Enabling a digital-led future for Life Sciences | The Financial Express

Enabling a digital-led future for Life Sciences

These developments are changing patient expectations in terms of healthcare systems and services provided by life sciences companies.

Enabling a digital-led future for Life Sciences
Not only do digital tools and platforms inform patients continuously, but they also generate real-time insights for clinicians to monitor the patient’s progress. (File)

By Subhro Mallik

Globally, non-communicable diseases (NCD) kill millions of people. With 85% of these premature deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries, the United Nations is aiming to reduce premature mortality by 2030 as part of its sustainable development goals.

India’s situation reflects these grim facts. A 2021 report by Apollo Hospitals found that over the last two decades, the number of deaths due to NCDs in India has risen to 64.9% while a Global Burden of Disease study found that cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) alone accounted for nearly 25% of mortality in India. Early age of onset, rapid progression and high mortality rate in CVD are additional causes of worry in India. In 2019, the WHO acknowledged the increasing challenge of diabetes in the country with an estimated 8.7% diabetic population aged 20-70 years.

Those afflicted by a chronic disease face challenges from the onset. Awareness of NCDs is often patchy, and treatment is both lengthy and costly, which places a huge financial and emotional strain on the household with the potential loss of productivity/income, increased poverty, and stunted economic growth. While the burden of healthcare is borne by patients, all stakeholders such as healthcare providers, life science companies and governments, feel the impact.

Modern healthcare needs digital intervention

Given the rising economic burden of NCDs and the changing healthcare environment, modern healthcare needs can be better met through a more personalized, preventative, predictive, and participatory approach that is enabled through digital technologies.

Not only do digital tools and platforms inform patients continuously, but they also generate real-time insights for clinicians to monitor the patient’s progress. In addition, these platforms allow for evaluation of response using quantifiable and objective health metrics, and optimization of pain or other symptom management strategies, thus improving rapport between patients and clinicians. They help facilitate personalized and proactive care while eliminating the need for costly hospitalization or treatments. Digital platforms and apps leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to support patients through condition-specific, customized insights. Using these insights that can be captured on wearables and mobile apps, patients can track their medication, activity, and dietary regimens and improve lifestyle management.

Take for example, the management of CVD. Poverty, maternal malnutrition, early life changes, rapid urbanization challenges increase an individual’s risk of CVDs in India. While government and health care systems can work on improving surveillance, efficiency of care, access to medicines, and preparedness to curb CVDs, making lifestyle adjustments, dietary interventions, and guided medication can go a long way in managing the disease. Given poor doctor to patient ratio in India, tools such as Bluetooth-enabled pacemakers with a mobile app to access heart data can prove to be effective instead of relying on in-person doctor consultations. Research shows that patients with low to moderate CVD risk can act on insights provided by medication, dietary and activity trackers on digital health devices and platforms.

Similarly, diabetes mellitus (DM), needs close monitoring to prevent complications such as blindness, gangrene, and multiple organ failure. Real-time continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), automated insulin delivery systems, and telemedicine are examples of how digital technologies are increasingly addressing the wellness needs of the diabetic community in the country. For example, in 2020, India introduced an intermittently scanned CGM that continued to be widely used even during the pandemic. By providing real-time glucose values, patterns etc, it helps patients monitor and self-manage their condition. Besides glucose monitors, wearables, and even socks are now smart devices generating tons of relevant patient data. These are proving to be useful tools for maintaining glycemic control wherein AI-driven predictive analytics use patient data to continuously monitor and inform patients thereby reducing hospitalizations and increasing the effectiveness of self-management.

The path ahead for healthcare/life sciences is digital

These developments are changing patient expectations in terms of healthcare systems and services provided by life sciences companies. Patients with chronic conditions expect access to reliable and relevant educational resources with easy navigation and on-demand support to monitor their progress and coping mechanisms.

Consequently, the traditional role of life sciences companies needs changing too. While advances in medical care over the last two decades have motivated life sciences companies to respond swiftly, more systemic change is required. Fortifying their existing portfolio of medical devices and pharmaceutical products with technology-driven services and a knowledge-centric approach will help them establish lasting rapport with patients while tapping into a unique opportunity to embark on long-term sustainability.

(The author is SVP and Global Head Life Sciences, Infosys. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)

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