and the ease of specialty care access have made people more friendly with teleconsultation. As per the Telemedicine Society of India, Teleconsultation saw a rise of 3x during the first year of the pandemic. The applications of telehealth are on a constant incline ever since the COVID’s onset, as the awareness increases towards traditionally ‘taboo’ topics such as mental health and sexual health. Over Docty’s App, the mental health of a patient is monitored through its ‘Emotion Index’ feature.
The growing penetration in tier-2 & 3 cities will increase the demand for telehealth in ways more than one. The current day growth of the telehealth sector is just the beginning of many more advancements which are yet to revolutionise the healthcare industry.
Can you throw some light on market opportunities in telehealth sector in other countries and its comparison with India?
Docty first launched its platform in Colombia and simultaneously started mapping out its penetration into India. Owing to its global expansion plans, in July 2021, it also expanded its footprint in the South African market. While expanding its services in 3 different continents, Docty has grown with a versatile experience coming from different international markets.
India is a forerunner in terms of adopting new technology and making the most out of it. Colombia has a universal healthcare system that enables Docty to partner with the clinics, pharmacies, and insurance companies to get direct access to the patients. South Africa on the other hand is still a nascent market with respect to technological trends and is bound by strict guidelines to be followed.
What are your views on ‘lessons to be learned from other countries’ as far as incorporating technology in healthcare in India is concerned?
Among all the countries in which Docty is present, India ranks highest in terms of technological adaptation. India is currently at the peak of digitisation and is highly accepting towards new innovations. However, it’s true that the healthcare infrastructure in tier-1 & 2 cities is highly advanced and it will certainly take time to make it accessible in suburban and rural areas. With the growing teleheath ecosystem, it is becoming convenient for urban healthcare providers to connect with patients from rural communities and vice-versa. With a customizable search function, Docty allows patients to explore and find the best-suited doctor for themselves instead of compromising with the locally available medical professionals. Docty has embraced the smarter way of healthcare and it has been an uphill climb of success for its users as well as for the doctors associated with the platform.
India is a mature market with respect to technology and we can learn a lot from India and use it in other countries.
Do you think India still needs to strengthen its policies and management on data privacy & protection, especially in healthcare sector?
India is a developing nation that is heading towards wearable technology for improving healthcare. With the health records being managed over cloud networks, which contain both patients’ personal data and professional opinions on their health, it becomes extremely important to safeguard the data.
Docty being an early adopter of IoMT and AI adheres to HL7 security standards while keeping all of its data end-to-end encrypted. Owing to its high-end digital security algorithm, Docty has noticed an increase in the number of patients using the App. Privacy is the governing factor of any internet-driven industry and it cannot be compromised. Docty’s digital health platform encompasses the entire ecosystem of patients, doctors, pharmacies, clinics – all while staying patient-centric.
Do you think the Indian healthcare system, especially the hospitals are still recessive towards adoption of new technologies? Your views
The acceptance of new technologies in India is gradual, yet higher when compared to that in other developing nations. A combined study by India’s healthcare research organization (SMSRC) and Purdue University in the US, conducted during June-July 2020 with 2116 physicians says that 81% of doctors in Northern India accepted telehealth from the beginning of the pandemic. The studies also concluded that these adoption rates have significantly raised in metropolitan cities. As smartphones and stable internet connectivity has upgraded telecommunication, it has also provided various opportunities in telehealth, making the Indian healthcare system susceptible to new innovations.
There are gaps, still need to be filled as far as digital healthcare in rural areas is concerned. What are your views on this? What according to you is the need of the hour in this direction?
Issues such as high costs, limited services x remote patients, low patient adherence, low ROI, high TCO, long waiting times, congested ER facilities, low customer satisfaction, interoperability, fragmentation of care, and patient risk management continue to restrict digital healthcare solutions from reaching to most parts of the country. There need to be progressive solutions with proper addressal to all the said issues. While eliminating these healthcare challenges seems like a never-ending hustle, a phone, internet connection, a post office with our kiosk, NGOs with partnership with the government and digital health platforms are all that is required to provide proper healthcare to all.
Docty’s interactive ecosystem connects patients and their family members to clinics, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers and enhances medical consultation. It uses Artificial Intelligence and Analytics to enrich the experience — eliminating the care fragmentation problem and securely facilitating risk-free healthcare access and quality to all. We aim to democratize healthcare access and quality to all.