What is the real value of taking Online Counselling in India?
These days, many of us go to the malls and shops to check the price, features and look and feel of electronic products like mobile phones, home appliances, even clothes, and footwear and then later order those same products from online stores that sell them at a discount. It gives everyone a sense of pride and pleasure in deriving the last bit of value in their purchases by comparing the prices and buying it at its lowest price. Most of the time, these decisions fit well into the lesser spending strategy, but at times, this leads to wastage of effort and unsatisfactory after-sales support, which causes a higher cost to the buyer due to the additional expenses and loss of productivity.
With all services moving online from offline including banking, dining, education and even healthcare, it is no wonder that people try to do the cost arbitrage while buying services from online providers. But how would you calculate your cost-benefit of doing online banking rather than visiting a bank branch, for say transferring money or paying a bill. It may not be easy but still, there is a lot of value derived by the users by using online services. For a banking service, the time to go to the bank and standing in the queue, the fight for your turn in the counter, the arguments with the teller, the signature mismatch issues, the filling of the forms… the list is pretty long. While as, you can do all this with few clicks from your convenience, most of the time, during any time of the day, from your home which cost you literally nothing. The migration of offline to online thus become normal behavior.
Now, let’s talk about healthcare services from online sources. In many western countries, tele-medicine has become an alternative to hospitals and clinics and patients can consult an expert from their home using tele-medicine apps. Many apps are available for appointment booking, medicine prescription refill process, to avail counselling services for emotional and behavioral health issues, monitoring of an individual’s vitals such as Blood pressure, heartbeats, etc. It’s interesting to evaluate the value proposition for such services from online sources.
Online counselling in India – Convenience and Anonymity is definitely a quick win!
For example, let’s consider mental health counselling services. These days, many service providers offer mental health counselling by experts which are delivered to the users through their mobile phones either by video meetings or telephonic calls or messaging processes. On average, a user spends about Rs. 500 to Rs. 3000 for a session with an expert Psychologist, which varies according to the assessment of the counsellor about the patient profile. Many times, the counselors charge an amount that is affordable to the user, if they figure out that the customer can pay Rs. 3000 per session instead of a normal person paying Rs. 900, they would charge that customer Rs. 3000. In some cases, they may give lesser pricing to a deserving user who is not able to afford such high prices. But more often, such patients try to find a counsellor with lower fees structure than trying to get discounted fees.
The online service providers list down all types of experts with various price points which the user can choose from. The expertise, the number of years of experience, their qualifications, their fees structure, their other credentials etc are all listed on the site, which is validated and vetted by the service providers. The users are given the opportunity to assess their needs and their fees structure and the choice makes it more transparent and provides a better picture of their expenses. Most of the time, the online services provides an opportunity for the user to provide inputs about their problems to the counsellor before the sessions so as to prepare well for the session. This reduces the time required in history and diagnostics.
The average cost of a patient physically visiting a counsellor works out to be 3 to 4 times higher than the online services cost. This is due to the time spent by them for the travel to the clinic, the waiting time at the clinic, the cost of travel, the variable fees charged by the counsellor and the lack of visibility about other available experts with lower fees structure and skills. If a patient goes and meets with a counsellor who charges 900 rupees for a session, their total cost of that visit would be about 3000 to 4000 rupees if all the expenses and costs are added up. Instead, if they take online counselling, in many cases, with the same expert counsellor, in an online service, they would spend exactly 900 instead of all the other costs attached to it.