62% doctors in southern India use telemedicine: SMSRC-Purdue survey

62% doctors in southern India use telemedicine: SMSRC-Purdue survey

Southern India has seen the highest uptake of telemedicine by doctors with 62% adoption rate, finds a joint study conducted by SMSRC-Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.

At 30%, the eastern part of India has the lowest adoption rate of telemedicine whereas northern India stands at 50% and western India at 52%, reveals the study carried out during the June-July 2020 period on 2116 physicians, across all key specialties in 80+ cities and towns of India.

This first of its kind study among Indian doctors to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their practice also reveals that adoption of telemedicine by physicians has been the highest in the metropolitan cities of northern India with 81%. The physician uptake figures stand at 50% each in metropolitan cities of southern and western India and 35% in eastern India. 

Examining physicians who completely or partially transitioned to telemedicine from physical practice, the study finds that a higher proportion of younger doctors – up to 50% — moved to telemedicine as compared to 44% of their older counterparts.Similarly, 58% of female doctors moved to telemedicine compared to 44% of males. While as much as 52% of metro physicians moved to telemedicine, only 44% of non-metro doctors adopted it.

Further, while female doctors regardless of age and location had a high propensity to move to telemedicine, not all men stayed with physical practice with equal propensity. Younger male doctors and metro male doctor cohorts exhibited a higher shift towards telemedicine than their respective counter cohorts.

“Greater proportion of female physicians moving toward telemedicine could be explained by greater risk aversion and predisposition to conservative decision making as opposed to their male counterparts,” said Dr Wreetabrata Kar, assistant professor at Krannert School of Management, Purdue University, in a statement.

The trend of younger physicians adopting telemedicine, more so than older physicians,could have manifested from older physicians exhibiting greater status quo bias, a cognitivebias where people are resistant to change and want to continue in the current way of doingthings. Therefore, younger physicians are more adaptive to new approaches andmethodologies and thus their adoption of telemedicine in greater proportion is reasonable.Likewise, metropolitan physicians moving to telemedicine more so than their non-metropolitan peers, could have stemmed from the former having greater familiarity and access to technology, and thus having more ease in adopting a new assessment mode, according to the study.
The study also sheds light on the exact nature of telemedicine used in patient assessment by the physicians.  Specifically, over 86% indicated they used their cellular audio calls for the purpose and about 62% indicated they used WhatsApp / Facebook or similar social media apps. By comparison, only about 11% indicated a move to practice management software (PMS). 
While more female physicians gravitated towards telemedicine, when it came to PMS adoption, a higher percentage of male physicians moved to PMS compared to female physicians.  This trend points to the relative risk aversion, and greater caution exercised by female physicians in quickly adapting to new but safer technology