Health apps are getting doctors to your smartphones and doorsteps in India3 min read . Updated: 31 Jan 2019, 09:43 PM IST
- Health and fitness apps provide immediate support that may not be available to users, resulting in their popularity
- Such apps are also being used by paediatricians for child-related crisis at night
The absence of a reliable doctor or hospital in the vicinity or a busy work schedule may dissuade many people from seeking timely medical help. “This problem is as prevalent in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as it is in tier 1 cities. In tier 2 and tier 3 cities, there is another problem that people may not have a doctor in the locality they can go to," points out Ashish Gupta, CEO, Docprime.com, a subsidiary of Policybazaar Group.
By making healthcare accessible to people on their phones and even their doorsteps, mobile app-based healthcare services such as Practo, GOQii and Zoctr are trying to address these issues. They figure among more than 60,000 such healthcare-related apps on Android and iOS. “These apps have helped users become more aware of the local doctors or the medical infrastructure in their area and the kind of ratings they have received from other users," says Vijay Raghavan, associate director, PwC India.
For instance, apps such as GOQii that focus primarily on preventive healthcare have doctors and coaches on board who advise people on how to stay healthy. GOQii has tied its services with its fitness bands. This has helped them win a loyal user base. “What happens in the healthcare category, is that most apps have millions of downloads but the number of active users is much lower. Because GOQii is an integrated system and people are paying for the fitness tracker and subscription services, they are more serious about the whole thing. As a result we have 70 to 80% usage of our platform," says Vishal Gondal, founder and CEO, GOQii Inc.
Apps like GOQii that work with wearables or the ones that support medically approved ECG readers provide the option where users can get a reading from the machines and transfer them on the app and keep regular track of their cardiovascular health, blood sugar level and other conditions. These apps are actually taking a big leap, says Ragahvan.
Then there are apps that provide remote access to doctors. Users can chat, use video calls, to explain their symptoms to the doctor. If a doctor needs some readings they can plug an ECG or blood pressure reading wearable to and share the readings via the app for a real time assessment.
These apps are being used for psychiatric help as many of the patients may not feel comfortable walking into a hospital. They are also being used by paediatricians for child-related crisis at night.
Hospitals such as Rainbow and Ovum offer these services through their own apps, or through tie-ups with other apps. These apps are filling up for the lack of immediate access to hospitals or doctors in vicinity. Some apps like Zoctr are enhancing the healthcare experience by bringing hospital-level medicare at home for patients. One can book a session with a doctor, physiotherapist; hire nurse/carer for elderly or baby; or even get hospital equipment set up at home until the treatment is over. Mobile apps now are also getting health insurance companies on board. Insurance company Max Bupa, for instance, partnered with GOQii, Practo and 1mg last year and offers digital health insurance service to subscribers of these apps.
They use these services to get a more fact-based assessment of a user’s fitness regime, so they can assign them a score and offers discounts on premium if they are found to be leading a healthier life.
Health and fitness apps also provide assistance and immediate support that may not be available to users, resulting in their increased popularity. A case in point is GOQii, which has slightly lower than 1 million users right, and is hoping to acquire 10 million users in the next two years. On its part, Docprime, which was launched in August 2018, is already handling over 120,000 free consultations in a month and has 25,000 doctors and 5,000 labs in 34 cities on board.