By Vaibhav Singh
The Covid-19 pandemic upended lives across the nation and laid bare India’s unprepared and deficient healthcare systems. Sounding the alarm of a crisis in healthcare, the global pandemic reinforced the need to elevate all levels of healthcare, especially primary care. But these times of adversity also inspired a slew of promising innovations, notably in the digital healthcare ecosystem. As a nation emerging from the throes of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to build on these innovations and radically transform Indian healthcare.
Ultimately, this point of inflection offers the chance to create a robust primary care infrastructure that harnesses the power of digitalisation and customisation. Slated to reach $372 billion by 2022 as reported by NITI Aayog, the Indian healthcare market is unleashing new and emerging technologies that can enable the country to achieve a quantum leap in the quality and access of healthcare services.
Closing the gap between healthcare providers & seekers
21st-century health seekers are becoming increasingly aware of their personal health. Especially since the pandemic, people are proactively getting involved in their wellness journey by digitally seeking healthcare information and interventions. According to a Boston Consulting Group survey, 80% of teleconsultations services were availed by first-time users during the pandemic, out of which 44% were from non-metro cities. Consequently, healthcare providers too are stepping up, casting off past inhibitions and adopting digital innovations such as teleconsultations, remote monitoring and e-prescriptions to maintain and magnify contact with their patients.
Personalised healthcare experiences
In this era of increased awareness and proliferation of digital knowledge, new innovations are elevating healthcare experiences and minimising healthcare expenses. Rising smartphone and Internet penetration have opened avenues for individuals to track their fitness, get personalised insights and take precautionary measures to improve their chronic disease management. For example, an AI-based wellness selfie identifies key vitals such as SpO2, respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure etc., to enable people to participate in their healthcare actively. Tech and data-driven healthcare enable doctors to save time, make accurate diagnoses and suggest customised treatments, thereby personalising the patient experience.
From physical to virtual care delivery models
Gradually, primary care is moving from physical health systems toward digital care delivery models. Digitalisation in healthcare allows healthcare providers to redirect their focus from secondary and tertiary care settings such as hospitals and clinics to patients’ homes using medical wearables, remote monitoring and mobile health. Innovations such as non-invasive glucometers, smart health watches, chatbot-based symptom checking etc., are reducing in-person visits. Such technologies capture medical data, provide customised insights, and predict behaviour and illness risks. Personalised information, early detection and correct diagnosis can help people prevent and manage chronic conditions within their homes.
Tech integration for a connected ecosystem
Technology can be the unifying cord that connects all the stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem. Using tech integrations, entities such as insurers, TPA providers, healthcare providers, HealthTech innovators etc., can be brought under one roof. For instance, global tech giant Apple is attempting to create a new healthcare paradigm wherein medical wearables such as an Apple watch monitor the user’s health and share the data with healthcare providers to analyse the patient’s health even before the consultation begins. Such a connected healthcare ecosystem will enable faster data circulation among stakeholders, speedy delivery of healthcare services and better patient outcomes.
Bolstering primary care: a national imperative
To strengthen primary healthcare in India, digital-solution providers and national authorities must join forces to deploy large-scale solutions effectively. India is well-poised to align with many stakeholders from the private sector to develop a digital healthcare ecosystem. A joint private and public sector-led digital healthcare effort can help create the greatest impact. Underpinned by government support, the country’s thriving startup landscape can propel the digital healthcare ecosystem to unprecedented heights. Prioritising the National Digital Health Mission will enable India to catalyse a national digital healthcare ecosystem that fosters innovation and customisation.
The global pandemic has ushered in a new epoch of digital healthcare in India. India finds itself at an inflection point where new and emerging technologies are summoning it to unlock their true potential to help humankind. The Indian healthcare sector has embarked on a digitalisation journey, albeit with small strides. Digitalisation in healthcare has created a playground for consumer-centric innovations and inventions. People-centred primary healthcare built upon digitalisation and innovation will lead the way to universal health care in India.
(The author is Co-Founder & Managing Director, Visit Health~. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)