Healthcare has evolved tremendously in the last two decades. From healthcare delivery to new clinical research, the internet has found its utility in almost every area of medical science, giving birth to the concept of ‘Digital Health’, integrating doctors, patients and other stakeholders like insurance companies, seamlessly on a single platform.
Digital healthcare has rapidly emerged as a solution to the problem of supply falling short of demand in countries like India, but its success is highly dependent on penetration of the internet.
Digital health is not just limited to doctors providing consultation over telephone or video call, but also includes maintaining digital health records for treatment continuity, integrating data from wearable devices and mobile applications for monitoring and reporting critical updates directly to the caregiver and choosing the most suitable treatment based on an AI-enabled clinical research module.
AI&ML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) capabilities in digital healthcare have equipped providers to deliver customisable treatment and services directly to patients’ home, after analysing plethora of use cases fed in to the clinical R&D systems on a daily basis.
This intelligent system can not only monitor the health status of an individual daily but if needed, can also choose the most suitable treatment based on his/her health data.
Several healthcare startups are already making a headway in this direction by providing patient-centric care at the comfort of their homes with the help of technology.
COVID-19 and the emergence of telemedicine
COVID-19 was perhaps the biggest global challenge of this century. It exposed the vulnerability of modern society against the wrath of nature. Well, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, and the pandemic also brought some positives with it. One such positive was the increase in adoption of digital healthcare services.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when healthcare facilities were overwhelmed and unable to manage the sudden demand surge, elederly and chronic care patients were left with no choice but to resort to telemedicine for their regular examinations and follow-ups.
In fact, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, e-Sanjeevani, the Union Health Ministry’s telemedicine service, served over 50 lakh patients during pandemic induced lockdown.
The healthcare industry has traditionally been a slow adopter of new technologies primarily due to the risk associated with treatment offered. However, digital technology has rapidly changed the scenario.
Not only is it making healthcare available to more people, but it is also making it affordable for everyone. Technology is also fuelling the engine of research and innovation in the sector.
Startups have been leading the way for digital health as of now; however, large corporates are also gradually joining the revolution.
The Government of India has announced several building blocks under its National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), including health ID, Digi Doctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Record, etc.
Out of these, Prime Minister Modi recently announced the health ID going live in Union Territories with government hospitals. Going by the success rate of other such digitisation schemes like Aadhaar, UPI, Digital India by the Government, I am confident that NDHM too can be a gamechanger for India’s healthcare sector.