A notable turning point in the history of the medical fraternity took place last month when the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) issued guidelines for teleconsultation.
As per the guidelines, registered medical professionals can now prescribe medicines remotely via teleconsultation post verification of the patient’s medical conditions and other relevant information.
What is teleconsultation? The delivery of healthcare services by health care professionals using technological platforms such as video, audio, and texts for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases, however, restricted the use of AI or machine learning to prescribe medicines.
Healthcare firms, like Practo, an independent medical website, were right on the ball launching health plans starting at Rs 399 per month to offer online doctors consultations post the announcement. Simultaneously with the online consultations, the union health ministry further confirmed the delivery of pharmaceuticals at doorsteps through e-commerce in march. Currently, we have Pharmeasy, myUpchar, 1mg, Medlife, and Netmeds among the major online pharmacies running in India.
India is the 3rd largest pharmaceutical industry in the world by volume, and we currently have 3000 pharma companies in our country. Sun Pharmaceuticals and DR Reddy’s Laboratory are amongst the top 10 pharma companies in India. Nevertheless, COVID-19 has unveiled some vulnerable areas of the industry and pharma retailers faced a large disruption of the supply of medicines during the outbreak.
The primary reason behind the disruption was the dependency of the chemical sector of the Indian market, worth $163 billion to depend on China for antibiotic APIs such as penicillin, cephalosporins, and macrolides. To make matters worse, the acute shortage of delivery personnel with companies operating at 50% operational capacity added the fuel. In such circumstances, a technologically-enabled firm like Uber came forward to join up with MetLife to use their existing supply chain to deliver over the counter medicines across five cities.
The outbreak has shown the world the significance of technological advancement and collaboration required to meet the demand and streamline the pharma supply chain.
Meeting the market does not only mean the manufacture of adequate quantity but also the appropriate management of inventory and distribution. An advanced algorithm designed applying artificial intelligence can resolve such difficulties. Loosening of the regulations in the field of healthcare has opened the door for lots of innovations. It is the perfect time for digital platforms to enter into the industry and, at the same time, industry to adapt to these new digital platforms for a better healthcare system. After all, it is better to be prepared than to suffer once again.