Digital Healthcare in India

By Tanya Sharma (Healthcare)

The evolving trends in the Indian healthcare sector have increased the urgency of addressing these challenges. Some of the major trends are more patient-focused care, value- vs volume-driven healthcare, continuum of care and increasing digital integration. Patients today are more conscious, tech-savvy and more willing to embrace emerging technology care. It has emerged, where the focus has shifted from the provider to the patient. Patients want to take more control of their health and are open to new ways of receiving care. They no longer want traditional models of healthcare that are usually disparate and siloed. As a study by the Innovation Unit pointed out: ‘How much time does the average person spend with healthcare professionals? Even patients with long term health conditions will spend a year interacting with a clinician. The rest of their waking hours all 8755 of their patients are looking after themselves.’ increased emphasis on value based care vs volume based care. With rising healthcare costs and low insurance penetration, patients want to avoid unnecessary tests and receive transparent information about their treatment. A third trend is the continuum of care beyond the hospital’s inadequate number of beds, many healthcare providers are focusing more on how to install digital technologies for remote patient monitoring, such as tele monitoring, IoT, connected devices and wearables. This helps enhance patient convenience and reduces healthcare costs for the provider.

INDIA PROFILE IN HEALTHCARE SECTOR

The Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative is encouraging domestic manufacture of medical devices and helping lower the prices patients pay for products such as stents and implants, which in the past were imported. At the same time, in India the policy environment and regulators need to accommodate technological interventions such as the growth of online pharmacies with the requisite controls in place, according to the panelists. Health care innovation in India could serve as a global model for a shift from treating the sick to preventive care and wellness, given the size of its underserved populations.

Indeed, India has become a force to reckon with in the field of technology. This is evident in the rapid pace of digital permeation, the remarkable achievements of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in space technology, and the rise of the India-trained CEOs leading the most valuable technology companies in the world. At the same time, however, India’s healthcare scenario remains less than ideal. It is short by almost half of what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends as the optimal number of doctors, nurses, medical technicians and healthcare facilities required to serve the population. Under excessive strain for decades, and without sufficient budget, India’s health system is frail, inadequate and of inconsistent quality. It is overburdened by the arduous task of tackling infectious diseases (tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases[a]) and the rising epidemic of so-called lifestyle disorders as well (diabetes, stroke, and heart and neurological problems).

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML), digital health solutions operate at the intersection of technologies spanning biotechnology, communication and network, computer science, and robotics. Adopting digital solutions across the care pathway of prevention, diagnosis as well as cure is the smartest route for India to inch closer to the “health for all” goal. There are three broad reasons for this:

  • Blending digital approaches into traditional healthcare models will create a three-in-one antidote to at once tackle the systemic problem-trio of access, affordability and quality.
  • A digital health system fits in with the overall strategic direction that India is taking to shape its new internal order, with missions such as Ayushman Bharat, Swachh Bharat, Digital India and Make in India, all aimed at developing a healthy and prosperous society.
  • Health-tech is a transformational phenomenon of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with diverse ramifications both for the industry and the society, which is getting sicker and older, with a longer average lifespan. Consequently, there is opportunity for India to influence policymaking in global health and sharpen its competitiveness ranking in technology development. Unlike space-tech, where India has already reached the top echelons, the health-tech arena is in a germinal stage, with most countries on a level playing field.

DIGITAL REVOLUTION IN INDIA

Finally, digital technology has already been integrated in areas such as education and training of doctors, patient records, and health information systems. Healthcare stakeholders digital in solving their problems and are incorporating these technologies. India’s healthcare challenges and new trends are helping the digital revolution expand across the nation.

Digital technology adoption is already gaining prominence in India’s healthcare industry, with efforts from both the public and private sectors. The government has launched several initiatives such as Digital India and Aadhaar in some cases with support from the private sector. The private sector has created mobile apps, adopted telemedicine, and set up innovation centres all around India, among other measures. These initiatives have a number of digital health start-ups. A digital strategy refers to the use of the convergence of multiple applications to disrupt business processes and ensure enhanced and sustainable access to services for all. Such a strategy can be applied in healthcare. Technology is not the solution itself; rather, it enables the development of healthcare solutions, improved patient care and provider growth. Some of the most widely discussed digital technologies that are being used to create healthcare solutions in India are:

1) M-health

M-health is probably one of the largest sectors within digital healthcare in India, with an estimated market size of 2,083 crore INR in 2015—which is set to rise to 5,184 crore INR by 2020.Acceptance of m-health is increasing simultaneously. A study showed that 68% of doctors in emerging markets recommend m-health and 59% of patients are already using it. Mobile apps, especially those connecting doctors to patients and enabling remote consultations, are a major segment within m-health. Example: A mobile app that offers online video consultation and an ability to book diagnostics for 90,000 doctors.

2) Remote diagnosis:

Low-cost portable innovations are being developed in India to cater to the needs of its vast rural population. India’s remote healthcare delivery market was estimated at 7.5 million USD in 2011 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20%. These products help increase access to healthcare for remote and rural populations by providing point of-care diagnostics, tele-consultation and e-prescription capabilities. Example: A wireless health monitor that measures blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse, body temperature, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and total haemoglobin count with a mobile application on your smartphone.

3) Telemedicine

Telemedicine is the use of technology for remote diagnosis, monitoring and education. While telemedicine is usually categorised under remote diagnosis, the size of its market in India allows us to consider it as an independent segment. India’s telemedicine market was valued at 100 million USD in 2011 and is expected to grow by over four times by the end of 2016.Telemedicine has helped bring down provider and patient costs as well as provide care in the most remote areas. As the curve on the global scale.

4) Digital and social connectivity

As mentioned earlier, social connectivity is an upcoming trend. Social media is prominent in India, with the average person spending 25% of his/her time on social networking sites, courtesy of improved telecom infrastructure. has been in the form of patient support communities and knowledge portals on the patient side. On the provider side, this has prompted the emergence of digital chatter platforms where medical professionals share knowledge and ask for help. There are also communication technologies that help connect doctors around the world for both a second opinion and training. Example: The Indian government is trying to set up a National Optical Fibre Network to connect 2,50,000 gram panchayats in the country to the Internet, which aids the expansion of e-health.

5) Wearables

Initially, wearables in healthcare were devices that could track known to improve diet and exercise outcomes. Now, wearables are being increasingly used to measure basic health parameters such as heart rate. The overall healthcare wearables market in India is currently valued at 30 crore INR and is expected to increase in value as wearable technology is beginning to expand. Example: there is a wristwatch that acts as a personal emergency response system and relays medical and GPS data to a remote server.

While the above technologies have a relatively concrete foundation in India, some of the technologies that are gaining wider acceptance in the Indian healthcare industry are discussed below:

  • Big data analytics: Big data is slowly entering the Indian healthcare landscape. Different healthcare players are now realising the value of combining consumer insights and internal company data to inform and optimise their product offerings, and are accordingly increasing investments in the necessary tools.44 In this way, the healthcare system can pull consumers towards them and share these insights to work with other players in the space.
  • Smart cities: Cities have begun to use technology to enhance the use of resources within existing infrastructure.
  • Electronic medical records (EMR): EMRs are beginning to be adopted by healthcare providers. This digitisation has paved the way for advanced IT systems, such as health information systems and cloud computing to increase remote and ubiquitous accessibility to patient data. This should help reduce medical errors and improve health outcomes.

CONCLUSION

The world is rapidly becoming more digital, and any business not realising and incorporating this trend will fall behind. India has the potential for digital growth, given its current technology penetration, advancing economy, growing population and accelerating healthcare industry. The rise of digital technology is pushing India to achieve Health for All, putting the country at the forefront for foreign investment. With these opportunities, India is emerging as the global leader in digital health. E-Health in India is primarily targeted at those unreached by modern medicine, and it is a challenge to run for-profit programmes where most beneficiaries are poor. In terms of scale, charitable organizations, particularly those that do not generate their own revenue, are usually unable to impact millions of beneficiaries. One of their biggest challenges is finance. Since the fees are already very low, it may not be possible to try and increase the number of beneficiaries by further reduction. There is also a danger in raising the fees, since this may make the service beyond the reach of current beneficiaries. Thus ,it may require other efforts to put the programmes on a stronger financial footing. Aside from steps already mentioned, such as improved infrastructure, compulsory.

Also refer: https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/health-it/digital-healthcare-in-india-on-the-cusp-of-a-revolution/59447572

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