The New Normal of Consulting Doctors Online

Daleep Manhas

Co-founder & EVP-Partnerships

Telemedicine saw remarkable growth post COVID-19 outbreak; it is time industry players look for innovative ways of carving out new revenue streams to keep up with the pace.

Paul Smith, in his 70s, showed symptoms of the dreaded pandemic. He was feeling feverish, had a cough and difficulty breathing. Seeing a doctor in-person seemed dreadful, given his age and the risk of contracting corona virus. He was advised by his family to consult a doctor online.

Still reluctant, he went ahead. Dr. Peter Rosberg, an emergency physician from the Sutherland Hospital, saw him over a video call, checked for his symptoms and concluded it not to be COVID-19, yet advising the family to keep a close watch. He prescribed medicines and the consultation got over.

A week later, Smith felt fine, and went on with his follow-up consultation with Dr. Rosberg, well understanding this time the value online consultation offered him.

COVID-19 brings a paradigm shift

Before coronavirus outbreak, people weren’t very open about doing doctor consultations online as touch and feel was considered absolutely essential for a check-up. The doctor appointment couldn’t have been thought to be complete without the doctor taking the vitals personally.

However, the scenario changed upon coronavirus outbreak. The norms of social distancing made teleconsultation a viable option, especially

for the elderly who were in the risk zone. On account of this, teleconsultation witnessed a massive rise, with players in the industry world-over reporting a significant spike in doctor consultations on their platform.

for the elderly who were in the risk zone. On account of this, teleconsultation witnessed a massive rise, with players in the industry world-over reporting a significant spike in doctor consultations on their platform.

In the US, PlushCare, a teleconsultation app, says appointments are up by 70%; Amwell, another teleconsultation platform confirmed that since the virus hit the US in January, usage of its app has increased by 158% nationwide, and increased by 650% in the Washington state.

What next, especially around growth and earnings?

This is a question even big players are not certain about. While they agree there has been a significant jump in the business, they are not sure if the picture will stay like this once situation will return to normal.

Maintaining the cash streams running is critical for telemedicine companies. Currently, when their businesses are doing visibly well, this seems to be an appropriate time for them to consider more ways of creating wealth.

Pharma industry presents an opportunity

It is all about looking for opportunities. Around this difficult time, pharma companies are struggling as their crucial chunk of workforce – sales reps – is indoors owing to the lockdown and work from home guidelines. It will still not be easy for them to visit doctors even after the lockdown is lifted as healthcare experts (HCPs) would not be much comfortable in having a lot of people around in hospitals and even in their clinics. How then the sales reps can share the crucial info about their company’s products and

services with the doctors? How then the doctors would have access to such critical information?

That’s where telemedicine players can provide a workable solution, one that would work a great deal for
them too.

Let us take a look at a use case. Today, a physician commits few hours of his practice time on a telehealth platform. During this time, the app has already aligned few consultations for the physician, and the physician gives undivided attention to the app and consults patients, say around 8-12 patients in a 2-hour app consultation.

Now, while the chat or video consultations are on, a banner ad of pharma product can be shown to the physician, or while the physician is waiting for the next patient consult to begin, a video ad of a brand can be displayed. This can be done in a completely non-intrusive manner by smoothly integrating into the overall interface of the app and hence is a very good medium for pharmaceutical brands to reach out to physicians. If an endocrinologist is available on the app, diabetes management brands will be able to reach the endocrinologist while the physician is consulting a patient. This is the most targeted form of advertising on digital that is possible.

Telehealth platforms have always been creating consumer content, but for the first time, they can actually use their real estate to advertise to physicians with the help of platforms that are adept at precision digital pharma marketing like Doceree, the world’s 1st physician engagement platform.

This will help telehealth platforms to create a new revenue stream for themselves. At the same time, they will be able to fix a huge problem of pharma brands of reaching physicians effectively through the digital medium.

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