The biggest impact has been the availability of tech-enabled solutions for virtual healthcare, better supply chain management, and integration by government/startup partnerships. There is now an acceptance and preference for digital healthcare amongst patients and providers. The term ‘phy-gital’ is being used freely as remote care, telemedicine, online consultations through diagnostic apps, AI-driven voice-enabled digital prescriptions, and customised patient care engagements have become a preference, rather than a necessity.
Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has undergone revolutionary changes fuelled by technology. Individuals are now viewing wellness with technology-enabled solutions, just as digitally-driven medical solutions are transforming collective patient care delivery. Factors like rising incomes, greater awareness about chronic health issues, and deeper access to health insurance are also key industry drivers. In fact change in agendas of healthcare leaders has received significant acceleration.
In India, the healthcare industry is one of the largest generators of employment and revenue, and it has been growing at a rapid pace. Thanks to technology-led innovations and digital models, the healthcare sector is being reimagined right now and becoming more customer-centric.
The impact of COVID-19 on healthcare
Unfortunately, the damaging impact that the pandemic has had on the healthcare ecosystem is leading to many changes. Reduced patient access and disrupted supply chains are some of the challenges being collectively faced. However, these disruptions have also led to the discovery of new technology-led approaches to healthcare. These trends have also led to consumers prioritising access to healthcare and convenience over other factors.
The biggest impact has been the availability of tech-enabled solutions for virtual healthcare, better supply chain management, and integration by government/startup partnerships. There is now an acceptance and preference for digital healthcare amongst patients and providers. The term ‘phy-gital’ is being used freely as remote care, telemedicine, online consultations through diagnostic apps, AI-driven voice-enabled digital prescriptions, and customised patient care engagements have become a preference, rather than a necessity. With electronic medical records being created, information sharing between facilities is leading to transparent and quick communication between multiple stakeholders.
Another great advancement has been the opening of communication channels between patients and remote specialists of their choice. This is enabling local doctors and specialists to cater to a larger clientele and deploy medical tools to supervise their patients from afar. Initial shortages of doctors and medical specialists were rectified through online/virtual consultations. Even now, post-pandemic, this is a trend that will continue to improve the doctor-to-patient ratio and ensure that everyone receives equitable medical assistance through virtual channels. Report collection, appointment set-up, and transparent two-way communication have thus become easier than ever.
By changing mindsets, technology infrastructure, financial equity, and manufacturing capacities, the pandemic has prepared the industry for future crises and has improved the current healthcare approach. The need for greater public health spending is clear and this is leading to innovative health financing models that are making healthcare dynamic and futuristic. Even government-led regulatory frameworks like the National Digital Health Mission are helping to create an ecosystem that supports digital innovations.
How technology is making healthcare future-proof
While technological developments are leading to the personalisation of healthcare, behind the scenes there is a collaboration between the scientific community and private industries. By adopting digital transformation, service providers are becoming more user-friendly while revamping their culture and operations. The availability of personalised data is a key driver for improved healthcare services, and such partnerships are making healthcare more affordable and accessible. For instance, robotic assistance for surgeries, disinfection, or medicine dispensing is now a reality thanks to path-breaking partnerships between technology companies and medical practitioners.
Until recent times, traditional healthcare has been a one-way street as patients follow doctors’ advice and prescriptive treatments. However, healthcare is now becoming more proactive thanks to digital transformation, especially as chronic and lifestyle diseases are leading to greater awareness. By making healthcare more predictive, proactive, and personalised, the industry can truly transform lives and make healthy living a reality. Service providers are actively moving on from outdated business processes and leaning on AI, robotics, and virtual reality to adopt a patient-focused approach. Even when it comes to training the future health workforce, there are now tech-enabled talent models in place that can help bridge systemic gaps and prepare medical students for the estimated 2.7 million new jobs. Online programmes by institutes are enabling candidates to improve their medical knowledge from anywhere. E-learning platforms and diagnostic simulators are also making immersive learning easily accessible. This is improving the talent pool of qualified healthcare experts and helping deliver better care to all citizens.
What the future holds for the evolving healthcare industry
While government policies and technology adoption are benefitting the sector, positive growth is expected largely due to a change in mindset. People are more open to disruptive medical care and as medical infrastructure in Tier II-III cities expands, medical shortfalls that we witnessed during the pandemic will be consigned to history thanks to technology-led clinical innovations.
Creating ‘emergency-proof’ medical solutions and digital infrastructure has become critical, and more hospital chains and speciality centres are experimenting with innovative solutions. The pandemic has been the biggest health emergency of this generation, and it has highlighted the gaps in the existing healthcare ecosystem. Thankfully, the sector is on the path to recovery enabled by technology on an individual and societal level, and digital innovations are well-placed to play an era-defining role in this transformation.
– By Raj Gore, CEO, HealthCare Global Enterprise Ltd