March 3, 2017    3 minute read

How EHealth Is Revolutionising Healthcare In Emerging Markets

Dr Uber

How EHealth Is Revolutionising Healthcare In Emerging Markets

Emerging markets have often struggled with proper education and information, especially as regards basic healthcare knowledge for the main part of the population. Eyeing that gap, Google has made a big move on its Indian site: it added health information on its Knowledge Graph – Google’s semantic search base, which it uses to supplement organic search results with summarised information.

This means that next time someone in India uses Google to search common health conditions, it will show information cards (illustrated with pictures) with typical symptoms, as well as details on how common the condition is, whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, and what ages it affects. Google said that it will serve ‘lite’ versions of the cards if a user is on a limited internet connection, as mobile connections in India can be slow and intermittent.

According to this TechCrunch article, Google’s move came as response to the boom of startups dedicated to democratising healthcare in India, appearing in a very fast pace. One of them is Lybrate, a New Delhi-based startup aimed to increase access to doctors and quality healthcare information – it’s a certainly a giant mission on a billion-plus country population.

Lybrate is web-based and has an app service where users can ask questions to doctor online (they also can choose to do so anonymously), as well as search doctor and surgeries near them and make and manage appointments. Lybrate makes money by charging an “internet handling fee” when the user enters a one-on-one chat with a doctor. The app can handle several kinds of communications where the user can share photos and videos too.

eHealth Startups Are ‘Uberfying’ Doctor Visits

In Brazil, eHealth start-ups Docway, Beep Health and Dr Vem! are connecting Patients and Doctors visits requests through an app and the web. These apps work on the same principle whereby potential clients can browse available doctors nearby. Doctor have to be registered with the app – the only difference from Uber-type apps is that the doctors decide their own consultation rates. The apps also allow the users to browse doctor’s resumes before making a decision to book an appointment. Most users of this Uber-style medicine are parents looking for paediatricians, followed by elderly people with limited mobility.

The apps also provide an additional source of income for doctors – they can accommodate as much or as little appointment according to their availability through the app. So far, DocWay has 1,700 registered doctors, Beep Health has 750, and Dr Vem! has 140.

And There is Big Data

Needless to say, the lack of official data is one of the main problems. Healthcare professionals have to be creative when trying to find data.

As people in emerging markets are largely ‘unbanked’, most transactions are made in cash. Transactions at pharmacies and hospitals can go undocumented for either lack of infrastructure or simply to avoid taxes being charged. This is where Big Data comes in handy.

For instance, smartphones are the primary way to browse the internet in emerging economies and can be an excellent tool for data collection. In addition, social media and search engine activity can give provide an indication of people’s health.

Singapore-based consultancy mClinica is one good example of using Big Data to help healthcare companies and professionals.  It has patterned with pharmacies and clinics in emerging markets to gather data on medicine sales. The consultancy also monitors physician prescribing habits team that with patient demographics. mClinica is present in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia—four countries with growing healthcare markets but still somewhat underdeveloped infrastructure.

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