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World Health Day 2023: A Deeper Dive Into Healthtech Ecosystem Due to a growing population, rising income levels, and a demand for better healthcare services, the Indian healthcare sector is expanding quickly

By Teena Jose

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7 in order to raise awareness about the importance of global health issues and encourage individuals and governments to take action towards achieving universal health coverage. This year it arrives with the theme 'Health for All'. Healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in India that has changed significantly over the last ten years led by the innovation and disruption provided by the burgeoning healthtech startups offering affordable insurance, to virtual access to doctors and medications, to the development of tech- enabled life-saving treatments. What you see now is only a small sample of what lies ahead.

According to market insights, India currently houses about 4800+ startups in the health tech space. On the backdrop of this data, we may be curious to know the available space for more health-tech companies in future.

Challenges and Opportunities to Scale a Healthtech Company

The opportunity as always comes along with its challenges that are encountered by healthtech companies in India. Keeping up with this view, Shubhangi Rastogi, founder and CEO of Mind Aclove, has shared that, "When it comes to scaling a health tech company, there are a few key challenges that need to be addressed. For one, India has a large and diverse population, so health tech companies must be prepared to cater to a wide range of people with different needs, opinions and requirements. The success of the business will depend on the ability to serve the needs of this huge and varied user base, so careful consideration must be given to the design and functionality of the product. In addition, data privacy and security are of the utmost importance, as there are potential privacy implications when dealing with sensitive medical information. For these reasons, companies should prioritize the development and implementation of robust data security measures. Also, the country has a rapidly growing middle class population with increasing access to technology, so there is an eagerness to embrace innovative solutions that can improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare in India. Additionally, there are government initiatives in place that provide support for startups working in the health tech space and have made it easier to establish a business in this sector. Overall, while it may be challenging to scale a health tech company in India, there are significant opportunities."

Despite technical developments, India still has connectivity and infrastructure issues, particularly in the rural areas. For healthtech businesses that depend on internet access this can be a major obstacle. Skilled talent is also a challenge as the health tech industry requires a skilled workforce which not only is sparse but also comes at a premium.

India's healthtech industry has been experiencing rapid growth due to factors such as a rising elderly population, increased adoption of digital technologies, and the prevalence of lifestyle diseases.

"Scaling a healthtech company in India is no easy feat. Startups must navigate high customer acquisition costs, ambiguous regulations especially in new age delivery models, trained staff and inadequate infrastructure These challenges can make it difficult for startups to survive, let alone scale. Despite the challenges, the healthtech industry in India presents enormous opportunities. During and post-pandemic, consumers have realised that healthcare is not only delivered in hospitals but a large amount of the same can be delivered outside of the hospital. Consumers now want services delivered in their homes or the community as they have realised that similar quality can be made available outside of the hospital and at better costs. To address the opportunity, startups need to be phygital in nature. Physical will drive trust and care while digital will drive scale while improving efficiency and effectiveness," said Vivek Srivastava, co-founder and CEO, HCAH, while sharing his wide array of experience.

Due to a growing population, rising income levels, and a demand for better healthcare services, the Indian healthcare sector is expanding quickly. In order to meet the demand, this presents a great opportunity for health IT businesses with cutting-edge solutions. The Indian government has also rolled out initiatives to make healthcare accessible to the masses which in turn has brought about opportunities for healthtech start-ups to thrive and scale up.

Role of E-Health Services in Transforming Healthcare Industry

The Indian healthcare sector has undergone a massive transformation in the last couple of years. Among the widely discussed innovations in the health tech sector, E-Health services stands out as the most demanded one.

Elaborating on this transformation, Yash Malhotra, founder and CEO of an online therapy and counselling app, Mimblu has said that, "E-Health services are transforming the healthcare ecosystem in incredible ways. Firstly, it is making healthcare more accessible and convenient for patients, particularly those in rural or remote areas. Secondly, it is enabling doctors and healthcare providers to reach out to a larger patient base and provide more personalized care. For easy access mental health platforms like Mimblu, it has been particularly beneficial as it allows us to offer confidential and convenient tele-therapy services to people in need who previously had not entered the ecosystem due to affordability and accessibility barriers."

The adoption of digital technologies in the healthcare industry is one of the significant changes made possible by the digitalisation of healthcare.

Divya Laroyia, co-founder and chief product officer at MyHealthcare, also validates the same and said that, "Online consultations are becoming increasingly popular, and new online health tech platforms continue to emerge. E-health services are transforming the healthcare ecosystem by enabling patients to access healthcare services remotely, reducing the need for physical visits to hospitals or clinics. This also helps patients to take an active role in their healthcare by providing them with tools and resources to manage their health, such as mobile apps that enable virtual doctor consults, booking home sample collection for diagnostic tests, e-medicine delivery, wearables, and remote monitoring devices."

It is said that e-health services improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery by reducing administrative tasks, streamlining communication between healthcare providers, and enabling faster and more accurate care delivery.

Integration of Technology in Healthcare Sector

Adoption of technology in healthcare has brought a quantum shift in the sector. AI is giving the opportunity of democratization of experience of the doctor which in the mid to long run will level the playing field for the care seeker. The first impact will be in diagnostics and prognosis. In terms of revenue, the digital healthcare market in India was reportedly valued at INR 252.92 billion in FY 2021. It is expected to reach INR 882.79 billion by FY 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 21.36 per cent during the FY 2022 – FY 2027 period. According to the reports, the industry will grow to $5 billion by 2023 and to $50 billion in another ten years.

Speaking about the role of technology in the ecosystem, Gaurav Srivastava, co-founder of Haystack Analytics said that, "If you want to understand the impact of AI in diagnostics, think about a health seekers journey. For any condition we try to head to the best specialist that we know. It's an opportunity for people living in the major cities which are generally well served with all round health care opportunities. These opportunities reduce significantly as we move to smaller towns or to a rural setup. The biggest enabler for an experienced clinician is his vast knowledge because of handling a multiplicity of divergent cases, experienced clinicians in smaller setups will seldom get. AI gives us the capability to bring the knowledge of multiple specialists together to analyze the condition of every patient and provide to the clinicians in any setting, a diagnosis and possibly a prognosis which can enable a much higher success of therapy."

The healthcare industry in India is witnessing emergence of various types of healthcare players, each utilizing AIML solutions to enhance their services. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the healthcare industry has the potential to revolutionize the way medical care is delivered in India.

According to Aniruddha Sen, co-founder of Kenko Health, "AI can be used to analyze large amounts of data to make predictions about onset (of a disease) and identify high-risk patients who are likely to require expensive treatments or hospitalizations, thus encouraging initiative for preventive healthcare. This has opened immense opportunities for us as a healthcare financing company We can work with healthcare providers to develop personalised treatment plans that are more effective and cost- effective thereby making affordable healthcare a reality. As AI continues to advance, we will see innovative solutions that will improve the quality of care and make healthcare more accessible for everyone."

Healthcare delivery has been revolutionized, and the sector has undergone a variety of changes, with the use of AI & ML.

Signifying the same, Archit Garg, founder of Glamyo Health also opined that, "Artificial intelligence is simply reinvigorating and reinventing modern healthcare. One of the most exciting applications of AI in healthcare is improved diagnosis to allow faster treatments and save lives. For example, an AI-powered diagnostic tool has been developed for chest X-rays that can identify and diagnose over 15 different abnormalities with high accuracy. According to a report by NASSCOM and Frost & Sullivan, the AI market in India's healthcare industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 per cent between 2020 and 2025. The report highlights that AI can help to address some of the challenges facing India's healthcare system, such as the shortage of healthcare providers and the lack of access to quality healthcare in rural and remote areas."

The pandemic has resulted in a significant advance in medicine and as a result, many fields such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, remote learning, and data interconnection will now become available to the digital health community. The reports state that India's healthcare sector is expected to reach $370 billion by 2025, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors. Based on the digital adoption index, India is one of the fastest-growing digital economies. In the Indian healthcare ecosystem, this phenomenon is also reflected in the rise of health tech.

Teena Jose

News Desk Reporter with Entrepreneur India

Teena is a post graduate in financial journalism. She has an avid interest in content creation, digital media and fashion.
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