Rocket Health: Learnings from our COVID pilot
A look at the insights from our COVID pilot that helped us understand the need of a patient centric future of healthcare in India
In April 2021, India was hit by an unexpected COVID second wave. Cases were rising at an alarming rate, and the burden on the healthcare system increased.
Coming from a family of doctors and being a doctor myself, I had a first-hand experience of the grim situation. Our hospital saw a significant rise in COVID positive cases. My doctor parents and I would receive numerous calls from patients and our acquaintances for all sorts of health-related questions. The strain on the healthcare system was evident. We wanted to extend help to more people across the country.
People who were not related to doctors had a difficult time consulting with one. As a result, they were falling victim to misinformation that was spreading on social media. I knew we had to act fast to ease the burden on hospitals and provide accessible COVID solutions. So, on April 28th, my brother Abhineet and I launched a tele-consultation platform named Rocket Health. We leveraged no-code tools and developed a prototype overnight. Our digital platform enabled patients to seek COVID consultations and advice. People could fill in their details on our website, and our doctor would contact them within minutes.
(As of May 21st, we are no longer live)
We had no idea where we were going or what would be the future of this initiative. However, soon after the launch, we received enormous support from the media, influencers, and our patients.
While the times were uncertain, we are grateful that people were willing to lend a helping hand and ready to work day and night. Likewise, we are thankful to all the doctors who volunteered to join Rocket Health to fight against COVID. They did a great job to ensure that every patient felt satisfied with the care they received.
We feel immensely proud that in just 3 weeks our network of 120 doctors facilitated more than 3000 digital visits for patients across India.
Rocket Health was able to contribute to India’s fight with COVID by helping :
- Unburdening the system — Through tele-consultation, doctors at Rocket Health consulted patients with mild to moderate symptoms virtually, reducing their need for in-person care. This enabled the frontliners to focus more on urgent care. 88% of Rocket Health’s patients were taken care of virtually. As a result, only 12% of our patients required hospital visits.
- Increasing accessibility — People with mild symptoms were apprehensive about going to hospitals due to overcrowding. That is when Rocket Health came to their rescue. People from all across the country, including metros, tier 3 cities, and remote villages, approached us for consultations. We were amazed to see a merchant navy official (currently in international waters in Mexico) seeking our help. Our services only needed a smartphone and the will to seek help.
- Providing on-demand care — Throughout the day, doctors at Rocket Health connected with the patients within minutes after them seeking consultation.
- Easing anxiety — With the rise in COVID cases, anxiety was also on the rise. People were suffering from trauma and the loss of their loved ones. Some people were worried that they might succumb to COVID even though they showed no symptoms. We remember consulting a patient suffering from panic attacks who even got a self-referred HR-CT scan done without any symptoms. Our doctors were able to address these issues and provide guidance.
- Decrease self-medication — Most of our patients were self-medicating themselves. Many were consuming steroids without proper guidance from a certified physician. We warned them about the harmful effects of consuming these drugs without medical guidance.
- Increase vaccine awareness — We encouraged people to get vaccinated after recovery, shedding misconceptions about the same. We even partnered with an NGO to consult patients from urban slums for vaccination and awareness.
- Uprooting misinformation and misdiagnosis — Patients in northern India were often seen to be misdiagnosed with typhoid (false typhoid seropositivity has been noticed in COVID-positive patients). We were able to correctly diagnose many such patients who, in turn, tested COVID positive and started urgent treatment for the same.
- Accelerating early diagnosis and preventing transmission — Our virtual care platform acted as a buffer between a patient and a physical care platform. Doctors at Rocket Health were able to guide patients at an early stage about the importance of isolation, testing, and treatment to halt the spread and severity of the disease.
- Educating patients about the urgent signs and symptoms — Many patients were unaware that oxygen saturation of less than 92% requires urgent hospitalisation. Our doctors paid particular attention to inform patients about this in every consultation. We have also assisted many patients in recognising signs requiring urgent hospitalisation.
We conducted a survey amongst our patient cohort asking them questions about their experience with virtual care.
Here are some of our insights:
The fact that 97% of our patients were new to virtual care and indicated that they would continue using tele-health for their daily healthcare needs shows that digital health is still an emerging category in India’s growth story. While we do have existing health-tech platforms but clearly they are not enough.
More so, most of them are transactional in nature, focusing more on selling products to consumers than providing care. Some of the incumbents require patients to search for doctors akin to doctor shopping (almost how one chooses restaurants based on reviews), a legacy user experience that is not built for the next decade and a broken flow between tele-health and pharmacy.
This presents an opportunity for new gen digital health 2.0 startups to provide a human-first, judgement-free healthcare platform that provides care and not just a prescription.
Almost 30% of our patients showed symptoms of depression, insomnia and anxiety. Many of them urged us to provide mental and primary healthcare.
What was surprising to note is that through this pandemic, we learnt that 65% of hospital visits in India involve healthcare that can be done at home. Once you know that you do not need to travel for an hour for a 10-minute consultation, there’s no turning back.
During this second wave, millions of Indians resorted to digital healthcare. There has been a massive cultural shift in how digital health is now seen as the first touchpoint in care delivery. India saw a rise of more than 500% in virtual consultations during the first wave in 2020. As of now, we don’t have data for 2021, but it is safe to predict that the rise in digital health after the second wave has been multi-fold over the last one.
Through this pilot, we realised the impact a digital health platform would have in empowering the next decade of patients and doctors across India at an even larger scale. We are working towards assembling the best doctors, healthcare advisors and engineers to build the future of healthcare more patient-centric, seamless and accessible to all. In case, you’d like to say hi and know more, I’m on Twitter @docritsin