Much is made of the massive healthcare costs in the United States – a debate that continues to rage, even with the new reform bill being implemented.
But America isn’t the only country burdened by heavy healthcare costs.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Europe’s seeing an increase in healthcare spending across the board. It accounts for 11% of GDP in France and Germany and 10% in Belgium. Meanwhile, the Netherlands Bureau for Public Policy Analysis expects the country’s 1.25% economic growth to barely cover a quarter of its climbing healthcare costs (rising at a 4% rate per year).
As Neelie Kroes of the European Commission (EC) warns, “Our systems will collapse if we don’t make radical changes.”
So it’s just as well that the EC realized the benefits of telemedicine back in 2008. It said that “by the end of 2011, Member States should have assessed and adapted their national regulations enabling wider access to telemedicine services.”
Early results of the push are promising…
- A case study in Germany showed that expanding telemedicine applications cuts annual costs per patient by 36.7%.
- And at Europe’s annual eHealth Week in May, 75 of the attending firms plan to show off telemedicine technology.
However, while Europe is depending on telemedicine to cut costs, countries like India need the technology to just survive…
The Potential to Save One Million Lives Every Year
As I mentioned Tuesday, 25% of the U.S. population has difficulty finding a doctor because of where they live.
But in India, that number jumps to 70%. More than a million people die in India each year, due to lack of adequate healthcare.
So it’s no wonder the Center for Health Market Innovations says, “The next generation telemedicine model is proliferating rapidly in India.”
And behind much of that growth is Apollo Hospitals.
In August 2007, Apollo’s Telemedicine Networking Foundation launched a pilot program aimed at expanding the use of the technology throughout India. In partnership with equipment maker Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC), the foundation initially launched telemedicine services in 33 locations in rural India. Today, it runs 103 telemedicine centers and has conducted around 69,000 telemedicine consultations.
And on April 7, it announced a new venture that could launch telemedicine’s proliferation into warp speed. Basically, the foundation plans to deploy 1,000 telemedicine centers over the next 1,000 days. And each one is capable of performing 1,000 consultations a day.
That’s a pretty daunting task, for sure. But even if each of the 1,000 centers only sees three patients a day, that would more than cover the one million deaths every year, due to lack of adequate healthcare.
A Market of 3.4 Billion People
Professor K. Ganapathy, President of the foundation and President-elect of the Telemedicine Society of India, credits the successful launch of the new program to the group’s previous success with Ericsson. And while the exact details of this new partnership are still being finalized, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apollo signs with the company again.
Keep in mind that with 3G network capabilities finally rolling out in India, Apollo expects a major boost in telemedicine services in the coming months. As Ganapathy says, “It’s a huge market and we’ve tapped only some .001% of the total potential.”
Speaking of market potential, there are 3.4 billion people living in rural areas across the world. So if Apollo’s project succeeds, it’s bound to turn some heads and – as a result – send more cash flowing into this burgeoning market.