Signs of life returning to pre-pandemic levels are all around us. In fact, in some places, life has returned with a greater ferociousness than we ever saw before we got hit with Covid – which makes sense. People have been starved for company and connection, so we’re capitalising on the first opportunity for “escaping” back into the “real” world.
But what does that mean for healthcare, and specifically, for telehealth? Do people still want to meet their doctors over a video or phone call? Or would they much rather “go in” to the clinics/hospitals?
“It’s a toss up situation, for sure” says Vijay R, who heads a telehealth platform in Delhi. “We’ve heard from patients who couldn’t wait to see their doctors in person. But we still have plenty of people around who prefer a teleconsult. Skipping waiting lines is the most favoured reason!”
Given the rapidly changing scenario, what can we expect from telehealth? “I feel we’re looking at a more fair distribution of available services,” says Chiamala Aravamudhan, CEO of cSoft Technologies. “People now have options they couldn’t have imagined before, which means there are plenty of service providers for most preferences.”
The bottomline is that the landscape is constantly shifting. Here’s what we can expect:
- Changing customer attitudes
While the pandemic has certainly dictated how people receive healthcare, we are beginning to see customers/patients wanting greater control of how they access their service providers.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all “solution,” patients appreciate being able to find a service that fits their needs at the time. For some patients, circular Covid cases are a constant concern, so a teleconsultation appointment is still the best solution.
“Just when we think the pandemic might be under control, we begin to see numbers go up again. I’d rather not expose myself to higher risks if I can help it,” says Lauren Carroll, a telehealth user who resides in Los Angeles. “And considering my primary doctor is someone who is constantly on the move, it works out much better for me to utilise online consultations.”
For some patients, teleconsultations are a welcome relief from long waits at the doctor’s office.
“I definitely miss being able to meet people in person, but trips to the doctor’s office are a hard no. I’m very happy letting go of traffic and long waiting times wherever I can. I’d much rather fit in a 20 minute appointment with my doctor from the comfort of wherever I am” says Shilpa Mehliwal, based in Pune. “But it’s still good to have an option of a face-to-face consultation available to us.”
- Data. Data. Data. and Automation
Have technology, will automate is a standard mantra for growth for organisations looking to streamline and scale their operations. Healthcare is no different.
“Telehealth’s inherent potential to capture relevant data is yet to be fully tapped” says Chiamala Aravamudhan. “We’re looking forward to seeing innovations that allow us to capture data which in turn will help hospitals automate their routine processes.”
- Pet health care
Perhaps one of the more unexpected turns that telehealth has taken is one towards pet health care.
“Online consultations for pets seem surprising but there’s a definite need for them out there” says Neha Bawa, a resident of New Delhi. “My older parents help me take care of my dog, but they’re in no shape to take her to the vet if she falls sick.
When I’m out of town for work or on a holiday, it’s a lot easier for me to coordinate a vet visit for routine check ups. Telehealth worked for us during the height of the pandemic and it continues to work for us now that the world has opened up again.”
What other developments in telemedicine and telehealth have you seen over the last few months that you would add to this list?