Technological aid to boost telemedicine

July 18, 2020 0 By FM

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adapt to a new normal, our lives have been forced to fit into the new limitations. Now that masks, sanitisers and social distancing have caught up with our regular routine, there is one more trend that has evolved drastically in these times – online consultations with doctors. 

Telemedicine in multiple ways has made users’ lives easy, ensuring convenience, comfort and cost-effectiveness in seeking advice from doctors. Nevertheless, people were hesitant to consult doctors online as the touch and feel of a doctor’s consultation was still considered absolutely essential (physical examination). There was also a complete lack of awareness about telemedicine that denied its potential.

Over the last few years, the scenario changed, with people in metro and big cities getting to understand the value that telemedicine offered. Post COVID-19, when social distancing norms are in place, people prefer talking to doctors online, and that is how telemedicine is gathering a lot of steam, though not without running into some challenges. 

Long term sustenance

It isn’t easy to sustain in a ‘digital’ business-to-customer domain. Players in the telemedicine industry face tremendous pressure because of low profit margins. Taking into account the operating cost, the cost of acquiring a patient as a user, marketing costs and doctors’ fees, the profit a telemedicine player is left with is negligible.

Though the COVID-19 outbreak has led to a significant jump in online consultations, it would still be too optimistic to say that things will not go back to what they were once the situation begins to normalise. Undoubtedly, such a decline will happen, but still, the situation for telemedicine as an industry would be better than earlier, especially for the bigger players. 

Still, one important question will remains: ‘Will that be enough to make their businesses sustainable?’

Pharma’s battle

Coronavirus outbreak created a unique challenge for pharmaceutical companies. The situation doesn’t look like it is easing for Rx drug makers even after the staggered opening of territories. 

Physicians, in all possibility, would also not be comfortable having hordes of people around in hospitals or in their clinics other than the patients and their caretakers. For sales representatives, it will now become particularly difficult to meet doctors in person. 

Given the situation, how will pharmaceutical brands manage to share crucial information about their existing and new products and services with doctors? Not just that, how will doctors have access to such critical information when sales representatives’ visits would be very limited?

Joining hands to open up possibilities

Coming together is a solution that would work in favour of players from both the industries, pharmaceutical as well as telemedicine. 

Telemedicine platforms have doctors that pharmaceutical brands ultimately try to reach out to in a bid to educate them about their products and services. The platforms have a unique opportunity to monetise their property by showcasing Rx drugs targeted to each physician, something pharmaceutical brands would be more than willing to pay for when their sales representatives would be unable to visit healthcare professionals regularly. This would also push pharmaceutical brands to make the most of the digital mediums at a time when their target audience – doctors – are going digital.

A telehealth platform can show a banner messaging to the physician while a chat or video consultation is on, or play a brand video messaging while the physician is waiting for the next patient consultation to begin. All this can happen in a non-intrusive manner by smoothly integrating them into the overall interface of the app.

Instead of acting as a standalone entity, telemedicine platforms can partner with integrated physician-engagement platforms to maximise their monetisation efforts by opening up their marketing-messaging spaces to multiple pharmaceutical brands, who would bid in real time for that space for a banner messaging or a video messaging display.

In order to sustain a long-term association between the telemedicine platform and pharmaceutical players, there is a need for such an innovative and cohesive partnership. 

The author is Founder & CEO, Doceree.