Improving Health Outcomes Through Digitisation Of Healthcare
Digitization will play an integral role in plugging the prevailing gaps in India's healthcare ecosystem
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives and compelled governments, businesses and individuals to re-examine the ways of the past and reimagine the future. For India, the pandemic has also laid bare the several gaps in India’s healthcare system and underscored the urgent need to improve health outcomes in the country.
Digitization will play an integral role in plugging the prevailing gaps in India’s healthcare ecosystem. In 2015, the government of India (GoI) launched the ‘Digital India’ campaign with an aim to transform India into a leading economy of the future. In the last half a decade, the country has become the second-fastest digital adopter in the world—India has almost half a billion Internet users and more than 350 million smartphone users consuming 8.3 GB of data per month per subscriber. This means that the time is opportune for India to improve health outcomes through targeted digital interventions. Recognizing this, the GoI in January 2020 released the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB). The blueprint covers the architectural framework and infrastructure requirements to undertake the first essential step in integrating health data across public and private sectors.
Potential steps that can be taken by stakeholders to elevate the healthcare ecosystem and improve health outcomes in the country.
Integrating health data to create a ‘single source of truth’
Data is not only ubiquitous but holds the key to improving human life. According to Lisa Latts at IBM Watson Health, “The total data generated over the lifetime of an average human being would be approximately 1,110 terabytes, of which genetic and clinical data will amount to 40 per cent. The remaining 60 per cent will comprise health and social determinants of health.” Consented access to this data can help medical practitioners and health providers elevate the quality of care through improved diagnosis and effective continuum of care. However, the first step towards harnessing data is to create a centralized data repository or a ‘single source of truth’ that can hold all the relevant patient data while ensuring adherence with the most stringent data privacy laws and principles.
Creating digital health solutions
Digital health solutions can be adopted across the healthcare pathway starting from prevention to diagnosis and cure. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotics, blockchain, etc., can help create customized solutions, improve access and communication networks, and make healthcare cheaper. For example, automation and AI-powered solutions can help insurers better understand an individual’s lifestyle and habits. Consequently, if this individual wants to purchase a health insurance policy, the insurance company can more accurately assess the risk profile of the individual. As a result, a healthy individual would have the benefit of paying a lower premium compared to an unhealthy individual. Similarly, when it comes to settling claims, AI-powered tools and robotics can help insurance companies assess the damages faster and more accurately, thereby reducing the claims settlement cycle. By elevating traditional healthcare with solutions powered by technology, India can achieve its goal of universal healthcare.
Empowering advisors with technology enabled solutions
A majority of insurance-related solutions in India are sold through advisors. These are the people who connect with the last-mile customer, educate individuals about various insurance solutions, and finally help them make the best purchases decisions. Advisors can be enabled with digital tools that can help them deliver advice more accurately and efficiently. Technology assisted selling can help advisors access the necessary information on insurance products, educate the customer, offer customised solutions, and complete the buying process in an efficient and seamless manner.
Any solution, whether digital or otherwise, is unlikely to deliver its desired impact if it is implemented in silos. This means, that all industry stakeholders have to come together and collaborate with each other as well as with other industry participants to envisage and distribute healthcare solutions. The focus should be to encourage innovation through shared data and technology. Further, continuum of care can only be provided if all ecosystem participants are well-integrated and working towards a shared goal of alleviating the pain points in India’s healthcare infrastructure.
The Indian economy has witnessed significant growth over the last decade and exhibited tremendous potential. It can be said that India is well-positioned to unlock additional economic value and become a $5 trillion economy by 2025. However, it is important to highlight that without the digitization of healthcare infrastructure and delivery, India will find it challenging to accomplish its growth goals.