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This Is How Technology And Innovation Shaping the Indian Healthcare Sector Ee now need innovations for developing technological solutions that can prevent the diseases by diagnosing them at early stages via non-invasive and convenient tools

By Shilpa Malik

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The Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) stated in a report in February 2018 that healthcare has become one of India's largest sectors both in terms of revenue and employment. The industry is growing at a tremendous pace owing to its strengthening coverage, services and increasing expenditure by public as well private players. The total industry size is expected to touch USD 160 billion by 2017 and USD 280 billion by 2020.

According to the World Health Organisation, an approximate of 10 million people are disabled globally due to Traumatic brain injury (TBI). A closer look takes us to another survey in 2013, wherein 3 adults suffer from traumatic brain injury every minute in India. Yet, half the residents of metros in India are unaware of brain injuries and their link to the brain. If we are able to diagnose the bleeding ten per cent of these patients then we would be saving 18 lives per hour in India alone.

While 2017 has seen a lot of trends emerging in the healthcare industry, 2018 is said to witness numerous ways as to how technology can contribute in uplifting the healthcare sector with transparency being one of the key concerns. Startups are expected to bring in innovative solutions that will bring in a transformatory change to the sector by combining technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning with traditional practices in the healthcare.

Innovative trends witnessed by the sector that can help the sector grow further

There are emerging technological innovations to develop point of care devices to solve the problem of accessible therapeutic services at an affordable price. Although many startups are emerging in the Indian ecosystem, in the recent past there have been significant spur of activities within telemedicine.

Another rising segment has been on making affordable diagnostic tools for early detection of diseases. To give an example, a number of startups have developed non-invasive tools for early detection of breast cancer, brain disorders, cardiovascular anomaly to name a few. Since these devices are non-invasive and convenient to use, they can be deployed at mass scale. Early detection reduces the patient suffering, government's spending, and at the same time increases the chances of positive outcome post treatment. If we detect brain haemorrhage at an early stage in only ten percent of current victims, we would be affecting 1 million lives per year.

What are the gaps faced in the medical sector and how can entrepreneurs address these gaps?

Unequal access towards infrastructure and treatment, poor quality and negligence in medical diagnoses and rising costs are three key challenges faced by the Indian medical industry. Because of untimely diagnosis, patients continue to suffer and can sometimes even reach a stage from where they are not able to recover from. The cost of treatment continues to rise as the disease progresses, thereby leading to untimely diagnosis, putting a greater burden on the patient and his/her family.

Furthermore, skewed resources, outdated practices and lack of required skill-set, declining valuation and lack of funding are also major reasons why start-ups in the medical realm are unable to secure a proper foothold within the industry. There is also a pressing need to make healthcare, both diagnostic and therapeutic, more inclusive and accessible to all. For this there is a need to bring down the cost of providing these services and hence a lot of innovation is required in India to make affordable diagnostic and therapeutic devices and services.

Entrepreneurship is the utilization of one's resources to create products or services that solve some real-world problems. The supporting ecosystem for entrepreneurship is also in its evolving stage. While on the one hand there certainly are some genuine supporters who have been contributing to creating a conducive environment for entrepreneurs to thrive, there are others who may also, unfortunately, mislead due to excessive competition. This makes it difficult for an entrepreneur to find a genuine confidante who can provide the right kind of guidance. An initial education to level their expectations and on the process of iteration can certainly help. Such guidance and mentorship provide an idea of the different stages of startups and the kind of changes required to be made, thus not only providing a clearer pathway but also a positive direction.

How are entrepreneurship focussed institutions helping starts-ups and entrepreneurs grow?

It is very heartening to see the mushrooming of entrepreneurship focussed centres of excellence offer support – in terms of infrastructure, guidance, mentorship, funding and even emotional support. Our country needs a lot of more these institutions that help entrepreneurs help not only their innovation acumen but also their business acumen.

These centres of excellences that have incubators offer grooming programs that are programs designed for innovators to be exposed to the various facets of entrepreneurship. Here, entrepreneurs can ideate on various possibilities of permutations and combinations to approach and develop solutions that cater to their products. Much emphasis is given on all supporting functions in a start-up, including finance, legal, management, operations, team management – the entire package. Such exercises can make a huge difference to a budding entrepreneur, where he is hand-held and shown a completely diverse spectrum, which he normally would not have been able to get access to.

With these incubation centres that serve as a trusted guide, advisor and support system, entrepreneurs will be able to innovate with more confidence and in a more cohesive manner. This will undoubtedly boost the morale of other innovation-focused entrepreneurs.

Why is innovation important for the growth of the sector?

Prevention is better than cure.

The past decades have seen disruptive innovations in diagnostic and therapeutic devices for the privileged world without worrying about the cost. However, we now need innovations for developing technological solutions that can prevent the diseases by diagnosing them at early stages via non-invasive and convenient tools. Also, at this stage, many diseases would be curable with minimal intervention. For this, we would need innovations to make these solutions affordable and accessible to the masses. These inclusive innovations would create a healthier society. Hence innovation is needed in this sector for a better world.

Shilpa Malik

iCreate Incubatee and Founder, Bioscan Research

Shilpa Malik an incubate at International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate). Shilpa is leading product development at Bioscan Research where she is handling R&D, industrial design, clinical validation and regulatory approvals. A former Scientist from Defence R&D Organisation of India, Shilpa has more than 11 years of experience in government and private sector where she worked on pilot display system with the radar team and also developed prediction software for food and beverage industry. She has completed her graduation in computer science engineering and post-graduation in entrepreneurship management. 

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