Artificial intelligence, technology and innovation have brought in some remarkable changes in the healthcare service delivery landscape in India in the last few years. According to Fortune Business Insights, the Indian healthcare industry has been rapidly shifting from traditional in-person doctor-patient interactions and care delivery systems to digitally-supported remote consultations and care models, and the global telemedicine market is projected to grow from $79.79 billion in 2020 to $396.76 billion in 2027 at a CAGR of 25.8 percent. Nearly 20 percent of the healthcare ecosystem is expected to shift to tele-consults, virtual care, remote monitoring, out of hospital care and home health in the coming years.
At a time when India needs more skilled healthcare professionals and stronger infrastructure, alternate care delivery mechanisms are transforming the medical landscape through cost-effective and asset-light models. These are enabling hospitals and medical practitioners to cater to a larger number of patients outside of hospitals, even in remote settings, so that they can devote their energies, resources and infrastructure to patients who require in-hospital care. To cite an example, Critinext, an e-ICU model is Asia's first tele-ICU which provides intensive care beyond boundaries. This model uses intensive electronic medical record, audio-visuals and a smart alert system as a rapid response tool to provide 24x7x365 monitoring, assessment, support and interventional services. It also enables bridging the knowledge and educational gap by providing teaching and training to doctors, nurses and paramedical staff.
Remote care models can be particularly useful for Covid-19 patients with milder infections, patients recuperating from complex surgeries, those needing long-term acute care, elderly patients, or patients requiring specially trained nurses for palliative care. Currently, there are many apps and platforms that are a digital expansion of the medical practice, providing seamless connectivity between patients and doctors.
District level hospitals can also be strengthened and capacitated to handle the more serious medical cases if supported by dedicated around the clock helplines, software applications, IT support and remote diagnostics. On the operational side, these diverse models can enable the generation of new revenue streams, increased market penetration and market dominance. They can also go a long way in reducing the burden of medical waste and providing pathways for more environmentally sustainable practices.
In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, the cost involved in establishing the infrastructure for e-health and home care has dropped considerably, sparking widespread interest in its application, allowing organisations to envision and implement efficient ways of providing care. The internet has expanded the scope for e-health through web-based applications (teleconsultations and conferences) and multimedia approaches (digital imagery and videos).
The launch of the National Health Digital Mission, inclusive of telemedicine, unique health ID and electronic health and medical records has encouraged this by synergising and building salience across all e-platforms. In many parts of India, telemedicine and home care are still in early stages, however health information exchange, harmonious sharing of data, adoption of open standards, and a national health information network promises to speed-roll the process.
However, we must also be cognisant of the limitations of home care and e-consultations. Physical examinations of patients by doctors cannot be replaced. While e-consultations are effective in mild and moderate cases of any illness, one should not hesitate in coming to the hospital if required. Human interaction comprises several factors which provide doctors with clues and indicators on how a patient is feeling and progressing. This cannot be replicated via e-consultations and homecare. There are also the added challenges of technological constraints, discomfort in using technology to connect, internet disruptions and the inability to communicate due to linguistic and cultural barriers. Yet, by strengthening IoT infrastructure and following guidelines, these challenges can be addressed. However, in terms of scale and replication of operations, home care and e-consultation do provide a wider berth of benefits.
India is home to aging populations and chronic lifestyle diseases. Therefore, the need to encourage home care, e-healthcare and move towards cost effective treatment options at a primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare is imperative for the revenue growth of the industry. Technology-driven healthcare and home care will progressively become pivotal in healthcare delivery across the nation, proving to be more affordable and accessible to those who otherwise cannot avail quality healthcare services. For a country which has consistently faced the barrier of access to quality care, technology and innovation in health have the power to bring in lasting solutions to the changing health needs of our people and improving patient experience and outcomes.
The writer is MD and CEO, Fortis Healthcare.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
Check out our end of season subscription discounts with a Moneycontrol pro subscription absolutely free. Use code EOSO2021. Click here for details.