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Virtual health: Delivering care through technology

8 minutes, 52 seconds read

Virtual Care, Telehealth, Telemedicine, etc. are terms used very synonymously. Indeed they are interrelated, however, Virtual Care is a broader term in which healthcare providers use digital tools to communicate and deliver care to their patients. Telehealth and Telemedicine are a part of Virtual Care where doctors deliver care to their patients, remotely via phone, video, or instant messaging. Virtual health includes care delivery beyond video consultation where hospitals provide services using technology such as wearables for remote monitoring, instruments for post-op care and second opinions, e-pharma services, and medical information, etc. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic gave an impetus to Virtual Care, but even in the Pre-COVID time, the Healthcare sector was slowly gearing up for this next wave in care delivery. What COVID-19 did was, help patients get acclimatized to the digital health tools and services. 

What does Virtual Health help with?

The pandemic has brought the burning issues of the healthcare sector to center stage. Patient experience and access to healthcare services are key differentiators for people while choosing a healthcare provider. Let’s take a look at some of these issues addressed by technology in the healthcare sector-

The increasing number of patients

Apart from the pandemic, there’s already been a rise in the number of patients due to drastic changes in lifestyle and food habits, an increase in pollution levels, increase in new types of viruses, etc. This has caused undue stress on healthcare institutions and workers and has led to the deterioration of the quality of patient care. Virtual Health technology such as mobile healthcare apps, EHR (Electronic Health Record), video conferencing, etc. has helped reduce the pressure on hospitals.

Difficulty in traveling for old patients

The pace of life is increasing at a rapid rate. It is getting insanely difficult for the elder population to navigate through the traffic and commute long distances for a check-up. Many times, they have to depend on their family members to take them to hospitals. Moreover, they are at risk of exposure to viruses in hospitals and clinics. Now that they have had the experience of virtual consultations, they prefer care delivery at home rather than going to hospitals.

Chronic Diseases treatment

The number of people above the age of 45 face health issues. Some patients are suffering from chronic diseases regardless of age. Regular monitoring of their vitals is very important. Moreover people now prefer Virtual healthcare services which are easily accessible and save a lot of time, effort, and money. Now that people have found these services effective, they will opt for online consults rather than frequent in-person visits. 

Post-op Care

The duration of post-operative care is quite long and tedious. If given a choice, people will lean towards wearables which will help keep doctors posted on the status of the treatment. Many times, the cost of post-op care is more than the actual treatment and sometimes is not covered under insurance. Virtual care-delivery services will help reduce the financial burden of people going through these treatments.

Follow-ups/Second opinion  

Some health conditions need multiple follow-ups and second opinions to figure out the right approach to treat the issue. It is much easier for patients to do follow-up consults virtually rather than going through the tedious process of appointment booking, commuting, and waiting for their turn. It helps reduce the queue outside the doctor’s office as well. Some health issues need a second opinion, sometimes both by patients and doctors. Virtual Healthcare technologies make it possible for them to take second opinions from doctors all over the world. With electronic records and image sharing, doctors can diagnose the problem better.

What does Virtual Health include?

Virtual Health can be broadly divided into below applications-

mHealth Applications

Mobile health applications have widespread use. From symptom checkers to appointment booking, from fitness trackers to uploading medical records, from video conferencing features to chatbot integrations, mobile healthcare apps in India are on a rise mainly because of easy accessibility for the tech-savvy customers. According to a study by NCBI, among the 22 selected mobile healthcare apps in India, Practo, mfine, DocsApp, 1mg, Netmeds, Lybrate, MediBuddy, and Medlife were found to be the eight most popular ones with over a million downloads and on average four-plus user rating out of five. All the above apps are mainly being used for online consults. This just goes about showing that people prefer having homecare services instead of stepping out. 

E-Triage Tools

The rising number of patients with different stages of COVID symptoms was a task to deal with. E-triage software here enables hospitals to triage patients into different sections when there’s an overload of patients at a particular time. Now, in the case of home care, e-triage tools help patients to access the gravity of their health condition and notify the healthcare provider accordingly. Such tools help reduce A&E waiting time and improve NHS performance. Many companies are building healthcare software integrating the E-triage module within EHR, telemedicine, clinical decision making, billing, etc. In India, Persistent Systems’ cutting edge platform has a Nurse Triage system that enables nurses to see the queue of patients and triage via phone calls. Once the calls are done, a triage report is generated and sent to care providers. Many leading doctors feel that AI in image triage will see a boost in near future.

Remote Patient Monitoring 

There are multiple benefits such as reduced post-op expenditure, time wastage, less exposure to other diseases, etc. The global remote patient monitoring devices market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period (2019–2027) according to Coherent Market Insights. Some of the top players in this space are Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corporation, CAS Medical Systems, CONTEC MEDICAL, Dragerwerk, GE Healthcare, Guangdong Biolight Meditech, Medtronic, Mindray Medical, Nihon Kohden, Philips Healthcare, Spacelabs Healthcare, Abbott. Companies such as GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare have done a great job with building remote patient monitoring systems within the hospital premises as well as homecare for COVID patients. The main goal was to reduce the exposure of healthcare workers to at-risk patients. 

Synchronous and Asynchronous Telehealth

Synchronous telehealth, in other words, Telemedicine is where there is a live conversation between the patient and the doctor. Asynchronous telehealth involves the exchange of recorded data e.g. images, video, medical reports, pathology reports between patients and doctors, at times between doctors as well. Similar to mHealth space, companies like Practo, 1mg, Lybrate, Medlife, and Portea Medical in India are some of the top players in telehealth and telemedicine. Lybrate’s USP lies in CMS (Clinical Management System) which helps doctors with tedious tasks of managing patients and providing better care. Meanwhile, Portea Medical’s home consults and pharma delivery have more relevance with the audience as it combines technology with a touch of personalization. 

Digital Therapeutics

Digital Therapeutics delivers evidence-based therapies with the help of software which can be used both as a preventive measure as well as treatment application. The effectiveness of the medication and lifestyle changes on patients are monitored by leveraging technology. In India, major non-communicable diseases that account for 62% of the total mortality rate are CVD, diabetes, respiratory conditions, and cancer. Prominent global players in this space include Noom (US), Livongo Health (US), Omada Health (US), WellDoc (US), Pear Therapeutics (US), Proteus Digital Health (US), Propeller Health (US), Akili Interactive Labs (US), Better Therapeutics (US), etc. Omada Health is the pioneer in the DTx (Digital Therapeutics) that focused primarily on diabetes and pre-diabetes but now is branching out in the mental health space as well. In India, Altran (a part of Capgemini) is into building personalized DTx applications for clients. Whereas a start-up called Wellthy Therapeutics has ready solutions catering to multiple diseases.

Future of Virtual Health

Undoubtedly, there has been a massive increase in the adoption of Virtual Health technologies as people have gotten accustomed to the ease of certain services at home. In the coming future, mobile health apps, remote patient monitoring, and Digital therapeutics see a surge in demand from the customers. According to a study by Markets and Markets, “The global digital therapeutics market is projected to reach USD 6.9 billion by 2025 from USD 2.1 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 26.7% during the forecast period (2020–2025).” A study by Fortune Business Insights, “The global mHealth market size is projected to reach USD 293.29 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 29.1% during the forecast period.” A Research and Markets report says, “The remote patient monitoring market is expected to reach US$31.326 billion by the end of 2023.” Apart from the above, development in digital infrastructure such as virtual health stations where doctors can provide consultations globally, mobile ICUs, MRIs, X-rays, ultrasound equipment, the establishment of rural virtual care units reaching the remote areas of the country are some of the trends which will gain momentum. The focus would always lie upon the personalization of the virtual care experience for patients driven by data exchange and interoperability. 

Indeed, there are certain challenges to the implementation of these technologies, lack of infrastructure, and digital literacy amongst elders and lower strata of society. Many healthcare institutions still have inhibitions while investing in digital technologies fearing rejection from the customers. It will be crucial for care providers to choose the right partner for implementing these technologies and create awareness amongst people to adopt them.  

In a Nutshell

The success of virtual care relies on how well the digital experience is designed for the patient. “By 2025, as many as 95 percent of all customer interactions will be through channels supported by artificial intelligence (AI) technology” – Microsoft. The use of algorithms and AI for personalizing these experiences will be the key. 

Find out more about unchartered territories in ‘Blue Ocean’ of Digital Health. Watch our webinar hosted by Parag Sharma (CEO, Mantra Labs) where he shares his insights on untapped opportunities using digital self-care tools within behavioral healthcare & emotional wellness.

Further Readings:

  1. Reimagining Medical Diagnosis with Chatbots
  2. HealthTech 101: How are Healthcare Technologies Reinventing Patient Care
  3. What will be the state of the healthcare industry post pandemic?
  4. Healthcare Chatbots: Innovative, Efficient, and Low-cost Care
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How to increase patient engagement on a healthcare app?

By :
4 minutes, 9 seconds read

Patient facing mobile apps have emerged as a viable alternative to interact with patients and help them execute several tasks related to healthcare without reaching the hospital. Patients are now increasingly glued to these healthcare apps and their time spent on mobile devices has increased significantly. From communication and information to executing business through mobile apps have become a common thing.

Still, there is a lot of gap in the healthcare market. Marketers are struggling to gauge the true value of mobile apps for the bottom line of healthcare organizations. Especially in terms of the value of the app viz-viz the efforts, cost, and time it would take to become a useful and engaging healthcare app for the patient.

To help you increase the patient engagement on a healthcare app, here are a few crucial ways that you need to know. It will not only increase the engagement but will also help you meet your organizational goals at a faster pace.

1. Reduce Readmissions

Healthcare provider’s biggest pain point these days is to avoid readmission of preventable cases. It is crucial for healthcare organizations to reduce this number to enhance patient outcome and improve their revenue growth. Customized healthcare applications can assist hospitals in reducing the number of readmissions.

Here is how:

  • Offer personalized post-release information and instructions
  • Reminder for regular follow-up visits
  • Enforce stricter adherence to post-release prescription and regiment
  • Easier access to healthcare resources and information
  • Lesser cost and time of reaching out
  • Greater engagement to reduce readmission rates

2. Encourage Patients to Proactively Manage Their Health

Encouraging the patient to become proactive in managing their own health can help in improving the outcome and also enhance the reputation of your hospital. With easier access to the required resources and tools, patients are more likely to stay in touch with healthcare professionals and practice the wellness regimen. A properly optimized mobile app can deliver a better wellness experience to the patient and a greater sense of satisfaction.

Here is how an app can help the patient in managing their health proactively:

  • Keeps the patient informed and connected with relevant services
  • Encourages regular health tracking
  • Helps in developing healthy habits and exercises
  • Promotion of health education by streaming informations

3. Improve Trust and Build Relationships


Establishing trust between the patient and doctor is one of the difficult things that hospitals face. Due to long wait times, complex processes, or lack of communication between healthcare team; patients are not willing to attend healthcare appointments.

However, when you give all the relevant tools and information in the smartphone of the patient and empower them, the trust develops between the two parties and the patient proactively takes charge of their treatment. Hospitals can also gain competitive advantage by streamlining patient referrals and building stronger relationships with physicians.

Here is how apps can help:

  • You can provide access to a larger pool of specialists 
  • Help in easily accessing credentials, studies, and information from the mobile app
  • Recommend, network, and connect
  • Improve efficiency and workflow

4. Boost Brand Image and Reputation

Today patients can not be treated less than consumers. Hospitals are competing with each other to provide better care facilities and infrastructure at affordable prices. Hence, it has become crucial to achieve patient satisfaction and engagement. Through mobile apps, hospitals can make the existing information easily accessible along with brand awareness features including social media, photo galleries, virtual tours, and more.

Here is how mobile app can help:

  • Easier access to communication and information
  • Intuitive presentation of the hospital through immersive galleries
  • Stream ER wait time and other relevant information
  • Greater social media engagement

What more factors can increase engagement?

Several patients come to healthcare app once and then dump them after a few logins. One of the major reasons for such low engagement rates is that either the app is difficult to navigate or it is not immersive for the patient.

Consider these few points to make your app more engaging:

  • Customize the app as per the patient group. An app can appear differently to a child and an old age person. Develop an app that is easy to use for all users. Sit with your QA engineers to validate the functionality of your application thoroughly.
  • Build an app that is scalable and can be evolved over a period of time. Leave the possibility of enhancements and customizations that you would need in the future to keep the application viable.
  • It is a no brainer to give multiple options to your patients. Develop a cross-platform application that is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms and offers a rich user experience.

Wrapping Up

With the COVID-19 pandemic, people are more worried about visiting hospitals. Social distancing has become the norm and patients are more inclined towards telemedicine for their treatment. In such a tricky situation, it has become more crucial for hospitals to provide a robust, secure, and engaging mobile app to patients to interact with doctors, access information, and stay connected with the healthcare system.

About the Author

Erna Clayton is a techie with over 12 years of experience in several technological domains including quality assurance and software testing. In her free time, she loves travelling and writing on technology.

Further Readings:

  1. Building Consumer Trust in the Digital Healthcare Era
  2. HealthTech 101: How are Healthcare Technologies Reinventing Patient Care
  3. Virtual health: Delivering care through technology
  4. How Mobile Micro-Health Insurance can unlock ‘Digital for Bharat’?
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