By Shreyans Mehta,
COVID-19 pandemic made the government of India cognizant of its fragile healthcare infrastructure. Healthcare has been the lowest priority for the Government of India since the past decade and has spent only 1% of the entire Indian GDP on healthcare, thus making India one of the lowest ranking countries in the World Healthcare Index.
Growing population, weak healthcare reforms and the lack of a proper logistic supply chain can be owed for India’s succumbing healthcare system. According to FCCI- EY’s study on impact due to COVID-19 in March 2020 revealed a 70-80% decline in OPD patients and approximately 70% repression in the revenue because of the fear of contraction COVID-19 from the hospitals. Due to this many small-scale hospitals and nursing homes in tier 2 and tier 3 had to shut down, as they were unable to operate with limited funds.
The Government imposed strict lockdown across the nation adversely affected logistics and medical facilities in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Owing to this, the health tech industry recorded a surge in teleconsultation, this encouraged the government of India to issue telemedicine guidelines, enabling seamless operations of the Indian healthcare fraternity over the internet.
The ‘Digital India’ initiative made the internet easily accessible for everyone, it helped in instituting online pharmacies in India. These online pharmacies work on a hybrid model as they directly connect local pharmacies with potential consumers, making medicines readily available for everyone. Online pharmacies are serving the tier II and tier III cities by uniting them to the advanced healthcare system. These online pharmacy platforms use artificial intelligence which is aiding in streamlining the history of patients, making diagnosis faster. Now, the residents of tier II and tier III cities can consult and get themselves diagnosed properly within the comfort of their place.
Onboarding the local chemists and doctors on a digital platform can solve the point of unavailability of essential medicines and doctors for Tier II and Tier-III cities. Apart from helping the consumers, online pharmacies are also generating employment opportunities by engaging local vendors in their business directly in tier 2 and tier 3 cities
Since Indian consumers prefer offline pharmacy stores over online stores because of the trust over the local pharmacies built overtime and also the delivery of the medicines is instantaneous. It is a challenge for online pharmacies to win trust of their customers, as the consumers are still skeptical about receiving counterfeit medicines. Online pharmacies also need to focus on overcoming the language barrier in remote parts of India. Looking at the COVID-19 scenario in India, it is very evident that online pharmacies are the future of the Indian healthcare system, considering people are still not ready to visit hospitals physically.
The Government of India in the recent Financial Year 2021-2022 devoted Rs 2,83,846 lakh crore in the healthcare sector, this will also play an integral role in strengthening and revolutionizing the online healthcare sector.
(The author is Founder of MedCords. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)