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Can Technology bring in health that’s missing from the Indian healthcare ecosystem?

Sumeet Chandna

The Indian healthcare system is little about healthcare and more about sick care that often leaves patients with an underwhelming experience even if outcomes are satisfactory. While there are many explanations about why India landed in this situation, few would disagree that technology is disrupting healthcare in more ways than we can imagine. Additionally, the government’s National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) – including Telemedicine, EMR and the issuance of unique digital health IDs will provide a connected electronic health record (EHR) based data lake environment which can further fuel this re-imagination.

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The tech disruption is happening across the ecosystem, driven by private enterprises and here are five areas to watch out for –

1. Awareness to reduce preventable ailments

Tech enabled health monitoring wearables can monitor symptoms such as sleep, cardio health, fitness and metabolism to prevent onset of diseases and timely detection of health conditions (for instance Apple watch) and a lot more will unfold in this domain.

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2. Timely and reliable diagnosis

India faces under-diagnosis in almost all chronic therapies. While the cost of physical infrastructure requires local incentivization, technologies like genomic sequencing using big data and AI are bringing a steep change in this direction and may reduce the dependence on physical resource investment in the first place. (Example – Google’s Deep Mind created an AI for breast cancer analysis. The algorithm outperformed all human radiologists on pre selected data sets to identify breast cancer, on average by 11.5).

3. Better, cheaper and more Accessible Treatment

Even when diagnosis is taken care, choosing what is the right treatment for a patient is a complex decision, one in which health care professionals rely on scientific advice of peers, co-morbidity conditions and affordability of patients among other considerations. Much of this information can get structured using tech as remote consultations start talking to EHR data lakes for quick decision making. Fixed dose manufacturing environments can lead to flexi dose using nanotechnologies and robotics and new bio electric materials and 3D printing usher in highly personalized, affordable and better treatment choices not visible today.

4. Adherence and self monitoring

We see a lot of wearable such as pacemakers and blood sugar monitoring devices and sensors making inroads but with localization of manufacturing, a lot more can be expected.

5. Patient experience management – unique yet standardized

This remains at the heart of the healthcare transformation. Ernst &Young released a paper on ‘Reengineering Indian Healthcare 2.0’ during the first covid wave that showed that 61% patients surveyed in 2019 believe that hospitals did not act in their best interests, as against 37% patients in 2016. Patients desperately expect a consumer centric approach that is transparent, cheaper, visible, shorter and helps view tangible goals of self improvement. Technology can do most of these – reduce waiting times, access to specialists, diagnosis at home with a basic personalization interface.

In conclusion, while the Indian startup ecosystem is trying to stitch the healthcare system together (pharmeasy acquisitions are the latest example) it needs more such enterprises so watch out for the next set of unicorns.

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