How is tech­nol­ogy chang­ing health­care?

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - Live - - My City - Dr Gour­das Choud­huri

In my ear­lier col­umn (Septem­ber 4), I dis­cussed how tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing health­care, and fo­cused on the im­pact it is hav­ing on doc­tors and pa­tients.

The ef­fects of tech­nol­ogy are how­ever stretch­ing far be­yond to other as­pects of health care as well.

CLIN­ICS AND HOS­PI­TALS

One can­not think of any modern health care fa­cil­ity to­day without com­put­ers, and their role is ex­pected to grow ex­po­nen­tially. Most good hos­pi­tals have al­ready started keep­ing pa­tient’ s clin­i­cal data, visit and progress records, in­ves­ti­ga­tions, bills and pay­ment de­tails in com­put­ers. It makes data re­trieval easy. The pa­tient need not carry heavy files and x-ray plates in brief­cases or suit­cases any more. Also, it is much more easy to pull out all the re­ports and clin­i­cal de­tails by the doc­tor dur­ing con­sul­ta­tion, some of which the pa­tient may have for­got­ten to bring.

This makes cross­ref­er­ence easy. A car­di­ol­o­gist sit­ting in his clinic in an­other coun­try can see the video-pic­ture of a pa­tient’s coro­nary an­giogram, and ad­vise him by tele-con­sul­ta­tion.

This new as­pect of health­care de­liv­ery has stim­u­lated sev­eral com­puter com­pa­nies to de­velop new soft­ware for clin­ics and hos­pi­tals, and they are get­ting bet­ter and cheaper with time.

PAY­MENT FOR HEALTH­CARE

The scene in In­dia is in huge con­trast with that of de­vel­oped na­tions, in that only 20% or less of our cit­i­zen are cov­ered by any form of health in­sur­ance. In other words, around 80% of our pa­tients make out-of­pocket pay­ments for get­ting med­i­cal care.

This is in­deed wor­ri­some as medicines, med­i­cal pro­ce­dures and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions are get­ting very ex­pen­sive by the day.

This up­ward swing in costs has pre­dictably gen­er­ated two types of re­sponse. One is to try and bring the costs down both, by pol­icy (say costs of an­tibi­otics sold by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, de­vices like car­diac stents sold by de­vice man­u­fac­tur­ers, hos­pi­tal charges for pro­ce­dures etc. This is cer­tainly im­per­a­tive, as even the USA with all its wealth adopted Oba­macare that Mr Trump has not been able to shake off.

The other ap­proach to deal with in­creas­ing costs is to have some­one pay for it, ie med­i­cal in­sur­ance. If one wants to go for a ro­botic surgery with its many ad­van­tages and safety fea­tures, it is bound to cost more– the ma­chine is ex­pen­sive, the setup is

costly, and doc­tors who train at it ex­pect bet­ter re­mu­ner­a­tion and so on. Hence health in­sur­ance is be­com­ing im­per­a­tive.

E-PHAR­MACY

Medicines that are sold in phar­macy shops are in­deed ex­pen­sive as they are sold by the MRP printed on them. If you were to buy the same medicines from a whole­seller, it would come cheaper as it would be shorn of the re­tail mar­gin. E-phar­ma­cies are do­ing just that. They are buy­ing medicines form the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal houses at “out­let prices” and sell­ing them on-line with small profit mar­gins. This is mak­ing a lot of dif­fer­ence es­pe­cially for those who re­quire long-term ther­apy, and can help them save much on a monthly or yearly ba­sis. Tech­nol­ogy is in­escapable. It de­pends on us how we make the best of it.

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