By Himanshu Baid
The healthcare and medical device sectors have grown significantly in the last decade. A transforming medical technology landscape, improving healthcare delivery and financing mechanisms and changing patient profile are driving growth in the medical technology industry. However, the industry has been stifled by some key impediments to growth. The foremost among these is the lack of affordability, accessibility, awareness, and availability. A key question, therefore, is how to increase penetration of medical technology to improve health outcomes in India. The answer lies in innovation. Medical technology innovation can be the tool to make modern care accessible, available and affordable by lowering the cost of the product or delivery. Innovation need not only be restricted to products. Business model innovation across the value chain and frugality can often generate significant benefits to all stakeholders, including patients.
For innovation to make an impact, collaboration between the stakeholders in the medical technology ecosystem is a key success factor. The industry must move from ‘company-centric’ to ‘co-creation model’. All stakeholders – government, industry, academia, healthcare delivery and insurance providers – need to strategize and collaborate to bring about lasting change. MedTech Industry will need to derive business models to make healthcare affordable and bring it at the doorstep for the masses.
Telemedicine aims to meet the needs of today’s healthcare consumers and has the capacity to revolutionize the delivery of healthcare. The poor infrastructure of rural health centers makes it impossible to retain doctors in villages, who feel that they become professionally isolated and outdated if they are stationed in remote areas. Also, people from these areas prefer to spend out-of-pocket for health expenses in hospitals in bigger cities.
Telemedicine may turn out to be the cheapest, as well as the fastest way to bridge the rural–urban health divide. Considering India’s huge strides in the field of information and communication technology, telemedicine could help to bring specialized healthcare to the remotest corners of the country.
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in India has seen success in other areas such as infrastructure, energy, education, urban development, tourism and more. It can be the panacea to India’s healthcare challenges as well. PPP in healthcare has the potential to accelerate and provide deeper access to masses in hinterland of the country. It has the potential to improve the healthcare system by pooling in the expertise and finances of the private sector and subsidies of the public sector. New-age innovative technologies adopted by private players can make healthcare accessible to rural India.
We are witnessing technology-led solutions which were in the forefront treating people impacted by COVID-19. These solutions were in the form of IoT devices, to specialized equipment’s for telemedicine, to data analytics, all vying for the same space – the patient’s home – All geared towards focus on disease prevention and early intervention.
Also, there is a strong need to change the focus diametrically and move from treatment model to preventive model. Availability of screening tools like Holters, Portable X-ray machines, portable Ultrasound equipment’s, Echo, External loop recorders (ELRs) etc. would further improve accessibility of quality Healthcare in remote areas.
People in Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities are becoming more conscious about their health risks and proactively adopting preventive healthcare measures. Medical devices such as blood glucose monitors, blood pressure monitors, Pulse oximeters, body fat analyzers are high in demand due to the increased cases of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disorders, obesity, etc. These devices will enable patients to regularly monitor health indicators and take charge of their health at home.
The application of these Point of Care equipments along with self-testing will be more widespread in the coming years. Digital devices, that provide real time health readings, negate the requirement of manual intervention for diagnosis of the vital statistics and offer data while providing access to quality medical practitioners through connected devices.
The key innovation trends in healthcare should help in developing affordable medical devices to extend the reach and accessibility of healthcare services beyond Tier-1 cities.
MedTech sector must partner with the government to invest in skill development so that technicians can operate easily new technology devices in the remote area. Virtual trainings and learning events can reduce the need for the additional infrastructure for skill building. Companies must scale up Online Medical education programs for knowledge upgradation of the doctors & other healthcare professionals for continuous improvement of patient care.
While medical technologies can push boundaries and redefine the healthcare ecosystem, it is to be remembered that the impact of such endeavors depends entirely on their extensive adoption by the public and private stakeholders in the delivery of healthcare.
(The author is Managing Director, Poly Medicure Ltd. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)