Remember how many times you have put off visiting a doctor because you were short of time or did not want to stand in long queues to treat what many people might think is a "minor" problem? Or perhaps you tried self-medication, hoping that the problem would resolve itself? And often the reason was inconvenient access to medical care.
For many adult Ukrainians, their attitude to hospitals is formed in childhood, and it is not always positive. How do you find the right specialist? How do you find out their working and office hours? Do I even need to get an appointment slip and where? Where can I find the right medicine and not overpay?
But the good news is that negative memories are steadily fading away, as the medical system is not standing still, and the private sector is creating and developing many approaches to ensure convenient and quick access to medical services.
In particular, we are talking about online medical services in Ukraine. Ukraine has adopted the draft law "On amendments to certain legislative acts of Ukraine on the functioning of telemedicine". Why is it important to develop access to online medical services? How does it enrich the healthcare system and why is it important for Ukrainians? Let's find out.
Changes to the Ukrainian healthcare system
The Ukrainian healthcare system has changed significantly in recent years, driven by two global issues - Covid-19, which is now a thing of the past, and the full-scale war that, unfortunately, is still ongoing. The pandemic has affected the healthcare system in many ways, and we have faced a reduction in preventive and scheduled medical care, a shortage of doctors and an overload of the entire healthcare system.
The outbreak of hostilities throughout the country also revealed similar problems, when people needed urgent medical care, often without being able to visit a hospital.
All of this highlighted the weaknesses of the current healthcare structure, but also led to the digitalisation of the Ukrainian healthcare system and the rapid expansion of telemedicine services.
What is telemedicine? Telemedicine is a set of actions, technologies and measures used in the provision of medical care using remote communication tools to exchange information. A patient and a doctor can communicate during an online consultation via video, audio, or chat.
Today, telemedicine, including online consultations with doctors, has become a critical component of healthcare, and more and more people are choosing telemedicine services instead of avoiding visits to the doctor.
According to statistics from the online medical service DOC.ua, the demand for telemedicine consultations on the platform has been growing by 15-20% per month since the beginning of 2023. This growth rate is due to the fact that the market for online consultations with doctors is just emerging in Ukraine, and it is happening quite rapidly – more and more people are deciding to use the service, appreciating its benefits and convenience. In addition, 85% of service users who choose an online consultation with a doctor book the service for a specific date and time, rather than a consultation with a regular doctor (urgent consultation as soon as possible). In my opinion, this indicates that patients consciously choose telemedicine consultations at a time convenient for them, and there are few urgent visits to doctors.
Development of telemedicine in Ukraine and globally
Telemedicine has been developing rapidly in the world since 2000 due to active promotion by various governments and well-known multinational corporations (Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Apple, Meta, etc.). According to CB Insights, global investments in telemedicine exceeded USD 6 billion in 2021. According to Facts and Factors, the global telemedicine market is expected to grow from USD 85 billion to USD 342 billion by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.1%. This demonstrates the high interest of both medical professionals and patients in using telemedicine to receive medical care and consultations. The significant development of telemedicine also opens up new opportunities for attracting investment in the healthcare sector. Investors see this sector as a promising one, where innovations can lead to major changes and benefits for the whole society.
In Ukraine, a new stage in the development of telemedicine technologies is beginning, already at the legislative level, according to the Cabinet of Ministers's Resolution No. 625-r of 14 July 2023. This document introduced the telemedicine development strategy and operational plan for its implementation until 2025.
According to Health Minister Viktor Lyashko, about 4,000 mobile telemedicine and diagnostic systems have been delivered to healthcare facilities providing primary healthcare. Regional telemedicine centres have started operating in the regions, and teleconsultations in certain areas have been organised as part of emergency medical care.
Why do Ukrainians need online medical services?
The development of telemedicine is extremely important nowadays, and even more so for Ukrainians. It became a key way of providing medical services to Ukrainians during the war and remains relevant today.
What is the importance of telemedicine for Ukrainians? Here are just a few of the main benefits.
Access to medical services in any convenient place and at any time. Patients' access to medical services in some regions of the country remains limited due to the destruction of medical and transport infrastructure during the war.
It is also relevant for those who have been forced to move to another city and simply do not know where to get quick and high-quality advice and treatment recommendations. Or for Ukrainians who have moved abroad, where they face a language barrier, high cost of medical services and other problems, and want to get high-quality and convenient access to treatment with Ukrainian doctors. For doctors, this is also a great opportunity to continue their medical practice without being tied to a specific city or clinic.
Mental health support. Constant emotional stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights have had a significant impact on the psychological state of thousands of Ukrainians. Remote psychological help has become a necessity for many people during the war. Psychotherapists are actively involved in providing consultations online, which has become possible thanks to services such as DOC.ua.
If we look at the possibilities of online healthcare even more broadly, we will see the following among the convenient services that meet the current needs of patients, using the example of DOC.ua.
The ability to buy and receive medicines without leaving home. Sometimes a person needs a certain medication, but the circumstances of wartime are such that the necessary medicines may be unavailable in the nearest pharmacies, or a person may have difficulty moving around the city in search of medicines, or it may be simply dangerous, etc. So, the patient can find what they need online and order home delivery.
Thus, DOC.ua has created an online pharmacy where you can find medicines, compare prices from different sellers, choose the most convenient pharmacy by geolocation, pick up the goods or order home delivery by postal operators.
An electronic prescription. Often, people visit clinics and hospitals with the primary goal of obtaining a prescription for medicines for their illness, especially if it is chronic and requires the same drugs over a long period of time. The e-prescription service makes it possible to contact a doctor online and receive an electronic prescription for medicines without visiting the clinic.
Convenient appointment for tests and diagnostics. The patient can make an appointment for the necessary diagnostics after an online or face-to-face consultation with a doctor. DOC.ua has more than 650 laboratories throughout Ukraine, and in addition, you can get a personal promotional code with a discount on tests for free.
As an investor in DOC.ua, I support the development of online healthcare in Ukraine and provision of citizens with access to convenient, fast and high-quality medical services. My global goal in healthcare is to create a comprehensive ecosystem that will support patients at all key stages of healthcare: making appointments with doctors in clinics and for online consultations, selecting and making appointments for diagnostics and tests, obtaining e-prescriptions, ordering and receiving medicines, getting medical support during treatment, and receiving recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.
At DOC.ua, we create a seamless, convenient interaction between patients and medical services and institutions in Ukraine. We are working on developing a culture of healthcare, timely check-ups and disease prevention, and striving to abolish the culture of self-medication.
I believe that the introduction of telemedicine opens up a wide field of opportunities for change in the healthcare sector. I am convinced that new technologies make it possible to provide quality medical care remotely, which is especially important in remote regions and during emergencies. Telemedicine makes it possible to use the resources of the healthcare system more efficiently, reducing the burden on hospitals and clinics, helping to reduce the cost of transportation and supporting infrastructure for patients.
In my opinion, it is important to understand that the development of telemedicine is impossible without active cooperation between government agencies, medical institutions, technology companies and the public. The partnership of all these actors will create an efficient and accessible healthcare system that can respond quickly to the challenges and needs of the population. The new vision of Ukraine is to take care of the people who have defended and are defending the country and who see their future in it. Therefore, we must demand balanced and bold decisions, as these changes can have a significant impact on the standard of living and quality of life of Ukrainians.
The transition to telemedicine solutions requires not only technological innovations, but also open dialogue, development of new regulations and changes in the public's awareness of the opportunities and benefits of this approach to healthcare. Only together can we create the healthcare system of the future that will be flexible, efficient and accessible to every Ukrainian.