Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused massive disruptions across every sphere of human and business activity. There has been an adverse economic impact on people, communities, and countries. Covid-19 has also highlighted that is essential to have quality healthcare to build a strong society as healthy people lead to a progressive and prosperous nation.
There is enough evidence to prove that, historically, healthcare has been skewed towards curative medicine while neglecting preventive care, leading to high cases of preventable diseases. However, the current pandemic has exposed the limitations of curative medicine, the gaps in our health systems, and the lack of awareness about holistic healthcare. It has created a wake-up call, putting the spotlight on the need to take charge of one’s health. We have to bring about a mindset shift by reducing our dependence on prescriptive medicine and moving towards addressing the root cause of health issues.
Time to adopt a preventive approach to healthcare
Preventive care aims to avert predominantly lifestyle-oriented diseases. To best address population health at large, we need to balance preventive and curative measures, and have better access to life-saving solutions. According to an industry report, in 2019, preventive healthcare accounted for a meagre 11 percent of India's overall healthcare expenditure. Lack of awareness is one of the reasons hindering the potential growth of preventive healthcare and spending on it. Going by the current trends, we can state that it took a pandemic to help people realise how risky it could get if Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD), diabetes, and hypertension remained unattended.
Thus, the time is now for healthcare professionals, pharma companies, and people to make an organised effort to accelerate preventive healthcare measures.
Preventive measures are economically critical
A reactive way of looking at healthcare unnecessarily increases expenditure. If we manage to have costs under control and increase access to care, the efficiency of the healthcare system will advance significantly, resulting in improved quality of care. We need a robust national health dataset and machine learning models to offer sharp preventive care insights. Additionally, healthcare providers, both government and private players, can develop data-driven predictions and interventions.
The evolving role of pharma in preventive patient care
Today, patients are more empowered and involved in healthcare decision-making. Covid-19 alone has necessitated the need for pharma companies to reimagine their role in the patient's journey. It is time for us to go beyond our role as medicine makers to handhold patients through their care journey, right from education, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, to care.
The world has been beating the drum on collaborations for a long time now, and this pandemic has demonstrated some significant large-scale alliances. The expanding field of preventive medicine will not only depend on partnerships between healthcare and biotech companies, but corporates and their employee-focused wellness programs will also have an important role to play. The success of preventive medicine will be contingent on our collective efforts of promoting timely vaccinations, screening, and easy access to treatment.
Role of technology in enabling the shift
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, digitisation, and deep learning have tremendous potential to comprehend and interpret big data in medicine. Personal health tracking has increased manifold due to fitness apps and wearables. However, the data collected will be of no use without giving patients and healthcare professionals the ability to draw relevant insights and take meaningful action. The truth is that in a patient care journey, even today, we often rely heavily on the patient as the sole source of critical information. Crucial action towards preventive healthcare would be possible with our ability to analyse large-scale patient data and deliver it to the healthcare professionals. This measure will further improve the decision-making efficacy.
Today, the pharma industry is using structured data algorithms, AI to understand disease patterns and study patient responses. As the industry is swiftly evolving and working towards some groundbreaking innovations, we all have the power to do enormous good. The advantages of preventive care are massive. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) reported that clinical preventive care could save over 100,000 lives each year in the US alone. To get the most value out of the preventive strategy and make it a part of our reimagined future of healthcare, we need to simply remind ourselves that prevention is better than cure.
The writer is MD & Global CEO of Cipla.