Financial Express Online on Thursday organised the power-packed second edition of FE Digital Health Conclave with eminent industry leaders, policy makers and public health experts brainstorming on the future of digital health.
In a special address on ‘Future of Digital Health & the new imperatives’, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the former Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO) felt India was today best placed to leverage its early lead in digital health interventions to expand the scope and reach of healthcare. Giving an example of the impact that the CoWIN app had during the coronavirus pandemic as a medium that connected with a billion people, she felt, this and other digital platforms and interventions could now be leveraged to treat and manage several chronic diseases like hypertension. diabetes and also other ailments.
“…Cowin app provided a platform not only for digital certification of vaccinations. But also a means to stay connected with over a billion people who received the covid vaccine from the government’s vaccination programme. Now,” she felt, it was time to perhaps think “about applying something like this to Tuberculosis or other chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. But patients need to stay connected with healthcare providers on a long-term basis.’ Not only, she saw physical contact getting minimised by the use of technologies or apps but one that was throwing up the possibilities for a “two-way communications….one would be able to send prescriptions as well as send images and do a number of other things,” Dr Swaminathan said during the session.
According to Dr. Swaminathan, the potential of telemedicine can be explored and scaled up accordingly.
“The other area that I think was used a lot during the pandemic in many countries including India was telemedicine or telehealth. The programme was launched and it has also taken off. It has provided an opportunity for linking specialists who may not be available with the patients. We could take this a step further and explore how to make this system even more efficient. I have had good experience with the ECHO platform for example which is a platform for training and mentoring healthcare providers who can connect with experts and improve their ability of treating patients,” she said.
During the address, Dr. Swaminathan also pointed out that there is a need to constantly train and mentor healthcare professionals.
She also maintained that concepts like Virtual Shared Care should be tested to explore if they they are feasible in a country like India or not.
Moreover, she also pointed out although that there is a lot of scope of AI in healthcare, its use should be critically examined.
“…AI which is something that attracts a lot of attention and today it has many many applications ranging all the way from diagnostics in which Algorithm can be applied to X-Rays to pathology slides…All of these of course needs careful validation,” she added.
She also informed that WHO last year came up with a guidance document and a framework looking at the ethics and regulations of AI in health.
“This is a very comprehensive document that speaks to policymakers and the developers and healthcare providers. So, there are risks and benefits there AI is involved. So, we need to analyse situation accordingly. This can only happen when good data is collected…We need a lot of research around the use of AI in healthcare,” she said.
Lastly, she highlighted that there is a need for a special attention on health equity.
“Attention to equity is very important. On one hand digital technologies can help in reaching the un-reach. But on the other hand it can also become as exclusive as traditional healthcare facilities and may end up excluding the same group of people,” she added.
The Summit was be marked with the presence of over 30 key speakers, more than 150 industry leaders, over eight knowledgeable sessions, and a whole day of thrilling and insightful networking sessions.
FE Digital Health Summit included eminent speakers like Dr. R.S. Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority, Ministry Of Health & Family Welfare Government Of India, Anand K, Chief Executive Officer, SRL Diagnostics, Dr Arvind
With Co-Partner mfine and Silver Partner Adobe, the Second Edition of FE Digital Health Conclave was held on 19th January, 2023 at Hyatt Regency, New Delhi.