How is technology changing the face of healthcare industry?
The healthcare sector in India has witnessed a paradigm shift in the last few years. While earlier, the industry had a singular focus on disease-care, today, with an overkill of super-processed foods and timeless work-shifts; lifestyle upgrades come with an inbuilt compromise on general health, demanding better awareness as well as high specialty care. In addition, the overall increase in the buying power of public has started to morph healthcare into a service-oriented industry, holding the patient at the center of its universe. The single-most important element that has helped kick start a revolution in the Indian healthcare industry to make it more service oriented has been technology. Corporate houses have started actively venturing into the medical care landscape, modernizing the concept of wellness, and turning it into a data-driven, efficiency-oriented system. The industry is now exploring newer methodologies that will help ensure first-rate service delivery, while still keeping the costs at a minimum.
This new model has been characterized by specific focus areas; across non-critical care – dental medicine, eye-care, sleep-care, pain management, nutrition etc., as well as specialized critical care – cardiology, neurology, pulmonology, nephrology, oncology etc. Cutting-edge product ideation has catalyzed the transformation of concepts into marketable solutions. The medical industry today has an abundance of remarkable innovations such as telemedicine, digitized and electronic medical records, robotic surgery, gene sequencing, wearable devices and implantable technology.
Additionally the demand for personalized patient attention has encouraged ideas such as second opinions, customized care-plans, higher levels of doctor-patient interaction and connectivity. Patients’ priorities and expectations have reformed drastically too. Patients today want to know their options, receive excellent service – both medical and non-medical, stay updated and understand how they’re improving by the day.
What are the challenges that end users were facing before the IT explosion?
The Indian healthcare eco-system was facing distinct and disparate challenges prior to the massive transformative disruption triggered by the IT explosion.
Ranging from extremely low accessibility of proper healthcare, high costs, huge demand-supply gap vis-a-vis availability of medical professionals including hospital beds, acute delays in immediate treatment leading to fatalities, lack of awareness, low insurance penetration coupled with religious beliefs and superstitions around healthcare.
Additionally, there were other challenges that a typical patient had to face, which included:
- Lack of adequate & correct data & information available
- Lack of standards, policies, quality of treatment etc.
- Lack of timely & affordable care
- Treatment and care available only in urban areas whereas rural areas were completely ignored. Users had to travel a considerable distance for seeking appropriate care & treatment.
- Resistance of the medical fraternity to introduce and to bring about change
Can you briefly explain the technologies and solutions that have really changed the rules of the game.
If there is one theme that has become all pervasive, it has to be “Healthcare Everywhere!”
Driven by the rise of new technologies, more & more healthcare facilities have moved from hospitals and clinics to homes and communities. From smartphones, social media to sensors, new tools are empowering consumers with more information and control over their healthcare decisions—and physicians at the other end of the spectrum with more options on where and how they treat their patients.
Following technologies and solutions have completely changed the healthcare landscape:
1) The rise of ubiquitous connectivity: From inter-operable electronic health records to cloud-based computing and data storage, continuous innovation has kept us connected and informed, everywhere we go.
2) The power of smartphones: Smartphone technology has put health information—and applications—into everyone’s hands. With “the medicalization of consumer devices,” smartphones are monitoring vital signs, measuring calories and helping consumer manage their own health in every possible setting.
3) The right care, right place, right time approach: Care delivery has transitioned from acute care settings to local clinics and retail environments. A new system of care has emerged - treatment by the lowest-cost providers, including pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
4) Electronic Health / Medical records (E H/M R): Triggered by President Obama's signing of the HITECH act in the U.S., a host of EHR & EMR solutions have now been introduced in India. These systems improve medical practices because they are enabling patients and doctors to view data in real-time, they contain a patient's history & diagnoses, lab results & radiological imagery, medications & immunizations, treatment plans & progress, transmit information to patients wirelessly/through email/through secured portal, provide automated workflow for doctors, allow access to evidence based tools for providers, make it faster & simpler to share health records between hospitals, doctors & patients. Moreover, cloud based EHR systems are revolutionizing the adoption of EHR in India.
5) Telehealth: This disruptive technology is bringing forth a paradigm shift within the healthcare eco-system. Patients & consumers can now remotely connect with doctors and medical facilities not just in India but globally too. A recent study (by Geisinger Health Plan) has shown that the odds of a patient being admitted to the hospital were 23% lower during the months they were enrolled in the telemonitoring program.
Telehealth services improve medical practices by:
- Providing better outcomes because patients receive timely access to specialists.
- Avoiding excessive admissions or re-admissions and unnecessary transfers because patients and doctors receive better & faster information.
- Reducing costs for physicians and managers by not having to keep additional staff on hand that specialize in areas that are needed infrequently
- Benefitting underserved areas by extending doctors & patients reach without having to keep the budget of a large-scale facility.
- Reducing costs for both hospitals and patients because specialist resources are more efficient.
6) Value through Big Data & Analytics: Healthcare organizations are leveraging big data technology to get more complete patient insights, supporting care coordination and outcomes-based reimbursement models, population health management, and patient engagement and outreach. Successfully harnessing big data has helped achieve three critical objectives for healthcare:
Transformation: build sustainable healthcare systems, collaborate to improve care and outcomes, and increase access to healthcare.
Dynamic use of information to improve decision making: Creating and analyzing huge data sets has supported quality improvement and planning processes, more effective population health management and enable greater opportunities for innovation.
Data Driven innovation: Integrating and modeling clinical, molecular and demographic data sets have driven research and development for pharmaceutical and medical device companies and helped them create new linkages between pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers and providers with clinical data while identifying safety concerns and also assessing cost effectiveness.
The facilitation of clinical trials with big data: Data-driven patient enrollment has facilitated and accelerated clinical research trials and results.
What are the technologies where government should invest to make healthcare available to everyone on the go?
Our nation has made remarkable progress on several fronts, and is healthier today than ever. India has successfully eradicated many diseases, including smallpox, polio and guinea worm disease. It has significantly reduced HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. It has emerged as a hub for generic-drug manufacturing, and it boasts a large public-health infrastructure.
Despite this progress, India continues to struggle with critical issues and gaps in its healthcare system. Healthcare is underserved and under consumed. Health insurance covers less than a quarter of the population, and out-of-pocket spending is high. Hard infrastructure and talent are both in short supply and there are significant regional variations in healthcare delivery. Investments in primary care and public health have long been inadequate. A strong bias towards curative care reflects a culture that often neglects prevention and wellness. The quality of care is mixed; high-quality care is hindered both by limited accreditation and by failure to adopt basic technologies. Towards this end, the Indian government has shown encouraging signs that it intends to make healthcare a national priority. What the government should now be focusing on is:
1) Increasing public spend on healthcare from 1.3% of GDP in 2012 to 3-4% of GDP by 2025. A greater share of public spending should go towards prevention, including mass screenings and primary care coverage. It should pilot and scale up universal-coverage models to guarantee essential care. The central and state governments should collaborate to ensure that healthcare is a high priority and ensuring that health regulations are uniform.
2) It should mandate minimum quality standards for delivery and diagnostic providers and device manufacturers—for example, a “light” version of the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) standards. The government needs to invest in an IT backbone and interoperability standards in healthcare, providing incentives for adoption, relying on tools to manage access to innovation in publicly funded products and services.
3) Create partnerships: private-private, public-private and intersectoral, involving the delivery, insurance, technology and pharmaceutical sectors of the healthcare industry.
- Expanding insurance coverage and reducing out-of-pocket expenses by rolling out a universal coverage system for essential care, which includes government support for the disadvantaged.
- Institutionalizing minimum quality standards for healthcare products and services, and initiating tracking of outcomes.
- Using health-technology-assessment (HTA) tools to determine access to innovation.
- Investing in IT and other technologies to overcome access barriers in remote areas and engage patients - for e.g. EHR, Telehealth etc.
Expanding the supply of healthcare talent in critical roles, rejuvenating AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy) and encouraging private investment in education. A clear roadmap for governance and continuing medical education (CME) for professionals can help improve the quality of healthcare talent.
Encouraging local manufacturing, transforming India into an export hub for medical products and equipment and also focus on raising India’s profile as an R&D hub for tropical diseases
4) Government should invest in expanding the supply of affordable care, especially beyond metropolitan areas, with appropriate incentives. It should continue to innovate with new delivery models, including private partnerships, to improve quality of care. And it should invest in cost-effective innovation in drugs and device manufacturing to transform India into an Asian hub for high-value products.
5) It should harness technology to expand the reach of existing services like telemedicine. This includes prioritizing investments in the appropriate technology tools, such as electronic health records (EHRs), to enhance care quality and coordination.
6) It must improve quality by encouraging the adoption of minimum standards and enhancing the skills and capabilities of doctors, nurses and allied personnel through training, career progression and CME. They should focus on education and awareness of healthy living and prevention; it should invest in worksite wellness programmes for corporate employees.
7) Engage with the private sector on health policy, sharing their expertise on such matters such as procedure costs, pricing and new technology assessments. It should commit to adopting and promoting ethical behaviors and norms.
8) Both central and state governments must provide public funds. The private sector should receive adequate investment, with incentives to invest in local manufacturing and healthcare delivery in underserved areas. Publicly funded services must be rationally priced, ensuring fair returns for private providers.
But that’s not all. The infrastructure must be made ready to meet anticipated growth in demand, especially following universal coverage. Trained talent in every field must be available in every part of the country. Consumers will need high levels of health awareness and should be willing to take individual responsibility for health outcomes.
Health IT and data can serve as the backbone for effective implementation of these initiatives, tracking outcomes and providing disease surveillance. State and central governments will need to improve the level of cooperation for consistent implementation of these public initiatives.
What are the healthcare-specific solutions that HealthAssure offers to the healthcare segment?
HealthAssure is a 'Network Based Product Company' focused on providing flexible solutions to the 'Primary Care' segment within the healthcare eco-system. We provide aggregation services within this space including widespread access coupled with huge discounts. Our motto is to bring 'Healthcare Closer to Everyone' at affordable costs. We provide packaged as well as highly customized healthcare solutions to multiple communities including individuals, employers, employee, the insurance sector and pharma sector among others. Additionally, we provide Health & Wellness solutions to corporates.
One of our primary objectives is to focus on providing preventive care services, governed by the 3 'A's' - 'Accessible, Available & Affordable' healthcare to everybody.
Our core asset is the widespread quality 'medical network' enabling us to provide services in 800+ cities across India. We have a wide array of general as well as specialized medical networks including diagnostic, opthal, dental, diabetic, cardiac, specialist etc. Additionally, we offer health & wellness services such as HRA (health risk assessment), EAP (employee assistance program), customized health programs for corporates, health talks & seminars, health analytics among our wide range of health related products.
The above is delivered by highly trained & qualified medical experts, using cutting edge technology. We have recently launched our technology based and highly acclaimed 'mPower' product, which is an advanced & feature rich app enabling anytime, anywhere medical appointment scheduling & tracking.