India is responsible for 15% of the total users that utilize WhatsApp. The actual number is close to 200 million people. When one thinks “WhatsApp”, one invariably thinks “keep in touch with friends”. Let’s cut that short to “Stay in touch”. What’s the difference? Recently, the Delhi Police launched a WhatsApp helpline number and received over 23,000 messages in a matter of months. The Gujarat State Road Transport has a WhatsApp helpline. Online merchandise stores contribute a large chunk of their sales to WhatsApp. Bewakoof, a popular youth-fuelled e-brand contributes over 15% of their sales to WhatsApp activities. With the digital revolution insinuating its way through the country, nowadays when we see taxi-drivers, local shopkeepers and even street food vendors using these mobile messaging apps, it comes as no surprise to us. Everyone is using WhatsApp to market themselves and even using it to provide quick solutions and updates – like your computer engineer, the delivery boy bringing you your midnight snack and even your doctor. One by one the 35 million small and medium sized business in India are starting to adapt these text communication tools.
The Facebook-owned app also launched ‘WhatsApp-Web’ which lets you use WhatsApp through computers and laptops. Basically, there is now a safe and secure way to be connected through WhatsApp at any given point of time. And like everyone else, doctors are jumping on this phenomenon, too. Nowadays, doctors use WhatsApp in order to reach out to patients, provide guidance or counselling, and create close-knit support communities. In Bengaluru, at Narayan Healthcity, there is an experimental E-OPD where they’ve concluded WhatsApp to be the best alternative between WhatsApp, Emails, Skype, Facebook and Viber. There are now about 500 people at Narayan Healthcity who are being consulted through WhatsApp. “Bringing the internet” to your phone is no longer a time-consuming, tedious or expensive task and that has given rise to this new tangent in the world of healthcare.
Since convenience and prompt information is what people seek (no, googling symptoms isn’t counted as a definitive solution) here’s a few reasons on how WhatsApp could disrupt the healthcare industry
- Safe and Secure – WhatsApp introduced the end-to-end encryption facility (that little yellow box at the start of a chat with tech-gibberish you always avoid). This makes it extremely difficult for anyone other than the participants of a conversation to gain access to that particular conversation. In fact, Katie Kenney (a health data attorney) even went to the extent of calling it “one of the best safeguards in its space”
- Accessibility – After WhatsApp web, there’s no denying that the app is everywhere. And since we’re all using it so much, there’s a spill of its usage in everybody’s professional life. Professionals from all streams are already using it and now it’s getting easier and easier to apply to individual fields. WhatsApp was also integral in tracking the Zika Virus outbreak.
- Instant Access – Doctors can now easily solve queries, provide basic consultations and maintain a patient’s overall well-being over WhatsApp. This will help free up time otherwise taken by patients booking appointments simply to ask for advice or to check in.
- Cost Efficient (A.k.a – FREE) – As we already know, WhatsApp is free (for now and probably forever!) to download and does not charge users for access to any of its service. This could be a very appealing incentive to hospital administrators looking for a secure and easy mode of communication, expediting the adoption of the app within healthcare
Messaging apps such as WhatsApp have evolved beyond simple text communication tools to encompass commerce, file sharing, and a “WhatsApp for Business” is officially being worked on and about to be tested in India. With the rate at which things are going, who knows, maybe a WhatsApp messenger for healthcare could be the next step in its quest to diversify (and monetize!). Nonetheless, it goes without saying that potentially, WhatsApp could disrupt the healthcare industry.