Digital Revolution in the Indian Healthcare Sector
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For a population that stands beyond 1.25 billion and has over 70per cent of it residing in rural locations, healthcare delivery stands as a major challenge for one of the fastest growing country in the world. India spends nearly 1. 5per cent of its GDP on healthcare but the overall healthcare infrastructure (medical facilities, trained medical workers and doctors) remains quite weak till date.
If we go by the statistics, the Indian healthcare industry is about $158 billion in size and is expected to be $280 billion by 2020, reaching nearly twice its current strength in the coming 4 years. There are new developments in disease management and cure and hospitals are now deploying technology to provide an accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and improve on their patient management quotient. The numbers of hospitals in the country with state-of-the-art facilities are growing every year and the investment in this segment has been one of the highest in comparison to other sectors. There has been equal importance given to this sector by the government with a strong focus on improving the delivery model and also on the use of technology to further enhance the existing model.
Where are the Gaps for one of the Fastest Growing Sector?
The biggest gap lies in the lack of proper infrastructure, existing delivery model and the lack of trained professionals in the sector. Most of the leading private hospitals and medical professionals, that have all defined facilities and experienced doctors, are focussed on metro locations creating a huge void in the rural areas of the country. Also, the cost of treatment at these facilities hampers the treatment possibilities for a majority of the population that do not have access to medical insurance. As per data, nearly 76per cent of the Indian population does not have adequate health insurance.
Another major concern is the number of medical colleges in the country and its capacity (in numbers) to create quality medical professionals every year. There are only about 60,000 medical seats available every year across government-run and privately held colleges in India. The number of doctors per year to the number in population growth (1.5 million babies are born per day compared to 0.4 million deaths per day) is highly unstable and this will keep creating a further gap in the doctor to patients ratio. The primary healthcare centre, at present, is short of 3000 doctors and for every 1800 people in the country; we have one doctor. This is a huge gap in the delivery model. As per an RTI report, there has been 80per cent growth in the rise in the number of a student applying for medical education abroad. This is a reflection on the lack of current medical education infrastructure that will lead to ‘brain drain’ of a capable set of people to other nations.
There have been many efforts in the past in building the telemedicine segment to create a strong delivery model through primary healthcare centres to cater to the rural population. But these models were not highly successful as the technology deployment was limited to online availability of the doctor and the skill set of the ASHA workers at the centres who took vital readings like blood pressure and Thermometer readings. This was not supported by other important factors skill up gradation of the ASHA workers, deployment of tech-based medical devices that could provide accurate readings across vital parameters and, above all, maintain records of the patient for future diagnosis and treatment. New age healthcare startups have created and constantly improving the telemedicine delivery model to provide quality medical assistance across the rural belts. Many state governments have partnered with healthcare startups to build a strong digital infrastructure that includes training of ASHA workers to manage tech-based medical devices, recording-maintaining-sharing patient records and improving their overall skill-sets for better patient care.
AI and Data management
Technology developers in the sector are constantly trying to redefine the existing process to create a stronger platform that encompasses data management (diagnosis, treatment, medicine, existing reports, daily progress report) and connects patient-doctors on the same platform for an all-inclusive in-patient care management and for post hospitalisation services too. The use of AI and ML in data management (Electronic Health Records) and predictive analysis are further improving the healthcare delivery model.
The growth in the digital healthcare segment is expected to considerably reduce the patient treatment cost in the coming future. The use of machine learning to process data points for predictive analysis can prevent the cause of major ailments by simple lifestyle changes. Though the healthcare delivery model still remains a challenge, the growth in technology will soon be able to create a seamless platform that brings virtual medical facilities to the doors of every Indian irrespective of his location.