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How the 2Ds of Healthcare (Digital + Doctor) Can Improve Patient Compliance From the country's first telemedicine facility in 2000 to AI-based diagnostic services introduced earlier this year, digital health has drastically changed the way Indian doctors practice medicine

By Amitabh Nagpal

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Picture this: You're feeling a little under the weather for the past two days. Popping an aspirin isn't helping, so you decide to seek medical advice. You turn to your phone and search for a GP in your area. You connect with one, over video chat. The GP looks at your medical history online and suggests a treatment plan. He shares your prescription with your nearest pharmacy, who delivers the medicines to your doorstep. Your phone keeps tabs on your medicine intake and sends your progress report to the doctor. In just a few days, you're back on your feet and on your way.

This scenario isn't some scene out of the future. This is innovation happening right now, in the healthcare space. This is what happens when the 2Ds of healthcare – Digital + Doctor – come together to improve patient compliance.

Digitization is possibly the most disruptive change that Indian doctors are experiencing. From the country's first telemedicine facility in 2000 to AI-based diagnostic services introduced earlier this year, digital health has drastically changed the way Indian doctors practice medicine. The shift to digital media has also opened up new channels of sourcing medical information and communicating with patients, pharma companies and even colleagues.

The Rise of the Digital Doctor

Indian doctors have grown extremely comfortable with digital networks that connect them to colleagues, patients and even drug manufacturers. The proliferation of internet, penetration of 4G services and rising use of mobiles is expected to fuel this trend further. Online networks have opened up a great channel of communication for the busy medical practitioner. The previously disconnected community can now instantly reach out to peers and domain experts and seek their guidance on challenging clinical case.

According to a 2015 Global Survey by Indegene, it was found that 60% of doctors prefer tablet-based detailing and 45% prefer online detailing. It also found that over 64% doctor-patient communication today is through digital engagement across all markets. It is interesting to note that doctors in the US have moved away from a pure face to face interaction model to virtualization given the Obamacare and Compliance to ethical marketing imperatives. China isn't too far behind, with most doctors preferring to use smartphones for maximum interactions.

The Digital Doctor Advantage

According to the World Health Organization there is only one doctor per 1700 citizens in India. It stipulates a minimum ratio of 1:1000. Moreover, the Union Health Ministry figures claim that there are about 6-6.5 lakh doctors available currently in the country and India would need about 4 lakh more by 2020. Innovations in healthcare may even deduce the disparaging doctor-to-patient ratio and myriad of other problems that plague this sector.

By addressing traditional challenges and seamlessly revitalising processes, technology is bringing a sea of changes across healthcare. From using tablets and iPads to access patient record to using innovations like telemedicine to expand reach to rural communities, technology is making several forays into addressing every major challenge faced by the healthcare sector.

Digitization benefits the patients, especially those suffering from NCDs, with respect to better compliance and adherence. Patients have access to reliable information flow that promotes doctor patient connectivity. Using Smartphone apps and mhealth tools offers better treatment delivery, and enhances patient engagement. This is because the traditional patient-physician relationship will no longer have the central role it has enjoyed thus far. Instead, mobile online platforms and agencies the core interface between patient and medical expert.

Many face to face patient-doctor meetings are not necessary, as some problems could be solved from home, by enabling doctor's access patient data and interact with them remotely. The rise of remote diagnosis and medicine would not mean the end of the "human touch" in medicine, as many fear. On the contrary, with digital data, it's easier to share, consult and crowdsource, opening the way for truly personalized care where it is most needed.

Quality measurement, evidence based decision support and care coordination will not only result in cost moderation, but also improve outcomes and patient satisfaction.

What Lies Ahead

The traditional patient-physician relationship will no longer have the central role it has enjoyed thus far. Instead, mobile online platforms and agencies will become the core interface between patient and medical expert. A network of physicians linked to the platform will be able to provide initial consultation and advice, before referring to a specialist and scheduling an appointment with the preferred doctor or hospital clinician. Remote medical advice will gradually dissolve national boundaries even further as patients seek the best medical services and specialists.

In the future, one can expect medical treatment to be supported by a range of diagnostic tools and data provided by smart pills, sensors and metabolite patient profiling. Patient empowerment, patient-centricity and the resulting need for coordinated healthcare delivery is an irreversible sea change facing the healthcare industry, and technology will help facilitate this change.
Amitabh Nagpal

Founder and CEO, LifeIncontrol

Amitabh Nagpal is the Founder and CEO of LifeIncontrol.
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