Non-metros accounted for 40% of all online oncology consultations in 2020, up from 20% in 2019: Practo Insights

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India, February 4, 2021: India recorded a 333% increase in online consultations with oncologists between January and December, 2020, as per Practo’s latest insights report. Of the total online consultations, 40% came from non-metro cities while 60% from metro cities. Non-metros recorded a steep 932% increase in the number of online consultations, while the metro cities grew by 410%.

The findings indicated increased awareness about the disease and improved access to cancer specialists online, especially in non-metro cities – from 5% in 2018 and 20% in 2019 to 40% in 2020.

Meanwhile, a new observation was made in 2020 – the top searched queries were different in different parts of the country. People in non-metro cities enquired more about types of cancer such as thyroid, bladder ovaries, and anal. In metro cities, on the other hand, the majority of queries revolved around more common types of cancer (like blood, breast, cervical, and oral).

Other trends highlighted in the Practo Health Insights include:

Men and women

  • Men accounted for 74% of all cancer-related online consultations in 2020

  • While women accounted for 26% of all online oncology consultations, their share dropped by 4% as compared to 2019 insights

Age groups

  • Young Indians (21-30 years) accounted for 35% of all online oncology consultations

  • The other one-third (31%) of the online consultations were from people aged 60 and above – an increase from 17% in 2019

  • The 31-40 age bracket comprised (28%), 41-50 (4%) and 51-60 (2%)

Metros and non-metros

  • For the first time, Kolkata emerged on the list of Top 10 cities from where the maximum number of queries were recorded

  • In 2020, most of the cancer-related queries came from Kolkata, which was not even among the top 10 cities in 2019

  • Overall, most queries were from metro cities like Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Pune, and Chennai

  • Among the non-metro cities, the majority of  the queries came from Indore, Lucknow, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Vijayawada, Nagpur, Guwahati, and Ranchi

In-clinic appointments

  • Physical appointments with oncologists increased by 85% since last year, and it was one of the few specialialities that saw a growth during the COVID-19 outbreak

  • Top four cities that registered significant growth included Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata

Dr Alexander Kuruvilla, Chief Healthcare Strategy Officer, Practo, said, “Communication is key in terms of chronic disease care management. Latest technological advances have enabled timely and continuous access to specialist care via telemedicine, even in remote locations. Apart from medical treatment, cancer patients need psychological support. The role of telemedicine in ensuring 24*7 support was recognized by many during the pandemic when those suffering from non-communicable diseases had to take a back seat due to the COVID-19 crisis. At Practo, we continue to onboard experienced oncologists, in an effort to strengthen our ability to provide care to cancer patients anytime, anywhere.”

Dr Niti Raizada, Medical Oncology and Hemato Oncology, Fortis Hospitals, who also consults on Practo, said, “The number of cancer cases is increasing across the globe, and the reasons for it include urbanization, industrialization, and adoption of western lifestyle that includes change  in diet patterns, increased level of stress, pollution, and sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, the overall awareness about cancer is also increasing, thanks to educational information available in mass media and on digital platforms” It is important to recognize the symptoms early on, as  cancers recognized at the initial stages have the highest cure rate.”

Dr Sachin Jadhav, Group Head, Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, HCG Group of Cancer Centers, who also consults on Practo, said, “There has always been a large unmet need for quality cancer care in non-metro cities. COVID-19  has put the  spotlight on the need to improve cancer care accessibility in those cities. Both physical and online consultations are integral in enhancing cancer care, and we have been working tirelessly on improving accessibility to cancer treatment in non-metro cities. Our aim is to ensure that all the patients get access to the best cancer care in their hometowns without the need to travel to metro cities.”

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in India. According to a recent report by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there has been a  16% rise in the number of cancer cases in  the past two years, with nearly 14 lakh new cancer cases recorded in 2020 . This intensifies the need for  early detection of the disease.

The insights report highlights important ailments and consultation related trends in the country.  The information is aggregated, anonymized, and analyzed at scale. We hope these findings better equip our healthcare providers to understand disease patterns and address them effectively and help others become aware of their options when looking to address their healthcare needs.