Enor­mous Po­ten­tial for Dig­i­tal Tech­nolo­gies

BioSpectrum (India) - - BIO CONTENT -

Dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies have enor­mous po­ten­tial in

In­dia for solv­ing var­i­ous com­plex­i­ties in health­care.

1. Aug­ment­ing ca­pac­ity of providers

● Au­to­mated di­ag­no­sis based on ad­vanced image recog­ni­tion al­go­rithms in ar­eas like blood, urine, cheek swab tests and lab im­ages

● Tech­nolo­gies that al­low re­mote con­sul­ta­tion to over­come bar­ri­ers of dis­tance

2. Im­prov­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of health­care providers

● Use of tools to pro­vide bet­ter train­ing to doc­tors, nurses, paramedics on tech­niques and med­i­cal ad­vance­ments

● Use of ro­botic surg­eries and 3D printed pros­the­ses

3. En­hanc­ing care out­comes

● Use of smart de­vices to pre-empt in­ci­dents with pa­tients suf­fer­ing from chronic con­di­tions like di­a­betes, heart prob­lems, etc.

● Use of apps, games and other dig­i­tal tools to mo­ti­vate such pa­tients to lead a healthy life­style, take med­i­ca­tion reg­u­larly and on-time, thereby main­tain­ing qual­ity of life

4. Re­duc­ing cost of care

● Use of smart de­vices in­side hos­pi­tals for bet­ter as­set uti­liza­tion and main­te­nance, to au­to­mate func­tions like mon­i­tor­ing spot surgery con­di­tions in ICU

● Bet­ter cost­ing mech­a­nisms in hos­pi­tals that al­low for op­ti­miz­ing pro­cesses and cut­ting waste

5. Bet­ter pop­u­la­tion health man­age­ment

● Dig­i­tal­iza­tion of pa­tient records al­low­ing bet­ter pric­ing of in­sur­ance

● Us­ing in­for­ma­tion and al­go­rithms to pre­dict dis­ease out­breaks in sen­si­tive re­gions

● Bet­ter trace­abil­ity of medicines from source to phar­macy

While many of the above tech­nolo­gies are ac­tively in use, what is miss­ing is har­mo­nized sys­temwide data in­ter­con­nec­tion to cre­ate more in­tel­li­gence. It is es­ti­mated that ~50 per cent pa­tients in ur­ban In­dia se­lect a doc­tor based on on­line search and close to 40 per cent read up on dis­ease and pre­scrip­tions on the web. Sim­i­larly, ~60 per cent of Tier 1 city doc­tors be­lieve dig­i­tal use will in­crease and ben­e­fit their prac­tice. How­ever, the gap wi­dens sig­nif­i­cantly in ru­ral/peri-ur­ban ar­eas. If we want to in­crease dig­i­tal adop­tion in In­dia, the fol­low­ing need to be ad­dressed:

1. Dig­i­tal com­pli­ance of in­di­vid­u­als

● Very few doc­tors out­side large hos­pi­tal chains use a com­puter or tablet to record pre­scrip­tions

● Sim­i­larly pa­tients at risk or suf­fer­ing from chronic con­di­tions might not be rig­or­ously us­ing apps or smart de­vices to record read­ings and share it with their doc­tors

2. User in­ter­face de­sign of tech­nolo­gies

● Lack of ver­nac­u­lar in­ter­face, for ex­am­ple, could make it dif­fi­cult for pa­tients to adopt dig­i­tal apps.

3. Co-opt­ing doc­tors to en­sure adop­tion

● Doc­tors are yet to start pre­scrib­ing apps per­haps be­cause clin­i­cal ev­i­dence to prove apps have pos­i­tive health out­comes for pa­tients is yet un­avail­able.

4. End to end health cov­er­age ● Con­sol­i­da­tion of spends in the wal­lets of an em­ployer or in­surer en­sures com­pli­ance at the hos­pi­tal level or in­di­vid­ual doc­tor/ pa­tient level as cap­tur­ing data is a key re­quire­ment in en­sur­ing trans­parency.

5. Bet­ter col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween en­ti­ties

● For ex­am­ple, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies can pool data to de­ter­mine com­bined drug sales in an area or phar­ma­cies can col­lab­o­rate with man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors to trace drug ship­ments across the sup­ply chain. Also, many hos­pi­tals and clin­ics in an area might need to share data to see dis­ease trends.

So what is the prog­no­sis for dig­i­tal health­care? Two ecosys­tem level de­vel­op­ments – one lo­cal and one in the US - prom­ise to usher in change that will pro­pel adop­tion of dig­i­tal in health­care:

● The am­bi­tious Ayush­man Bharath uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age scheme re­cently floated to pro­vide cover to 100 mil­lion fam­i­lies will ne­ces­si­tate cre­at­ing the tech­nol­ogy back­bone for dig­i­ti­za­tion of pa­tient records

● In the US, there is a grow­ing con­cept called dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics where apps could be treated as drugs by reg­u­la­tors and app mak­ers ex­pected to con­duct clin­i­cal trial-like stud­ies to prove their claims so that doc­tors can start pre­scrib­ing them.

In sum­mary, dig­i­tal health can play a trans­for­ma­tive role in health­care de­liv­ery in In­dia if we can ad­dress the chal­lenges men­tioned above.


Prin­ci­pal, Dig­i­tal So­lu­tions, IQVIA

S V RAJAGOPAL,Prin­ci­pal, Dig­i­tal So­lu­tions, IQVIA

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