The last few years have been quite significant for the Indian healthcare sector, both in terms of technology and service delivery. The government’s focus on improving accessibility and furthering the patient outcomes is evident with the launch of the flagship Ayushman Bharat program, a step towards realizing universal health coverage in India.
The biggest challenge, however, will be to fill the gaps in Indian healthcare delivery model. Bleak doctor to patient ratio, lack of infrastructure, shortage of hospital beds, cost of treatments is still an impediment to efficient service delivery, especially in small towns in villages. While investing in infrastructure, increase in hospital capacity and approaches to reduce the huge gap between doctor and patient numbers is critical, it is also important to integrate technology to improve the scenario.
Connectivity to the last mile is fast becoming a major tool to deploy medical services and expertise to areas that have long been deprived of it. With better internet penetration and reliable Wi-Fi services, telemedicine can be an effective model to deploy medial solutions to the remotest of areas. Be it building patient records, assessing the need for medical supplies and ordering them, or understanding the ecosystem and vulnerability to diseases to create a warning system to control epidemics – a lot can be achieved via telemedicine, involving lesser human interface.
Connectivity also allows all medical records to be digitized and vital statistics to be relayed to doctors in tertiary centres where they can perform the diagnosis remotely. It could also save lives in case of an emergency when travel to a tertiary facility will take more time and there is a need for immediate intervention.
Take the case of Jamuna Devi, a resident of Chomamaliyan village in the Sultanpur Tehsil of Kota District in Rajasthan. She has never stepped out of her village, her medical reports, however, have reached all the way to Kota to get the second opinion from another doctor, ensuring the right course of treatment for her ailment. The connectivity brought about by iconnectWe Express Wi-Fi to the community health centre of her villages, getting referred is just a click away. With streamlined patient records and lesser waiting time, the day to day efficiency has increased.
Using connectivity to develop this smart healthcare system for India is also good for the economy. A report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates that implementation of telemedicine technology could save India $4 billion to $5 billion every year. It also states that if telemedicine replaced 30 to 40 percent of in-person outpatient consultations, India could save up to $10 billion, money that could be further used to improve facilities and infrastructure in remotest areas. Also, consolidating patients’ medical history into electronic health records can help healthcare workers make a more accurate diagnosis and lower risks of medical error. Using digital platforms also gives medical practitioners and support staff access to relevant research to supplement their clinical expertise.
The Indian government has been long encouraging innovation and collaboration in the healthcare sector. Connectivity and digitization can facilitate the same and open a tremendous scope for development of an efficient health ecosystem, through to the last mile.
Written By: Rajesh Kaul
The author is Founder and Director, LMES iConnectWe – an organization committed to bridging the rural-urban divide by bringing a technology revolution via connectivity.