Ms Shipra Dawar is the founder and chief executive officer of ePsyClinic.com, India's first online mental health consultation clinic.
Q: How can increased utilization of telehealth tools transform healthcare affordability in India?
India is a huge country both in terms of size and population. Reasons that contribute to both increased costs and delivery are healthcare infrastructure costs, very busy urban life, increased commuting time in metropolitans for both Providers and clients, limited time of availability of providers to say a few.
Availability of Physicians is seven per 10,000 of population (in 2013, source: who.org) compared to 30 plus per 10,000 in developed nations. Mental healthcare providers' situation is more than worst in terms of availability. There were 3 Psychiatrists per 10 lakh population and around five Psychologists per 1 crore population in 2011 (source: Mental Health Atlas 2011 - Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization). This makes the availability of professionals limited to the most demanding and high paying locations, leaving the rest of the locations un-served. With more than 50 percent of the population still dwelling in villages, there is an acute shortage of basic healthcare and Mental Healthcare services and facilities.
Q: How can it play a role in healthcare delivery?
Telehealth tools bridge the big gap of unavailability of these services at locations that are un-served or under-served, along with providing the urban population solution against time-crunch and commuting, and in mental healthcare vicinity beating the stigma and hesitation to take the first step. Telehealth tools also help in educating people and taking self motivated steps towards solutions as well as helping others. Through telehealth tools global experts and professionals sitting in other countries can make their services available in India. Due to lesser investments in infrastructure and real estate and running expenses, the cost of delivery of tele-healthcare is much lesser and flexi-work conditions for providers reduces the cost of services for the end client as well, along with many self help resources and tools being available free of cost on the telehealth portals these days.