Practo, the posterboy of digital healthcare started off as a listing platform for doctors and helped patients discover the clinics nearby offering services one was looking for. Over years Practo has transformed into this giant evil which undermines the delicate doctor patient relationship.
In its initial years, Practo approached all doctors across the nation with the proposal that it wanted to be a directory for healthcare services and help patients search the doctor or service they were looking for. They on-boarded doctors free of cost on their website and as a revenue model started selling their EMR ( Electronic medical record) Management software Practo Ray at monthly subscription fees. Initially, there was resistance to accept digital data management by doctors and very few of them took up the software. Over years, though the EMR software usage has increased for booking appointment, maintaining patient record and billing, the number of subscriptions never picked up significantly and Practo revenue continued to be in red. Then Practo started its course on unethical practices.
Initially it started with auctioning various locations in city for top three slot and costs ranged from 45-60k every 6 months. They started pinning doctors against each other and created competition when none existed. Neither doctor’s qualification nor skills and experience mattered anymore. The person paying the highest amount appeared in all search queries. To substantiate the order in search results, the years of experience was manipulated, the reviews and feedback were faked. In fact, only people using Practo ray have higher feedback and no negative reviews were allowed to be published in their profile. Though Practo’s revenue increased, it couldn’t meet investors’ expectations.
Next practo moved on to online delivery of medicines, promoting diagnostic labs and hospitals. To succeed at this, they needed patient data for advertizing. Doctors were shocked to see that the patient data that they had maintained in EMR was being accessed by Practo to advertise facilities like discount on medicines, promotion of chain of clinics and corporate hospitals. If a patient booked an appointment for dental treatment with a particular doctor, within few hours the patient would get messages with offers from chains of dental clinics for free consultation. A person diagnosed diabetes and records maintained by doctor were now being misused by Practo to advertize online medicines. When Practo was confronted by doctors for misuse of data it blatantly said it had every right to use data the way it wants as people had installed the apps granting them permission. Though online sales of medicines and advertizing never picked up big, as there was lot of competition from other players, it had to come up with something new as the popularity of app had increased but Practo was not able to cash in on that.
Then came the masterplan of Practo Prime. It gave a tag to the subscribed doctors of offering prime facility of instant appointment with no or minimal waiting time. Though the charges were high, doctors were left with no choice but accept, as many of the people are searching in practo to book appointment and even on google searches Practo appears on top of the pages. Practo charges ₹300-400 for every single call made to clinic, a missed call , a booked appointment, a cancelled appointment all attract fees. So a doctor loses ₹800-1000 to Practo for every patient which may end up visiting the clinic. The consultation charges which used to be 300 shot up to ₹600-800. In fact, Doctors did approach Practo that the charges were high and more than consultation fees and the reply from executives is, increase your consultation and convert patient for procedures. This shows how callous they are towards patient care from facilitators in healthcare they have become tormentors who want to make money at expense of patient misery. Though doctors want to remain ethical Practo wants them to charge more and provide unnecessary treatment so that they can get a cut.
The final nail in the coffin, which has ticked off all doctors and now a lot of associations are planning to take action on Practo is the new “Ask the expert option.” It mentions as speak to the expert for free and they will guide you choose the hospital. When few doctors contacted Practo posing as patient they realized Practo is promoting only selected corporate hospitals for all services and giving wrong information about the disease and influencing patient decision. When Practo was confronted about this facility and who are these expert who guide patient, the reply was, it is a facility available to only select corporate clients. When we researched more about this we saw some random so called doctor was being promoted as expert for all diseases and was giving false information to patient and diverting them to visit few corporate hospitals. Basically they recommend anyone who are ready to pay them money. Practo over years has become nothing more than a middle man who wants to take a cut of everything and wants to increase the entire health care costs for its profits.
The internet is filled with marketing gimmicks from sponsored ads, offers to each one claiming as being the best doctor or clinic.
How to choose a good doctor
- Search for Doctors of a particular branch on Google for clinics and hospitals nearby.
- Pick a clinic nearby know about the doctor’s qualification MBBS, MD,MS, DM and Mch are recognized degrees in allopathy. Someone with Just fellowships in front of their name with no recognized degree are red flag signs.
- You have every right to ask for the qualification of doctor and even show certificates when asked. Few quacks may just put degrees but refuse to show certificates.
- A Doctor who sees 100 patients a day is a red flag sign. A good doctor would spend enough time listening and explaining you about your condition.
- A Good doctor advices you and allows you to make your choices not impose treatment upon you.
- A good doctor will give you a balanced advice and explain both the pros and cons of a treatment or surgery and give you freedom to make decision. Someone who uses fear tactics and forces you to choose a treatment is a red flag sign.
- A good doctor will encourage you to take second opinion of another doctor when you are in doubt.
- Talk to friends, relatives and previous patient about their experience with doctor and not blindly believe the reviews online.
Beware of digital platform like Practo who are nothing but middle men trying misguide people and harm your health.