It is notable that the Government of India (GOI) also launched the National Digital Health Mission to digitalize healthcare records across the country, and permitted telemedicine and e-pharmacy platforms to offer consultations to avoid crowding at hospitals.
By Arvind Sharma,
The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated accelerated adoption of digital technologies in the life sciences and healthcare sector and the same has actually taken place at unprecedented levels. Importance of technology in providing efficient and affordable healthcare services during the Covid-19 pandemic times cannot be understated and both the industry and the governments were quick to move on to digital platforms such as Arogya Setu app, e-Sanjeevani, online consultation platforms, teleconsultation portals, online clinical platforms, among others. It is notable that the Government of India (GOI) also launched the National Digital Health Mission to digitalize healthcare records across the country, and permitted telemedicine and e-pharmacy platforms to offer consultations to avoid crowding at hospitals.
As on date, given the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic, people desperately need timely healthcare services at affordable costs, and digital technology is playing a key role in all areas including supply chain management, patient registration, online consultations, purchase and delivery of medicines.
Needless to mention, with the adoption of technology, quality healthcare services can be provided at remote locations through telemedicine and online sessions at minimal costs. Whilst the demand for healthcare services has always been high, the supply and timely delivery of healthcare services can be met with the aid of digital technology.
Prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a preference to physically visit healthcare providers for availing healthcare services, and the doctors also believed that face to face consultations were better than online consultations. However, with the outbreak of the Covid-19, there has been a change in mindset and doctors and patients swiftly adopted the online and virtual model.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the government operated and private hospitals to upgrade their infrastructure and find innovative ways to provide treatment to patients suffering from infectious diseases. There has been a massive rise in the use of artificial intelligence in diagnosing various symptoms of Covid-19.
Industry experts believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has provided a structural boost to the healthcare sector in a significant manner, and the massive transformation and adoption of digital technologies in healthcare sector took place in a matter of weeks, and this may otherwise have taken a couple of years.
This is the best time to leverage digital technologies to significantly improve the medical infrastructure across the country. The interplay between healthcare and technology improves the quality of healthcare services with increased access and affordable costs. It is interesting to note that start-ups are also coming up with innovate technologies to support the healthcare sector. The online healthcare consultations saw a five hundred per cent growth during the Covid-19 pandemic. As stated earlier, the government published the telemedicine guidelines which legalized the teleconsultation and telemedicine practice in India. As per the telemedicine guidelines, patients can consult with doctors over chat, audio or video means.
Healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in India – and India is emerging as one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the gaps in our healthcare infrastructure. I am sure that the Covid-19 pandemic will serve as a stimulus that will enable adoption of various technologies in the healthcare sector – such as medical wearables, artificial intelligence, personal health devices, e-pharmacy platforms and telemedicine.
The e-pharmacy and telemedicine markets are poised to grow at double digits, and the Covid-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for boosting the healthcare eco-system with added benefits from healthtech. Health tech start-ups such as Docturnal, Alkenist and Aerobiosys Innovations, are soon adopting deep digital technologies and building smart health devices. I am sure that these digital healthcare solutions will stay and be relevant even during the post Covid-19 world.
The steps taken by the government in providing public healthcare are commendable – for instance, the government’s ambitious program Ayushman Bharat, which is the world’s largest healthcare program covering fifty crore Indians, leverages technology to provide healthcare services. Similarly, the National Digital Health Mission is expected to revolutionize healthcare access and delivery services across the country.
(The author is Partner – Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)