In the last two years, digital healthcare has played an important role in managing the Covid-19 pandemic. In managing the crisis – especially through all three waves in India – there has been tremendous growth in telemedicine, raising the possibility of a future where digital healthcare services will coexist with in-clinic visits in a hybrid setup. 

Indicating the start of such a transition, Practo’s insights report – ‘Understanding Covid-19: Comparing the three waves’ reveals that nearly a quarter of the total users on Practo consulted online for COVID-19 during all three waves. While online doctor consultation has become widely popular as a quick and convenient way to seek timely care, the average time spent by a patient with a doctor online on Practo during this time was 30 minutes, which is comparable to in-person visits.

With covid cases rising again around the world giving way to speculations about an impending fourth wave, it is necessary to understand the health trends from the first three waves so that the healthcare industry is better prepared.

Report findings during all three waves:

  • 70% of all online consultations for COVID-19
  • Second wave was the deadliest with a 1500% surge in online consultations at its peak
  • 57% of all telemedicine users experienced it for the first time 
  • 54% of all online consultations were from millennials and Gen Zs
  • There was 50% growth in alternate medicine like Ayurveda and Homeopathy
  • Specialities like Dental, Psychiatry and Sexology saw growth in in-person appointments
  • Dolo 650mg, Zincovit, Limcee 500mg, Azee 500mg, Pan D capsule were the most ordered medicines
  • Covid-19 swab test, Complete blood count test, Thyroid profile and HBA1c were the most ordered diagnostic tests

Covid cases vs Covid Consults across all three waves in comparison with pre-covid times

What makes digital healthcare even more impactful is its pervasiveness in non-metro cities where hospitals and district-level medical facilities are inadequate. In fact, although online consultations specifically for COVID-19 decreased over time (perhaps due to low testing, and lack of awareness or acceptance of the disease), overall online consultations across specialties continued to grow in non-metros with each wave, along with in-person visits.

Regarding consultations associated with COVID-19, as expected, the second wave saw a massive surge, as demand for General Physicians, Pulmanologists, Cardiologists and Gynecologists remained high, especially among young people. With a focus on other key insights during this wave of the pandemic, this report, in addition to drawing a comparison between all three waves, also summarizes the post-COVID impact registered over the last few weeks.

Isolation amid successive lockdowns, the trauma of death in the family due to COVID-19 or associated ailments, and anxiety about an uncertain future have brought the discourse on mental health to the fore, demonstrated by an increase in online doctor consultations with psychiatrists on Practo during the second wave. Another significant development has been a rising interest in alternative medication like ayurveda and homeopathy, as the natural resilience and immunity of the body came into sharp focus during the pandemic. 

Prof. Rajendra Pratap Gupta, Author of the best-seller: ‘Digital Health – Truly Transformational’ and Chairman – Digital Health Academy & Health Parliament, said, “For most of us who have been championing digital adoption over the past two decades, this digital health revolution is not just evolutionary; it is revolutionary – either corporates or technologists have led the first two revolutions, and this time, this is being led by patients. A bottom-up movement always trumps all barriers. This study reveals that digital health adoption is growing exponentially across urban, rural areas, specialities, and age groups.  As work from home (WFH) becomes a reality, Consult from Home (CFH) is also becoming prominent.  The hybrid model of care is a reality now.”

Dr Alexander Kuruvilla, Chief Healthcare Strategy Officer, Practo, said, India’s healthcare system saw a paradigm shift in its approach to deliver care during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when hospitals and care delivery units were overwhelmed by the rising number of positive COVID cases, telemedicine served as an efficient and effective alternative, saving lives and critical resources like hospital beds. Apart from the devastation that the pandemic brought, it also did reinstate the fact that quality healthcare can be made accessible and affordable to all.”

To know about the detailed insights and what the doctors have to say, please refer to the comprehensive insights report here – LINK

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