Shally Makin discussesÂ about new tools and technologies which are set to change the healthcare landscapeÂ
The trend started with e-tickets,Â graduating to paying bills andÂ managing bank accounts, andÂ finally fashion.
Today healthcare reignsÂ on the Internet with a plethora of informationÂ available. You may procrastinateÂ over making that trip to your doctor, butÂ a service Â thatâs available on your phoneÂ or tablet on the touch of a button willÂ keep you gripped even while youâre onthe-go.
Intuitive features are especiallyÂ programmed to follow the same seriesÂ of symptom checking and analysing thatÂ health experts follow to understand what Â the problem is. Each person has uniqueÂ health needs, but once the problem isÂ outlined, the cure is customised and relayedÂ using Â interactive online tools likeÂ simulators and feedback forms that provideÂ a personalised experience.
The Internet is here to transform theÂ way healthcare is delivered to the masses.Â Technology has had a significant impactÂ in the Â healthcare arena. Now, withÂ the rapid proliferation of the Internet,Â technology may actually be serving toÂ alter the traditional Â relationship betweenÂ doctors and their patients.
As more andÂ more people use the Internet to gatherÂ information, many are relying on Â thisÂ developing technology to address theirÂ health needs and questions as well.
MD, InQvent Holding Pvt LtdâAlacurity providesÂ nurses, physiotherapists,Â translators, medicalÂ equipments, serviceÂ apartments, Â corporateÂ wellness plans, preventiveÂ health check-upÂ packages and follow-upÂ consultations, healthÂ concierge services andÂ online medical record forÂ quick retrievalâ
âOnline healthcare is certainly theÂ most imminent revolutionary reformÂ waiting to happen in medical world.
ForÂ many in medicine, Â thatâs anÂ unconventionalÂ perspective. Yet, convention canâtÂ hold back the Internet from masses whoÂ seek not only reputable health information,Â but also a dynamic user experienceÂ and Web-based dialogue about their respectiveÂ conditions and questionsâ, saysÂ Dr Sanjay Gupta, Consultant, MoolchandÂ Orthopaedics Hospital, New Delhi.
The shortage of physicians across aÂ range of medical specialities is a problemÂ thatâs expected to worsen. RetailÂ clinics and urgent care centres grewÂ from the difficulty many people encounterÂ in getting appointments with primaryÂ care doctors.
A new online tool takes the guesswork outÂ of developing individualised catch-up immunisationÂ schedules by allowing parentsÂ and healthcare providers to easily createÂ a schedule that ensures missed vaccinesÂ and future vaccines are administeredÂ according to approved guidelines. GovernmentÂ plans to increase online accessÂ to medical records and e-consultationsÂ which will push up demands on cliniciansÂ and increase costs.
âOnline healthcareÂ is a tool that gives patients the ability toÂ follow-ups with their doctor without travellingÂ or waiting in clinics. This enablesÂ doctors with a platform to provide betterÂ disease management support for theirÂ patients,â says Anita Shet, Chief ExecutiveÂ Officer , Pink Whale HealthcareÂ Instead of relying on a directory of physiciansÂ to grab the attention of busy patientsÂ looking for a cardiac surgeon, the onlineÂ healthcare offers video spots of doctorsÂ explaining various procedures.
ExpensiveÂ medical treatment in metros and inaccessibilityÂ in small towns are paving the wayÂ for several start-ups such as Alacurity,Â Healthkart and HealthCare Magic to fill inÂ the existing gaps in the healthcare system.Â They focus on preventive healthcare servicesÂ such as post-treatment check-up,Â follow-up visits and better referrals.
Alacurity, promoted by seed fund In-Qvent Holding, offers patient assistance,Â medical equipment and preventive care.Â Besides, it provides nurses, physiotherapistsÂ and medical products includingÂ respiratory inhalers, drug devices andÂ medicines to patients at prices rangingÂ from `10,000-2 lakh â which is 25 perÂ cent cheaper than the treatment at mostÂ hospitals. They are offering these servicesÂ through prequalified service providers.Â Shyam Znwar, MD, InQvent HoldingÂ Pvt Ltd says, âSo far pre and post hospitalisationÂ facilities are not organised.Â There are good doctors, equipmentsÂ and hospitals. However when somebodyÂ comes to India, they need Â many moreÂ things than just hospitals. They need toÂ stay over for long time. They need properÂ accommodation, food, translator, nurses,Â physiotherapist, need to buy or rentÂ equipments. It does not only cost a lot ofÂ money, but also requires lot of efforts.â
Sumit Chauhan, Vice President &Â General Manager, Embedded & TelecomÂ Business Unit, Symphony TelecaÂ Corp believes, âProper treatmentÂ of patients suffering from diseases is aÂ critical need for every society. EmergingÂ online and mHealth services are a keyÂ opportunity to improve the treatment ofÂ patients and also realise better cost efficienciesÂ in the healthcare system.â
CEO, HealthkartConsumerÂ awareness is risingÂ and people areÂ getting more involvedÂ in their healthcare.Â Consumers have
access to transparentÂ information toÂ address concerns ofÂ authenticity, efficacy,Â price, etc.
Bangalore-based Healthcaremagic.Â com offers specialised packages relatedÂ to blood pressure, pregnancy,Â diabetes, cancer and other ailments. ItÂ connects patients with registered doctorsÂ and specialists online, thus savingÂ time from frequent hospital visits.Â Started four years ago, it started gainingÂ momentum in the last couple of years,Â given the boom in online ventures.
HealthKart sells over 13,000 fitness,Â health and personal care products.Â The products are categorised underÂ eight parts – Nutrition, Sports & Fitness,Â Diabetes, Home Devices, Eye, PersonalÂ Care, Beauty and Parenting. Additionally,Â HealthKart also sells variousÂ healthcare services, such as preventiveÂ health packages, diagnostic tests,Â and gym memberships, etc, to provideÂ one-stop shop for all consumer healthcareÂ needs. Prashant Tandon, CEO,Â HealthKart mentions, âThe expenditureÂ and focus on healthcare is increasing âÂ both public and private. We intend to beÂ a shaping force through providing qualityÂ authentic healthcare products, usefulÂ information to make this space moreÂ understandable and transparent to theÂ consumer and leveraging technologyÂ to ensure proper healthcare can be accessedÂ from every part of the countryâ.
Pros and cons
The surge of health information on theÂ Internet has one of two effects on theÂ doctor-patient relationship. For physiciansÂ who are comfortable with the InternetÂ and with patients declaring theirÂ autonomy, and for patients who haveÂ explored sites with trustworthy information,Â the patient-physician relationship isÂ enhanced and improved.
But for thoseÂ patients who access flawed informationÂ and then bring it to their physicians, andÂ those physicians who prefer to practiceÂ in a more paternalistic mode or who areÂ not up-to-date with the Internet, thereÂ will be harmful consequences on the relationship.Â Dr Sanjay Gupta adds, âForÂ patients as well as doctors, it opensÂ up options from a vast selection ofÂ geographical boundaries and across aÂ spectrum of available expertise. Nevertheless,Â one has to be cautious asÂ online healthcare can be a very usefulÂ complimentary tool but not a substituteÂ for traditional medicineâ.
|Dr S B Bhattacharyya
Head- Healthcare Informatics, TCSâRight from seekingÂ information forÂ problems to beingÂ reminded regardingÂ next steps, includingÂ taking medications,Â online care is allÂ set to transformÂ healthcareâ
Consumer advocates argue that theÂ disclosure of performance data willÂ help consumers to choose high-qualityÂ providers. While there is a plethora ofÂ health-related information on the Internet,Â currently there is no way to authenticateÂ it. Indeed, there is an immenseÂ amount of misinformation available onÂ the web. This unfortunate reality createsÂ situations in which physicians may haveÂ to un-teach what their patients haveÂ learned. Dr S B Bhattacharya, Head-Healthcare Informatics, TCS highlightedÂ that, âPrivacy and secrecy issues,Â requirements of high levels of systemÂ availability and efficient data exchangeÂ using well accepted standards continueÂ to be areas of concernâ.
Sona R, Marketing Executive, TrivitronÂ Healthcare shares, âThe sheer convenienceÂ of a specialist being just a phoneÂ call away can drive users to an onlineÂ model. Online medical services offerÂ patients a unique opportunity to rateÂ hospitals, doctors and compare theÂ outcome of treatments. It offers a transparencyÂ that is beneficial to the patient.âÂ She adds, that the traditional system ofÂ meeting the Â doctor face to face and gettingÂ ourselves tested is the most convenientÂ and accurate diagnosis we canÂ ever get, though being a click away fromÂ getting diagnosed is easier.â
There have been many scenariosÂ where individuals hailing from an urbanÂ background find it a very time-consumingÂ and energy Â grueling activity to first availÂ a doctorâs appointment and then driveÂ down to the hospital for even a medicalÂ necessity that is as small as a generalÂ medical check-up. Extending this point,Â the scale of time and energy that is wastedÂ for other ailments that are a little moreÂ serious than general checkups would beÂ even higher. There also lives a certain setÂ of people who are so busy in their dailyÂ work routine, that they canât afford to takeÂ time off and visit doctors or hospitals locatedÂ far from their homes or offices.
Director â Marketing, Zimmer IndiaâOnline healthcare is anÂ efficient, cost effective,Â collaborative approachÂ offering seamlessÂ integration. The patientsÂ need to learn about illnessÂ or ordering prescriptionÂ medications.This isÂ definitely not a 100 percentÂ replacement for theÂ office visit to a doctor forÂ consultationâ
Patients who use the Internet are becomingÂ more educated about their medicalÂ decisions. They no longer go to theirÂ physicians for medical information, butÂ rather to seek medical advice to confirmÂ their own suspicions. The availability ofÂ information on the Internet is certainly aÂ wonderful thing to have at oneâs fingertips.Â However, if the patient-physician relationshipÂ is to maintain its integrity, usingÂ such online information must be partÂ of a cooperative effort. Internet medicineÂ is not a substitute for hands-on, face-tofaceÂ care between a real live doctor andÂ a real live patient.
Amit Bansal, Director, HepingDoc.inÂ says, âWith corporatisation of healthcare,Â absence of stronger regulation to reduceÂ malpractices, and without clear visibilityÂ of the medical diagnosis and treatments,Â there is an increasing trust deficitÂ on healthcare providers. This has led toÂ a growing traction for a service that improvesÂ visibility and provides structure toÂ the unstructured healthcare.â
There is an abundance of fraudulentÂ websites. The only way you can tell anÂ original from a fake one is by painstakingÂ research and cross-questioning theÂ experts before they recommend anyÂ treatment. Online healthcare wonât workÂ well for injuries which require immediateÂ care and also may not make sense forÂ persistent problems.
Range of servicesÂ
People who are tired of queuing up andÂ victim of inaccurate advices, logging ontoÂ medical health services for consultations,Â appointment scheduling, recommendationsÂ on healthcare providers and treatmentsÂ serve the purpose. From childcareÂ to fitness, the online healthcare modelÂ is offering patients reliable and multipleÂ solutions at the first click. Online medicalÂ services offer patients a unique opportu-nity to rate hospitals, doctors and compareÂ the outcome of treatments.
CEO and Founder, eHealth Access Pvt LtdâBy using technologyÂ as an enabler andÂ accelerator, we areÂ leveraging the massiveÂ penetration of mobileÂ and Internet usage withÂ technology innovationsÂ in connected devices andÂ helping doctors reachÂ out to more patientsâ
Most experts see online portals asÂ complementary to traditional modes ofÂ consultation rather than a replacement.Â For practical reasons, health workers areÂ often unable to talk to home-based patientsÂ with chronic conditions on a dailyÂ basis; but they could keep an eye on anÂ online medical record that is automaticallyÂ updated whenever the patient measuresÂ their own blood pressure, checks theirÂ weight, or takes their medication. SuchÂ technology could help medical workersÂ ensure remote patients are healthy, andÂ detect any problems at an early stage beforeÂ they become serious. âPeople haveÂ surrendered fully in front of Internet whichÂ delivers massive information about everythingÂ from minor to major. SystematisationÂ and expansion of healthcare sectorÂ are few reasons for enlargement of onlineÂ healthcare.â says Dr Vasvi Mathur, DentalÂ Surgeon, Private Practitioner.
While no one counts the number ofÂ interactive web projects run by those inÂ the healthcare field, the figure may be inÂ hundreds. The array of content includesÂ education tools, information kiosks, videosÂ and virtual renderings of healthcareÂ facilities. Dr M P Sharma, HOD, InternalÂ Medicine & Gastroentrology, RocklandÂ Hospital talks about the issue related toÂ self medication. He says, âSelf medicationÂ can prove to be highly fatal to oneâsÂ health. It might lead to complications like:Â allergy, bleeding, etc. WHO suggests thatÂ while providing information online the emphasisÂ should be on prevention of the diseaseÂ rather than on curative medicationâ
VP & GM, Embedded & Telecom
Business Unit, Symphony Teleca CorpâUbiquitousÂ connectivity enabledÂ the remote interactionÂ between doctors andÂ patients and modernÂ mHealth solutionsÂ even facilitate remoteÂ monitoring of criticalÂ health parameters.Â Technology handlesÂ sensitive personal dataÂ and requires properlyÂ architected systems toÂ assure a trusted patient/doctor relationshipâ
The Second Life-based Ann MyersÂ Medical Center in UK is run by real-lifeÂ nurses and physicians and demonstratesÂ how women can perform theirÂ own breast exams.
It also allows a selfselectedÂ computer character to receiveÂ a virtual mammogram in order to familiariseÂ patients with the procedure.
As with anything in social media, theÂ userâs experience is what they make it.Â But patients can benefit from such contentÂ in very specific ways. A social-networkingÂ website functions as a supportÂ group, users share intimate details ofÂ their diagnosis and treatment, Â includingÂ information about specific symptomsÂ and medications.
As online applications become more widespread,Â healthcare delivery systems willÂ need to develop methodologies that effectivelyÂ integrate health information technologiesÂ with in-person care. Itâs a massiveÂ revolution. It altogether shifts what goesÂ on when a patient comes in with pagesÂ of downloaded stuff and half the time theÂ doctor looking at it has never seen it before.Â Thereâs a whole new set of emotionsÂ present. Indeed, by providing access toÂ medical information, medical advice, andÂ online support groups, the Internet is makingÂ it possible for patients to assume muchÂ greater responsibility for their healthcare.
It is conceivable that cyber doctors willÂ one day provide detailed assessments toÂ Internet users who grant them access toÂ their personal medical records. It is alsoÂ believed that cyber doctors could actuallyÂ be brought into the treatment loop andÂ used as a type of consultant to the userâsÂ attending physician.
Moreover, audio andÂ visual computer technology may moveÂ Internet medicine closer to telemedicine,Â further merging the Â distinctions betweenÂ user and patient. Economists believeÂ that the healthcare system of the futureÂ will be completely consumer-centric and consumer-focused, a revolution triggered in part by unfettered consumer access to information via the Internet.