​Bringing Digitalisation to Rural India through Telemedicine

In a recent dialogue between Mukesh Ambani and Satya Nadella, the former stated that India

Trump visited was different from the India Barak Obama visited. The critical difference was that

Trump saw an India that was digitally as vibrant as any other part of the world. The words of Mr

Ambani ring true. Before the introduction of Reliance Jio, data in India was beyond the reach of

average consumers. Its availability was also restricted mostly to urban centres.

Today data in India is abundant and cheap. It is the backbone of a host of dynamic companies whose

business models depend on the availability of affordable, fast and plentiful data in virtually every

corner of the country.

Infrastructure Woes in Rural India

Urban India is home to swanky malls, shopping arcades, glass buildings, and slick highways and

tunnels. Rural India lacks all of this. Until recently, life in rural India was similar to how it had been

decades ago. Residents of most Indian villages did the same things their forefathers did.

Digitalisation, however, has brought disruption to rural India. The power of digital services is

immense and coupled with inexpensive communication; a host of digital services are taking off in

rural India. In short, the lack of physical infrastructure is no longer a barrier to delivering world-class

services in rural parts of the country. A world-class service gaining popularity in rural India is


Digital Rural India

In rural India- where the majority of Indians still live- data has become cheap and plentiful. Residents

of small towns and villages enjoy access to the same platforms and services those living in metros

enjoy. Residents of rural areas also have access to telemedicine- a digital service which residents of

urban cities often can’t access.

In rural parts, where healthcare is shoddy, exceptional healthcare via telemedicine has arrived. And

by bringing quality healthcare, telemedicine providers are digitalising rural India by disseminating

digital services.

Parts of the country that less than five years ago had a reduced digital footprint have become

connected to the rest of the world. They are availing services undreamt of less than half a decade

ago. Because of telemedicine, Indians in rural areas are becoming acclimatised to digitalisation.

Slowly but surely, digital services are becoming accepted by Indians in rural areas, even by the

elderly who felt intimated by technology.

Advantages of Telemedicine

The best hospitals in India are located in a handful of large urban centres. The quality of healthcare

in such centres is world-class. Yet, a majority of Indians were denied access to it because they live in

remote regions. For residents of small towns and villages, travelling to a large urban centre for a

medical evaluation and treatment is prohibitively expensive.

Because of advances in technology, particularly fast and inexpensive data, residents of small towns

and villages, have the opportunity to be examined by physicians who practice in the most renowned

hospitals in the country. Villagers visit a telemedicine clinic where they are examined by a specialist.

The specialist sees patients over a computer screen and talks to them as well. Patients reveal their

symptoms and after paying due consideration, the physician delivers a prognosis.

Residents of rural areas are saved the trouble of having to travel to a large urban centre for a

diagnosis. The advantages of being examined by a specialist in a nearby town are many. Patients

who visit telemedicine clinics will receive an accurate diagnosis because they are under the care of a

leading specialist. If such patients were to visit a local clinic, there would be a substantial likelihood

of misdiagnosis. A simple reason for the possibility of misdiagnosis in rural areas is that many

doctors practising there have spurious qualifications. Many are quacks who are more likely to cause

harm than do good.

Telemedicine is Affordable

Another advantage of telemedicine is it is costs less than treatment in regular clinics. Patients who

come for treatment to telemedicine clinics not only enjoy superior care, they also pay considerably

less for the same. For instance, an average OPD in a telemedicine clinic costs an average of INR 600

while an OPD in a traditional clinic costs nearly twice as much. Hence price-sensitive rural residents

doubly benefit by seeking treatment in telemedicine clinics.

Digitalisation is making considerable inroads in rural areas. Young people in rural areas

enthusiastically adopt digital technologies because they see tremendous value in them. Also,

youngsters are adaptable and rapidly become accustomed to using new technologies. Those who are

middle-aged and elderly are becoming more interested in digital technologies because they interact

with them many times during the day. When they visit a telemedicine clinic, they see firsthand the

miracle of digital technologies. When patients are expertly diagnosed and treated- their faith in

telemedicine and digital technology increased.