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bne IntelliNews – NEO: Russia’s obsession with convenience shakes the healthcare system

At a recent round-table event, Digital Toolkits for Medical Projects, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development announced that it is considering legislative measures to facilitate the testing of new technologies in healthcare. “This experimental telemedicine and prescription regime will increase the availability of consultations for patients and increase the speed of medical care without the need to see doctors in person,” said Vladislav Fedulov, emphasizing that this is particularly important during a pandemic.

The announcement comes as the growing demand for fast and convenient service has transformed the way Russian businesses operate, fueling an online relocation and craze for near-instant service. The latest sector to be disrupted by this trend is healthcare, where telemedicine and online ecosystems are increasingly dominating.

In Russia, the same impetus that took e-commerce to new heights, fueled a boom in food technology and delivery services, and even brought real estate online is revolutionizing healthcare too.

The convenience trend

As Russian consumers become increasingly used to getting services from the comfort of their own homes, industries have had to adapt to make their offerings as convenient as possible. Medicine is no exception.

SmartMed, the app from Russia’s largest private healthcare provider Medsi, has a completely digital customer path. Almost everything that patients can do in a clinic can also be done online: from selecting the preferred clinic and doctor (more than 850 to choose from) to saving their medical history, the results of their medical examinations and their prescriptions on the app. Customers can also get QR codes for picking up medicines at the pharmacy, get online advice or even call doctors to their homes. Since its launch in 2018, the app has collected more than 1 million downloads.

Medsi sees the demand for this type of comfort growing exponentially. The growth in active users of his app in 2021 was 225% compared to the previous year. And while in 2020 only 20% of patients registered for personal appointments via the SmartMed app, more than 50% did so in 2021. EMC has seen the same increase in use, with the number of telemedicine appointments increasing by 860% since the pandemic began.

Accurate medical information is in great demand these days. Customers want a trusted provider rather than sifting through endless Google search results with varying degrees of credibility.

The insurance company Renaissance Insurance has taken this into account and taken the idea of ​​a fully digital offering to the extreme. She developed an e-health ecosystem in which customers can find health insurance as well as verified health information in the form of podcasts and articles as well as video appointments and prescription deliveries by courier. Digitization pervades the entire value chain of Renaissance Insurance, including the medtech startup Budu, which was founded with the aim of capitalizing on Russia’s growing segment of digital health services.

Ahead of the (infection) curve

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, more and more people are turning to preventive health solutions (in addition to curative ones) to help curb the spread of disease. Online health platforms allow users to regularly monitor their condition instead of waiting until they have identifiable symptoms before seeking help.

The European Medical Center (EMC), one of the largest private healthcare providers in Russia, developed the idea of ​​“360˚ health” at the end of 2019. Since then, it has created an online platform that guides patients every step of the way of a long, active, and healthy life.

While online consultations play a huge role, doctors can’t do it all with just a phone camera. Instead, EMC decided to build a “multi-platform digital hospital” where everything from diagnosis and advice to drug delivery and follow-up treatment could be managed online.

EMC’s new website enables users to conduct medical exams online with remote diagnostic systems such as TytoCare under the supervision of a healthcare professional. By reading a variety of statistics such as blood oxygen levels, body temperature, and heart rate, patients can identify or monitor chronic illnesses faster.

EMC also uses Zebramed technology, which enables medical visualization of computer vision to identify problems early on. The system also automatically determines the tasks of doctors after anomalies are detected on scans. Since a doctor is responsible for every patient, there is a central point of contact and decision-makers, which further accelerates the process.

Future development

For consumers and investors alike, the question arises as to where the trend towards accessible medical care will lead the industry next. The secret to success will likely be to optimize the customer experience and incorporate new dynamic technologies into existing platforms.

In part, this means collecting large amounts of customer feedback. In addition to e-mail questionnaires and personal account feedback functionality on its app and website, EMC also enables direct feedback to its CEO via the company website.

Another likely development direction will be the integration of big data solutions. EMC is working on a predictive system that can use big data and AI to make medical decisions, and that has the potential to digitize up to 60% of medical records. Medsi is also working with partners to develop the use of AI for health services.

Regulations can make the development of anything digital a lot easier. It is therefore good news for the health sector that the Russian Ministry of Economic Development is working on a regime to relax legislation surrounding the development and testing of new technologies, with the aim of making Russia’s medtech solutions as competitive as possible in developed markets close. As the digital revolution spreads to emerging economies, Russia’s healthcare sector is expected to receive a welcome dose of innovation.

This article first appeared in the New Economy Observer (NEO), a digital publication that deals with the interface between finance and social responsibility with a special focus on emerging markets. It provides news and analysis on key topics shaping the new world economy, including climate change and renewable energy, sustainable development, e-commerce and technical innovation, and the future of work.

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