Study on 80 cities doctors reveals major shift towards Telemedicine

SMSRC-Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management study sheds light on the exact nature of telemedicine used in patient assessment by the physicians. Specifically, over 86% indicated they used their cellular audio calls for the purpose and about 62% indicated they used social media apps.

New Delhi: SMSRC, one of India’s leading healthcare research organizations, along with globally reputed US-based Krannert School of Management, Purdue University has conducted a first of its kind study among Indian physicians to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their practice. The study reveals a significant shift from physical clinic visits to telemedicine due to various factors.
The study was conducted during June-July 2020 on a statistically significant and representative sample of 2116 physicians, across all key specialties in 80+ cities and towns of India.
Examining physicians who completely or partially transitioned to Telemedicine from Physical Practice, the study highlights several statistically significant findings:
A higher proportion of younger Drs (50% of the younger doctors) moved to telemedicine as compared to their older counterparts (44% of older doctors); Similarly, more female Drs moved to telemedicine (58%) vs their male counterparts (44%); More-Metro physicians moved to telemedicine (52%) vs their non-metro counterparts (44%).
Further, while female doctors regardless of age and location had a high propensity to move to telemedicine, not all men stayed with physical practice with equal propensity. Younger male doctors and metro male doctor cohorts exhibited a higher shift towards telemedicine than their respective counter cohorts.
Dr Wreetabrata Kar, Assistant Professor at Krannert School of Management, Purdue University, said that “a greater proportion of female physicians moving toward telemedicine could be explained by greater risk aversion and predisposition to conservative decision making as opposed to their male counterparts. Further, the nation-wide lockdown, across an extended period of time, and consequently absence of any domestic help, could have also relegated much of the domestic chores to females more so than to males, thereby restricting the former to adopting telemedicine in greater propensity.”
The trend of younger physicians adopting telemedicine, more so than older physicians, could have manifested from older physicians exhibiting greater status quo bias, a cognitive bias where people are resistant to change and want to continue in the current way of doing things. Therefore, the younger physicians are more adaptive to new approaches and methodologies and thus their adoption of telemedicine in greater proportion is reasonable. Likewise, metropolitan physicians moving to telemedicine more so than their non-metropolitan peers, could have stemmed from the former having greater familiarity and access to technology, and thus having more ease in adopting a new assessment mode.
The study also sheds light on the exact nature of telemedicine used in patient assessment by the physicians.  Specifically, over 86% indicated they used their cellular audio calls for the purpose and about 62% indicated they used WhatsApp / Facebook or similar social media apps. By comparison, only about 11% indicated a move to practice management software (PMS).
The below chart shows the exact nature of telemedicine used in patient assessment by Indian Physicians.
While more female physicians gravitated towards telemedicine, when it came to PMS adoption, a higher percentage of male physicians moved to PMS compared to female physicians.  This trend points to the relative risk aversion, and greater caution exercised by female physicians in quickly adapting to new but safer technology.
Speaking on this study, Aneesh Mitra, General Manager at SMSRC, said that “As mobile calls and popular general chat applications constitute of the dominant share of telemedicine during COVID-19, the hype around a “new normal” or early COVID-19 lockdown expectations of a tectonic shift towards telemedicine could be a bit pre-conceived. Especially when compared to other fast-growing spaces in the healthcare an ecosystem such as e-pharmacy where the shift appears to be more permanent in nature.”
Mitra further adds, “That a similar status quo bias is seen across all types of physicians, when we are looking more specifically at the adoption of PMS based Telemedicine practice. Despite the various benefits of PMS based telemedicine platforms for physicians, coupled with COVID-19 social distancing measures, the lower than expected adoption of such platforms suggests that there is a need for developing easy and time-saving applications for physicians, keeping in mind the higher patient-doctor ratio in India. In parallel, initiatives such as National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) would also prove to be a stimulus in driving higher adoption towards specific telemedicine-based applications.”
The study also had the following distinguished contributing authors namely, reputed and highly published Professor Sugato Chakravarty (Krannert School of Management, Purdue University), leading pharmaceutical management consultant Dr. Sanjoy Mitra (MD & Founder at SMSRC), senior practicing the US based oncologist Dr.Ajita Narayan, and statistician Shobhika Arukia (SMSRC).