By Raja Jamalamadaka
Travel back to the year 2020 and imagine healthcare practitioners, diagnostic labs, hospitals, government authorities, and countries battling against the highly contagious Covid-19 virus in silos. The world would not have come so far in handling the rising number of cases. The global efforts to fight against the deadly Covid-19 led us to innovate safe and effective vaccines. By the end of 2022, over thirteen billion doses had been administered worldwide. The process of innovating a vaccine, which would have typically taken years, had trimmed down to merely 365 days.
The above real-life situation is an example of excellent collaboration across multiple stakeholders in the effort to handle a life-threatening situation –
- Universities and research institutions that evangelized the drug
- Drug companies that developed the drug
- Volume Vaccine manufacturers that produce at scale
- Policy makers that rapidly drafted guidelines and policies to administer the vaccine
- Healthcare digital companies that rapidly developed digital tracking tools to book appointments, track durations, enforce reminders, avoid vaccine mixups and maintain certificates
- On-the ground-administrators like nurses and primary care physicians who administered the doses in the remotest corner of the country with the support of data received from digital tracking tools
The above example shows a real example of how multiple organizations from the healthcare ecosystem can work together to bring disruptive innovations rapidly to market with extremely positive results.
However, while the exigencies of an unforeseen pandemic was the driver for this collaboration across seemingly unrelated stakeholders, future collaboration will be driven by the seesaw between rising healthcare costs and increased pressure on budgets.
WHO focuses on five key pillars as part of its healthcare manifesto – monitoring public health risks, universal healthcare, coordinating responses to health emergencies, promoting human health and well being. These pillars span the entire spectrum of healthcare – from preventive (wellness and diagnostic) to curative (disease and pharmaceutical). Achieving these outcomes calls for disruptive innovation – an outcome that the Covid example cited above shows, can be achieved successfully through collaboration across all players of the entire healthcare ecosystem.
Clearly, collaboration and innovation is the foundation for the future of healthcare. How can the healthcare ecosystem strengthen this collaboration and accelerate innovation? Two factors play a key role here-
Embracing digital capabilities as the first step
Data and Digital technologies act as the single biggest catalysts in facilitating collaboration and accelerating innovation. Digital platforms can level the playing field by integrating all the ecosystem players on one common platform. This ensures access to timely and accurate information to all the stakeholders, leading to enhanced trust among all players. Trust is a vital currency in the collaboration world. Meanwhile, digital platforms – through built in checks and balances – democratize data by allowing it flow freely to the right stakeholders of the ecosystem at the right time, facilitating timely decisions. As the ecosystem players leverage data while using cutting-edge technologies like AI or ML, and adapt to changing customer needs, the entire ecosystem gradually matures to a trust-driven forward looking system that is proactive (as opposed to reacting to medical emergencies). Innovation thrives in such a trust-driven collaborative society as players feed off each others’ strengths. The cycle of innovation and collaboration is now complete.
Of course, the role of technology advancements in this virtuous cycle cannot be overstated. Today, AI, Machine Learning (ML), and Data Analytics have made the real-time exchange of information a working reality. As patients are the center of health services, providing personalized experiences using data sets and ML has become a possibility. Precision care using insights derived out of such solutions will enable better treatments. AI in computer vision has made the detection of ailments faster and easier. With advanced applications of the technology, institutes, and scientists can now train AI algorithms to read X-rays and scans to support the processes of disease detection and diagnosis.
Regulatory Landscape in lockstep with Digital ecosystem
Healthcare access is inextricably linked to a favorable regulatory landscape. Weak regulations snuff our innovation and introduce avoidable roadblocks in collaboration among ecosystem players.
In this context, the Indian regulatory landscape presents a rosy picture. The government has recognized the importance of facilitating the virtuous “healthcare digital” cycle outlined above with forward looking regulations, especially in the latest union budget 2023. From establishment of centers of excellence for artificial intelligence and creation of 100 labs for developing applications using 5G services to policy announcements like formulation of National Data Governance policy for enabling access to anonymized data and setting of the digiLocker solution for centralization data access, the union budget 2023 was extremely forward looking with strong emphasis on facilitating innovation through enhanced collaboration and setting up sustainable digital healthcare ecosystem.
Summing it up, investing in collaborations and partnerships is of utmost importance to improve access to healthcare and scale innovations. Henry Ford
(The author is a Managing Director, Roche Information Solutions India Pvt. Ltd. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)