India saw a record 30x spike in online doctor consultations for COVID-related symptoms

The second wave and the subsequent lockdown saw more people opting for telemedicine as a primary mode of seeking medical care

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New Delhi: India saw record numbers of positive cases and deaths during the devastating second wave of COVID-19. Shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supply pointed towards an overwhelmed healthcare system that was in need of services that will help expand the efficiency of the existing infrastructure. At this point, telemedicine came in handy, connecting patients with doctors remotely and enabling care, while reducing the burden on hospitals and clinics.
A report by Practo, India’s leading integrated healthcare company, states that Indians consulted doctors 10x more times during the second wave (April-May 2021), as compared to pre-COVID (January-February 2020).
More than 50% of all online consultations were for Pulmonology and General Physician for queries related to Coronavirus and seasonal flu. Other key specialities that were consulted during the period included Gynecology (10%), Dermatology (8%), Pediatrics (5%).
In this report, Practo draws a comparison between the use of telemedicine during the peaks in the first wave and the second wave of the pandemic. These insights into telemedicine usage patterns could be helpful as healthcare providers and officials make critical decisions to combat COVID-19.
Demand for general physicians (GPs) and pulmonologists is at an all-time high…
  • While online consultations for these specialties grew by 30x between April and May 2021, it stood at 6x during the last peak
… with young Indians accounting for 50% of all queries
  • Users aged 21-30 years comprised 50% of overall online consultations, followed by those between 31 and 40 (22%) and senior citizens (13%).
Whether for themselves or their loved ones, side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine was among top-consulted queries
  • This also included doubts about the COVID-19 vaccines itself and its accompanying side effects like common cold, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and body ache
There was also a 2x increase in late-night consultations
  • Around 30% consultations were recorded between 11 pm to 6 am during the April-May 2021 period. Moreover, compared to the last peak, doctors have been doing 3x more consultations during this wave
10% increase in online consultations among women as compared with the first wave
  • 35% of all consultations were made by women. This is higher than the number of women consulting during the last peak, when 25% of all COVID-related consultations were initiated by women
Metros witnessed a 9x growth in Coronavirus-related consultations…
  • Metro cities including Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, and Mumbai accounted for 46% of all Coronavirus-related consultations
  • online consultations in non-metros grew by 12x
  • Non-metro cities accounted for 53% of all consultations pertaining to the pandemic during the second wave, maintaining a stable increase from the first wave. Here, cities like Jaipur, Lucknow, Bhopal, Kanpur, and Chandigarh led with maximum number of consultations
Dr Alexander Kuruvilla, Chief Healthcare Strategy Officer, Practo, said, “Online consultations have been on a steady rise since the start of COVID-19 pandemic and the demand persists even after the second wave has passed. As the possibility of a third wave looms over, it becomes even more important to make quality healthcare accessible to people when they need it. Practo stands committed to its mission of helping patients access quality care, 24*7. And it is with the continued support of doctors and other healthcare partners that we have been able to deliver on that mission consistently.”
Dr CMA Belliappa, Consultant Medical Director at Practo, and a General Physician with three decades of experience, said, “Telemedicine has multiple applications, and it can be extremely helpful in a pandemic situation like this. It uses high-definition transmission and clarity to provide rapid, accurate, and real-time consultation with experts. Healthcare professionals can evaluate, diagnose, and even treat in a seamless virtual environment. At a time when hospitals and care delivery units are overwhelmed by the rising number of positive cases, telemedicine can serve as an efficient and effective alternative, saving lives and critical resources like hospital beds.”
The insights report highlights important ailments and consultation related trends in the country.  The information is aggregated, anonymized, and analyzed at scale. We hope these findings better equip our healthcare providers to understand disease patterns and address them effectively and help others become aware of their options when looking to address their healthcare needs.