Rapidly growing health-tech industry bridges gaps in India’s healthcare ecosystem – ET HealthWorld

By Raviteja Dodda

The rapid adoption of technology, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, is proving to be a big ‘booster dose’ for the country’s healthcare ecosystem, steering it towards unprecedented digital transformation and innovation.

For long, the healthcare industry has been focused on offering treatment after the onset of a disease or when complications arise. With technology, the industry can now hope to bridge the gaps in the areas of preventive healthcare and disease management.

The healthcare technology (health-tech) vertical has seen exponential growth in the last few years, spurred by the growing trends of online patient consultation, e-pharmacies, telemedicine, fitness and wellness awareness, home healthcare, healthcare IT and analytics, and digital management of chronic diseases. A plethora of startups have mushroomed in the vertical, offering consumers the power of technology to monitor their health from the comfort of their homes.

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India-Praxis Global Alliance, in 2020, India’s health-tech sector was valued at $1.9 billion—under 1 percent of the healthcare industry. The nascent sector, with over 5,000 health-tech startups, is all set to grow at a CAGR of 39 percent to touch $5 billion by 2023, according to a report by RBSA Advisors. And it is expected to $50 billion by 2033.

Indian Health-Tech Market in 2020

There has been a lot of action recently in the M&A space with several big acquisitions and massive investments.

While healthcare SaaS firm Innovaccer recently raised $150 million, health-tech start-up Pristyn Care attracted an investment of $96 million. And dedicated healthcare VC fund HealthQuad raised $150 million. Companies such as 1mg, Pharmeasy, Practo and Mfine too have received investor backing in the recent past.

Flipkart’s acquisition of SastaSundar, Tata Group acquiring 1MG, and Reliance Retail buying a majority stake in Netmeds are further proof of the growth potential of the health-tech market.

A report by London & Partners and Dealroom.com points out that India has attracted VC funding worth $4.4 billion since 2016 in the health-tech sector .

Trends driving the growth

Let us look into the chief drivers of growth in the health-tech sector.

1. Telemedicine: During the pandemic, telemedicine accounted for 30% of all patient visits, with a 3X rise in consumers transacting on digital health platforms. The domestic telemedicine market is expected to see sustained demand in the coming years and touch $5.5 billion by 2025, from$830 million in 2019 .

2. Online consultations: The pandemic-induced lockdown led to a huge demand for teleconsultation with the market reaching $163 million in March 2021, according to the report by Praxis Global Alliance. The online doctor consultation market is expected to be over $800 million by FY2024, growing at 72 per cent CAGR.

3. E-pharmacies: Several e-pharmacies are seeing good traction in customer traffic. For instance, Tata 1 MG’s traffic rose to 150 million unique customers versus 90 million customers in FY20 . According to industry body FICCI, e-pharmacies in India will cater to 70 million households by FY2025, on the back of increasing internet adoption and digital awareness.

4. Digital therapeutics is the next big wave in the health-tech sector, delivering medical interventions directly to patients using evidence-based, clinically evaluated software to treat, manage and prevent a broad spectrum of diseases and disorders, such as diabetes and obesity prevention. The growing adoption of smartphones and tablets and healthcare apps and the rise in chronic diseases are expected to fuel the growth of the digital therapeutics market.

5. Smart wearables:People suffering chronic conditions, fitness freaks and tech-savvy youth have taken to smart wearables such as fitness trackers, smartwatches connected to smartphones, and medical-grade products such as heart patches to monitor their health and fitness regularly. With a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000, smart wearables come in handy for patients to track health parameters such as
heart rate, blood pressure, physical activity and sleep. India is the world’s third-largest consumer of wearable devices. The country’s wearable market grew 144.3 percent year-over-year (YoY) in 2020, reports market research firm IDC . Smart wearables are today more than a fad and are here to stay.

6. Apps driving tracking, monitoring and notifications are also seeing an uptick in the health-tech market thanks to changing lifestyles, demand for personalized care and increasing usage of mobile internet.

7. Data: Among all trends, the biggest one undoubtedly is that of ‘data’. This is the trend that is driving, and will continue to drive, all other growth factors. The future points to a world where healthcare models and interventions are backed by data and insights. For instance, long-term longitudinal data can improve the response management that wearables devices offer. It will also help bring down human error while monitoring patients. Robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence and blockchain, all of which rely on data, are going to change the future of healthcare, enabling healthcare providers to provide timely and efficient care.

How health-tech providers must engage with consumers

Nowadays, several people, especially millennials and Gen Z consumers, are open to the idea of their data and disease profile being used for benchmarking and measurement for active management of their disease. This stems from the need for personalized care from professional healthcare providers, without sacrificing the privacy and security imperatives of consumers.

Health-tech providers must use the data available in the real world and draw robust insights from it to engage effectively with customers. They can do so in the following manner:

1. Develop deeper customer understanding: It is important for health-tech providers to understand who their customers are, their likes and dislikes, preferences, health history, and other behavioral attributes, and then segment their customers into appropriate cohorts. This will help create personalized communication and sharpen recommendations.

2. Increase focus on personalization: In a consumer health survey, McKinsey reported that around 36% of consumers prefer a healthcare provider who cares more about them as a person . Personalized experiences, delivered at the right time through the right channel, go a long way in reassuring the consumer that their healthcare management is in the right hands. Data will help technology be more effective and intuitive in delivering personalized healthcare services to consumers.

3. Use AI-based optimization for most effective engagement: AI-powered technology will help test and analyze the best campaign variant on the go. Then the most relevant communication can be sent to the targeted segments at the right time for better engagement, instead of bombarding all customers with the same messaging.

4. Use targeted push notification and in-product messaging: Targeted push and in-app/in-product messaging help communicate vital information (such as customer education and new feature updates), personalized discounts, and offers. This can be combined with SMS and RCS to send rich communication across all channels. This omnichannel customer engagement can cover the whole gamut of services—appointment scheduling, ordering medicines, regular health check alerts, fitness tracking, etc.

5. Understand moments of delight and drop-offs: During the lifecycle journey of a product or service, from onboarding and conversion to usage and repeat usage, there are specific points that delight or dissatisfy customers. Predictive analysis helps health-tech companies understand when these specific moments arise and segment customers into those who are likely to stay and come back, those who will go dormant, and those who are likely to exhibit a churn. Knowledge of this helps companies engage accordingly with customers using bespoke communication.

6. Build trust through transparent communication: When it comes to communication with the customer, nothing works better than transparency. All relevant information, including costs, details on health decisions, reminders, alerts and updates, must be shared upfront, preferably in a concise manner, to build trust. Enabling a two-way specialist-patient communication will help establish transparency and trust.

7. Build a community of engaged and loyal customers: When customers feel they are part of an exclusive community with professionals to take care of their healthcare needs, they feel a sense of belonging and allegiance. This feeling can be nurtured through relevant events and specialist sessions and workshops that provide clarity, inform adequately and dispel myths. Over time, customers organically become brand evangelists who recommend the brand’s services of their own volition.

While it is rare to find a sense of loyalty in consumerist verticals, in the healthcare industry, a truly satisfied customer is loyal for life. But this is something players in the health-tech vertical must never take for granted and must continue to engage with customers in a befitting and caring manner.

By Raviteja Dodda, CEO & Co-Founder, MoEngage

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.)

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