Online Doctor Consulting.. Executable reality or a far-fetched dream..

Img source: Financial Express

While 2012 to 2014 was era of E-commerce and apps in India, 2017 onwards VCs are bullish on Healthcare, Fintech and SaaS companies. With Paytm winning the Fintech bet in India, Practo is one the biggest player in Healthcare domain while 1Mg also has a substantial presence.

Of late few companies like DocsApp are coming into the picture which helps patients connect online with Doctors for an Online consultation. Practo and 1Mg also has this feature of Online consultation. For DocsApp, online consultation seems to be the core business model, whereas for Practo and 1Mg provide this as an inbuilt feature of their current app.

Productwise 1Mg’s online consultation platform is a clear winner for me in terms of intuitiveness and user engagement. With a very clean interface it is a delight to use. DocsApp comes a very close second for me. It is extremely well designed and clean, although the notification part seems little buggy which would deliver notification but will not take you to that page, or even after you visit the app, the notification still hangs out there. But the manner in which they are able to provide a beautiful online prescription after your conversation is over, wins over the notification issue. As far as Practo is concerned, the interface is not even comparable to 1Mg or Docsapp.

With multiple players eying this segment and healthcare being talk of the town, it is just a matter of time when more players will jump into this particular segment and the war of consolidation will begin.But one question still remains pretty obvious, In a Country like India, how effective is this going to be?

First things first, I have always been a digger for technology and the empowerment it brings along with it. Secondly, consumer behaviour changes and markets also mature with time. For example, see the e-commerce market. India has matured extremely fast and that is the reason we have moved from online books to online furniture in less than a decade’s time.

Now coming back to the original question of online consulting, why I am skeptical about it?

First of all, we all know that Indians are masters of “pop this pill for that”. We have a huge belief in self medication. For most of the ailments right from fever to stomach upset, headache or allergies we tend to pop a pill that we know from generations. Secondly, Online consulting do not have data points to provide a value preposition (at this moment). Most of the online consulting happens at a very generic level. The doctor asks you a few generic questions and then gives you medication based on that. There is a downside in this system as the patient has to recall all his discomfort/ailments/symptoms and the doctor on the other side completely has to go by this notion and treat the patient. Thirdly, for online consultation, patients do not have much control on whom they want to consult. Although I totally agree that it would be a tough use case to handle. So basically patients can only choose the department and not the Doctor whom they would love to consult.

Case 3 is a tough nut to crack due to availability issues but that can be a real value preposition in online consulting. For example, I might be a user in Ranchi (a tier 2 city) and would like to consult a dermatologist Doctor X in Mumbai. If I can do that, it brings a lot of value to the platform as I will be able to consult a doctor of my choice whom i wish to, without travelling as far as Mumbai which would save my effort and money and would also make me happy as an end user. Right now this is not happening and users don’t have much say in choosing with whom they would like to consult with. This point matters, users do like to know about whom are they going to consult. If this wouldn’t have been true then check how Doctors with more ratings in Practo are unable for weeks to give appointment due to more number of appointments. This shows that user does a basic level of due diligence before getting consulted by a Doctor.

I believe Practo is well positioned to provide the above said value preposition in online consulting to its user base as most of the Doctors are already present on that platform.

Being said that, the battle has just begun and new warriors would soon jump into it but it will certainly take time for all to provide something of real value to their users because for now it looks nice and fancy but far from a real business model for players and value to its user.

P.S: The article already considers that Online consulting is not a substitute to emergency medical attention by any means.

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