The disruption arising out of COVID-19 has triggered a fundamental transformation in India's healthcare ecosystem and more Indians now prefer digital doctor consultations, reveal a recent survey by the global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
The survey, done in August across 500-plus respondents from metros and Tier-I cities in India showed 62 per cent respondents from metros and 60 per cent from Tier-I cities will definitely prefer online doctor consultations in the future.
While 28 per cent in metros and 24 per cent in Tier-1 cities said they may prefer online consultations, 8 per cent in metros and 12 per cent in Tier-1 felt they may prefer online consultations only if offline consultations are not available. Only 2 per cent in metros and 4 per cent in Tier-1 cities said they will not prefer online health consultations.
Among the respondents, 54 per cent feel waiting time reduction and ability to consult doctors regardless of distance as the greatest advantages. No infection risk was another reason highlighted by 51 per cent respondents, while 40 per cent cited on demand doctor availability, ease of online medical records and history (36 per cent) and lower costs (33 per cent) as other top benefits of using digital health solutions.
The survey found patients with acute conditions (67 per cent in metros) have marginally higher preference for online consultations than chronic (56 per cent inTier-1) conditions. Top factors that would increase patient likelihood to try doctor consultation online are faster appointments (43 per cent), availability of doctor choice (40 per cent), doctor qualification and rating (38 per cent), prescription and delivery choice (33 per cent) and disease information (23 per cent). If 70 per cent of patients in the age group of 46-55 definitely prefer online consultations, only 42 per cent in the age group of 18-25 prefer online consultations, said the survey.
Quoting from a survey on 'How India accessed healthcare services between March to May', BCG said 5 crore Indians accessed teleconsultations, of which 80 per cent were first-time users. Of the total patients that accessed tele-consultations, 44 per cent were from non-metro cities and overall, there was a 67 per cent drop in in-person doctor visits. The pandemic has made countries across the globe realise the importance of universal health coverage and the need for strong public health systems. Countries such as Canada, Denmark, and Germany were able to handle the pandemic more effectively due to the presence of a strong public health system. On the other hand, countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and India where access and affordability for quality healthcare is still a privilege, have met with muted success in stemming the spread of the virus.
India ranks 145th among 195 countries on the Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ) and healthcare spending at 3.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), significantly lower than peers such as China (5 per cent), Vietnam (5.5 per cent), South Africa (8.1 per cent), and Japan (10.9 per cent), noted BCG.