Many of our provider partners and consumers have reached out to us expressing their support, we are thankful to each of you. Some of you have also asked for more specifics on our original response, so we’re providing that to clear the air.
1. How Practo Prime makes healthcare easier to access
Healthcare experience is stressful for both providers and patients. On the one hand, patients struggle with lack of reliable information and a pretty poor experience of having to wait for clinics to open to book appointments, figure out availability on their own and of course tremendous anxiety of finding doctors at odd hours and holidays. This often leads to patients simply avoiding going to the doctor entirely.
At the same time, acute shortage of doctors means doctors are under immense pressure constantly. In addition, poor scheduling leads to long queues and wait times which adds to the pressure felt by the providers as well as their clinic staff.
With all our experience and learnings built over a decade spent in solving this in a way that works best for patients and providers, we introduced Prime. Prime is an offering that provides the convenience of 24×7 instant booking and zero/low wait time to the patient while improving the utilisation of the provider’s time in a cost effective manner.
Here’s how it works.
Any provider (clinic or hospital only, not individual doctor) can purchase our Prime product. Signing up for Prime requires a provider to give certain assurances of patient experience:
1. A reliable booking experience using our 24×7 instant booking feature or, in some cases, using our advanced virtual calling system.
2. Ensuring that the patient will be met by the same doctor the patient has booked appoint with, and not just his staff or a different doctor which can often be the case for more popular doctors.
3. Offering a predictable, low wait time experience to patients.
4. Accurate consultation price – meaning that the provider will charge the same consultation fees as mentioned in his/her profile on Practo.
To help the providers deliver this hassle free experience, we provide them with our appointment booking and clinic/hospital management software systems, our virtual calling system as well as enhanced visibility on our platform so patients can clearly understand that these clinics/hospitals offer a superior visit experience and if they so wish, they can book a guaranteed low wait time appointment with just a couple of clicks.
It goes without saying that this requires considerable investment on our side to develop the technology, building the platform, as well as making sure that everything remains private and secure. While Prime is not free, we ideally want all providers to offer this fantastic experience to their patients. So we’ve tried to make this as easy as possible by pricing our products on a pay per use model instead of large upfront costs that can often be prohibitive for majority of the clinics and smaller hospitals. This means that we charge a one time flat fee to clinics and hospitals when a consumer uses our platform to discover and connect with them. Also, an important requirement of being a Prime partner is that the providers have to charge the same fee to the patients – whether they are coming via Practo or are regular walk-in patients.
That said, we respect the choices made by our clinics and hospital partners on whether they want to avail premium offerings like Prime or remain with the standard free offerings.
Today, a large number of clinics and hospitals on Practo already offer this amazing experience and both the providers and the patients absolutely love the experience and we couldn’t be happier!
The simplicity of Prime and the fantastic experience is in-fact making more people visit their doctors more often – 2.7 visits per person per year has increased to 3.2 per year in just 12 months. This means they are seeking medical help in a much more timely manner instead of self medicating, potentially improving their overall longevity. This is exactly the kind of impact we live for and work hard to enable.
In addition to this, we offer online consultations for as low as 99 rupees. We also provide discounts on medicines and tests which makes them more affordable for more users.
2. Does Practo sell my data or use it without consent?
Absolutely not true.
A fundamental tenet of our company is ensuring your health information is safe, secure and private. We categorically deny any claims alleging that we sell your data to third parties or otherwise misuse your health information. We’ve made considerable investments and take enormous pains to ensure that we remain one of the safest places for health information stored by our clinic and hospital partners as well as patients.
For starters, we encrypt all data with 256 bit encryption (many banks use just 128 bit), we use HIPAA compliant data centres, and are one of the few healthcare companies to be ISO 27001 certified. These are just a few of the many steps we take to protect your information. You can read more about our data security efforts here.
We are aware of the trust placed in us by millions of consumers and our over 1 lakh provider partners. Over the past 11 years, there has not been a single instance of proof of any misuse of health data at Practo’s end, just endless speculation and malicious rumour mongering. We would urge users to be wary of such news that is speculative, likely malicious and is without any substance or proof.
A common complaint we get is that a patient who received SMS from Practo also then receives SMSes from other vendors. The fact is that it is quite trivial, and a common practice in SMS marketing, to target consumers basis specific sender codes. Let’s take an example that illustrates this.
Say you have received an SMS from a particular sender code (say ABCD). Any company can go to an SMS marketing provider and pay them to send an SMS to every user who has received an SMS from the sender code ABCD. It costs around 20paise per SMS to do this. So it would be fairly easy for someone to target Practo’s sender codes and send an SMS to anyone who has received an SMS from our short-code.
Obviously, this is not something that Practo indulges in or encourages but it is also something that we cannot control. We can only urge the regulatory authorities to put a stop to such practice in the telecom sector. The sad part is that this is merely one possibility, there are others too, but none of them involve us or any of your information stored with us. On our part, we are exploring moving away from SMS to other mediums such as Whatsapp to better protect our patients and provider partners.
So, to be absolutely clear:
1. We do not sell your data to 3rd parties.
2. We do not access your health information stored in our systems by your doctor. That information belongs to you, the patient and your treating doctor.
3. We also do not use your Electronic Medical Records/Information stored in our systems by your doctor to sell you lab tests or medicines. This claim too is entirely false.
3. Does Practo manipulate feedback?
Of course not.
Healthcare has high anxiety and it is important to build trust. Feedback is a great way for our clinic/hospital partners to create that initial trust and for them to use it to help other patients discover them. As part of creating the free Practo profile, all our provider partners agree to receiving and displaying feedback from their patients on their profile. Our feedback system has strong fraud detection algorithms as well as manual moderation that ensures that we can nip attempts at gaming in the bud and continue to provide a trusted environment. Our feedback has clear guidelines that apply to patients as well as our provider partners. You can read them here and here.
Further, our feedback system works in the same way for our paid customers as well as those on the free tier. Any claims to the contrary are completely false
4. How does Practo decide which providers to show in the search results?
As a platform, we want to provide a fantastic booking and visit experience to the patients. This resolves around 2 core problems that patients face – ease of getting a doctor appointment, and the considerable wait time that patients face at the clinic. These turn out to be the 2 biggest reasons why patients end up avoiding doctor visits entirely.
So clinics and hospitals who share our philosophy of providing a fantastic and seamless booking and visit experience are obviously highlighted on our platform and you will always see them first because the data is clear that an easier healthcare experience translates into patients seeking timely care.
Of course, this in no way takes away from our quality commitment. Our feedback system is applied uniformly to all provider partners, whether they are on Prime or on the free tier and has become a key factor in patients’ deciding their provider. So now, for example patients can decide whether they want to visit a provider with 95% positive feedback but an uncertain wait time or, a prime provider with 95% positive feedback and 15 mins or less waiting.
By the way, whether a provider partner chooses to provide this experience via Prime or not, we list them for free, don’t charge for verification and provide them tools like feedback etc at no charge. Patients too are free to connect with them and visit them if they’d like. But, we are focused on building a superlative booking and visit experience and will continue to add more and more value for patients and providers through our Prime program in the coming weeks and months. And, considering that Prime bookings score an NPS of over 50 consistently, it is clear that both patients and providers are loving this experience.
At Practo, we’ve been working to improve the healthcare experience for over a decade, and with the support of our doctor partners, we are committed to solving the challenges that the healthcare industry faces for many years to come. We are aware of the responsibility and trust placed in us by over 200 million patients and over 1 lakh provider partners. We reassure you that we always have, and always will do everything we possibly can to uphold this trust because this trust is of utmost importance to us.