How India can benefit from Digitalization in Healthcare Delivery
by Srinath Rao
Healthcare organizations, especially in India, have traditionally lagged in adoption of digital technologies compared with other industries such as retail or banking. However, the healthcare sector has seen a dramatic increase in technology investments in the past few years.
Healthcare CIOs globally cite that the following areas that have been driving their investments in technology: 1. Increased demand for better patient outreach & care and personalization, 2. High cost of healthcare that is now warranting optimization and automation using technology, and 3. Protecting patient data from cyber threats.
In addition to these areas, the most recent push for technology adoption also came from the COVID-19 pandemic. Take telehealth as an example. Most hospitals had limited virtual care capabilities before 2020. Even in India, after COVID-19, 80% doctors in North, 50% in South and West, and 35% in East India adopted some form of telemedicine, according to reports.
Healthcare organizations in India stand to benefit significantly from adoption of digital technologies and here are a few examples how:
A big challenge and opportunity within the healthcare ecosystem is the abundant, complex, and dynamic nature of data including patient-data, diagnosis, prescriptions, consultations, and financial data. Using technology to integrate these data sets will help derive intelligent insights that will have a dramatic impact across various dimensions of healthcare delivery including cost, outcome, efficiency, patent & doctor experience, quality of care delivery and time to market. In the context of the Indian healthcare ecosystem, we stand to gain a lot from leveraging the power of data and analytics effectively.
Given the size of our population, the possibilities from our ability to harness and derive insights from vast amount of data sets are endless.
- These insights can help manage outbreak of communicable diseases such as dengue and chikungunya better
- Support development of personalized treatment plans for specific diseases that are based on an individual’s lifestyle, health history as well as genetic make-up
- Assist in fraud detection – especially in claims and payments
- Help optimize healthcare supply chain– lower cost and more efficient delivery of drugs, medical devices, and equipment
- Real time alerts using a clinical decision support system to analyze medical data on the spot, thus avoiding costly treatments
- Internet of Medical Things:
Internet of Things (IoMT), when applied to healthcare, can improve the speed of care delivery, and save human lives. Remote patient monitoring devices can be used for measuring blood pressure or oxygen saturation levels from patients’ homes to hospitals. Wearable devices, including smart watches outside of the home; and sensors to track movements of patient and staff inside the hospital are other ways.
An Indian hospital has already started to implement an entire smart ecosystem. An advanced Hospital Information Management System (HIMS), facilities for digital prescription as well as smart cards, an IOT solution for 30 major health tests and optimization of complete supply chain of pharmaceuticals using a smart pharmacy are a few of the initiatives being undertaken.
Digital front door leverages technology to simplify and enhance patient experience at every touchpoint in their interaction with healthcare system. Self-scheduling capability, mobile enabled pre-registration as well as doctor visit check-in, mobile or web payments and automated appointment or medication reminders are few examples. This will improve patient access & productivity and enhance patient experience. Many medical practices have started using digital platforms for tracking and managing appointments, patient engagement and ease of use. This is also helping reduce paperwork and improve the overall efficiency of the process of consulting doctors.Helping to enhance the flow of diagnostic information, it entails replacing x-ray films or even CT films with computer-generated images. These are available for analysis in less than a minute after being taken and can be shared across multiple locations simultaneously. Remote access makes diagnosis possible without a radiologists’ physical presence. Plus, electronic images cannot be lost/misplaced.
A few examples of the work being done by companies in this space include using deep learning for diabetic retinopathy screening, where AI-powered algorithms review images & diagnose. Another emerging use case is using machine learning to determine aggressive states of tumors and identify markers for the risk of recurrence in the future.
Healthcare organizations deal with protected health information, personally identifying information as well as financial information such as credit card and bank account numbers. This exposes them to vulnerabilities and threats from cyber criminals. Reports have shown India to be vulnerable to healthcare related cyber-attacks, facing 1.9 million such attacks last year as of Nov ‘22. Investments are being made to implement biometrics, digital forensics, penetration testing across hospitals and health systems.
Cyber Security is a serious concern and will require a holistic approach with highly coordinated efforts amongst insurers, healthcare providers, and other institutions, and lot of investments in new technology and practices. Few measures that could be borrowed from the finance industry include multi factor authentication, identity access management, network security and security trainings.
The government is also showing the way for revolutionizing and digitally enabling healthcare in India. The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) is a step in the right direction for creating a digital backbone for the Indian Healthcare Ecosystem, a crucial step for creating registries of patients and professionals. Furthermore, the ABDM Sandbox fosters to integrate existing systems and healthcare IT platforms with ABDM building blocks to promote innovation, efficiency and improve patient lives. The United Health Interface proposed by NHA envisions an efficient digital framework for patients and health services providers in the country. All of this is pushing the needle towards affordable and universal healthcare.
The impetus provided by the government with advances in technology has resulted in over 7,800 HealthTech startups in India. However, this is just the beginning. Healthcare innovations will help the medical fraternity offer better care and could even bridge the barriers of accessibility to patients in remote locations. Several factors must work in tandem for India to become a global healthcare giant, and this requires immense efforts and collaboration from all stakeholders involved.
Srinath Rao, Sr. Vice President & Technology Leader, CitiusTech
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly.)