I’ve always been enthusiastic about the healthcare sector in India. In recent times increasing digital adoption in this sector is benefitting care providers as well as patients. I have been fortunate to be associated with several start-ups in this space and have observed their journey at close quarters. I would like to share some of these breakthrough ideas that I believe have the potential to change how we view and deal with healthcare.
1. Digital can not only create new care models but can also create better patient engagement and clinical efficiency.
India has some unique challenges, with almost 70 % of its population in villages, yet over 80 % of its health care infrastructure remains in the cities. Also, city-bred doctors don’t tend to relocate to villages and young professionals from villages who become doctors want to move to cities for better opportunities. In this situation, digital can provide a solution by leveraging technologies like analytics, cloud, social, mobile and the internet of things. Telemedicine, Remote ICU and big data are some options that have the potential to change the way care is delivered in the country.
2. Digital can increase access to care
Take the example of Delhi-based Lybrate. Founded by Saurabh Arora, Lybrate is using health advice and curated content to bridge the gap between those seeking health information and the experts providing it. But how will you feel if you could type out your symptoms on an app, give a brief medical history and then receive relevant health advice from a qualified professional? All that and more is possible due to increased smartphone penetration in India and better internet connectivity. Incidentally, most queries on Lybrate are coming from tier 2 and tier 3 towns.
3. Digital can improve access to medical education.
Good digital learning tools are a very important asset for the medical students. To understand this point, we need to first understand the basic problem these students face. The three biggest challenges in the study of medicine are the visualization of subject matter, integration of learning across the subject areas, and finally applying the learning in a clinical setting to solve a real life medical problem. Digital can address these concerns and organisations like Elsevier are providing quality medical education platforms.
4. Digital can provide contextual and personalised health information.
Sensors are getting cheaper as they move from factories and robotic lines to being embedded in everyday objects, creating entirely new value propositions. We have smartphones that function with over 15 sensors. Smart coffee mugs that report daily calories, sugar, and liquid intake. Even a smart basketball that can improve a player’s skills and drills. And these are just a few examples of sensors creating value by making things smarter. A good example of implementation of these technologies in a healthcare context is Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai.
5. Digital can improve patient safety
In India patient safety is always low on the radar – what we cannot see or measure, we can’t prevent, has been the mentality in the past. But as per the Indian Confederation for Healthcare Accreditation ( ICHA) , lack of patient safety, overdiagnosis and medication are some of the biggest reasons for hospital-acquired infections and less than acceptable outcomes. Overdiagnosis is a chronic issue, with patients subjected to more tests than required and this adversely impacts their health. Sometimes the patient party is also subjected to some hazards like radiation. In 2015, Philips Healthcare gained a leadership position in Image Guided Therapy (IGT). They have now developed the next-generation image guided therapy platform known as Azurion aiming to improve procedural outcomes. With applications ranging from peripheral to structural heart disease, as well as neurology and oncology domains, there is a broad spectrum of new procedures that will be made more efficient by Azurion. This means lower radiation, lesser diagnosis with better and improved insights into results. Azurion was launched in India last week and adoption of this technology should significant improvement in patient safety over time.
Healthcare is an ecosystem comprising Hospitals, Startups, Medical Devices, Medical Education Providers, Government, Digital Infrastructure and Patients. All these parties must come together to improve health outcomes and Digital is enabling that. In the coming years, we would see massive improvements in the healthcare parameters in India.