By 2017, 1.33bn of India’s population was already being served by only around 1.8 Million registered medical graduates which included both modern medicine and traditional Indian systems of medicine (viz. Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Yoga). This means a doctor-patient ratio of 1.34 doctors per 1000 Indian citizens as per an estimate in an article written by Raman Kumar and Ranbir Pal in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care ( https://bit.ly/3Hgrhr4 )
What the above means is that in a diverse country like India, doctors have been very sought-after professionals cutting across regions and states. While overall the doctor-patient ratio is low, the gap is more prominent in the rural areas than urban and metro dwellings. Due to the low doctor-patient ratio, it is the patient that traditionally sought out the doctor and not the other way round. Hence doctors never considered making it easier for patients to reach them or seek their services. Because there was no need to.
However, this is all going to change. Already doctors are keen on increasing or expanding ways to facilitate patients in seeking out their services. Every doctor wanting to boost patient engagement and increase conversions needs to understand what is prompting this change in approach?
According to the same article mentioned above, by 2024, modern medicine will have approximately 1.5 Million practitioners. So even after factoring in the population growth, the doctor-patient ratio will improve. This means that more doctors will be available per 1000 patients and they will need to think out ways to attract more patients.
Covid-19 has changed the fundamentals of contact, in no unequal measure. Since Sep 2019 there has been an increase of over 340% in the number of virtual consultations. Patients and doctors alike are seeking out ways to consult safely and still be able to have control over the health journey for desired patient outcomes.
With the internet and its burgeoning applications, patient behavior has also undergone a sea change in recent years, and in large pockets, healthcare is now increasingly considered a service akin to other consumer services. That is why patients are seeking the same ease of availing healthcare services as they do other consumer services and tech is finding its optimal way in the healthcare domain as a result.
What should a doctor do in this situation? Patients are busy and doctors are even more pressed for time and traditional means of communication like phone calls do not work anymore. In what ways the doctor can expand ways so more patients seek out her services?
- Having an online presence: Patients tend to search for doctors online and those doctors who have built a robust online presence including having their own website will appear in more searches and are likely to be the patient’s choice. icareheal doctor’s app enables doctors to create their own dynamic website in very easy steps.
- Online scheduling: Enabling patients to book schedules online empowers them to book consultations themselves without any intervention and delay and goes a long way in patient empowerment and hence conversion. icareheal gives its doctors a dynamic calendar on their website as well as on the patient application and eases bookings.
- Offer online consultations: As patients get accustomed to virtual consultations and find that they are indeed beneficial, offering virtual consultations addresses the need of a fairly large segment of patients, esp. in pandemic situations or where a patient has to otherwise travel a long distance. icareheal understands this and its application has a video/call facility inbuilt to enable seamless consultations.
4. Text Messages: Reach out to your patients via text messaging which they can read on the go. This helps them to keep track of their healthcare needs and manage their busy schedules simultaneously.
5. Phone Calls: Have your phone number circulated and available on your website. This is for those patients who still prefer to reach out through traditional means. Doctors would do well not to lose out on them as well.
Finally, with all the communication tools you have enabled your patients with, it’s equally or more important to have a clearly communicated response time and adherence to the same to manage patient expectations better.