Opinion

Healthcare sector needs a good dose of digital solutions

Varun Gupta | Updated on March 03, 2021

Achieving Universal Health Coverage requires an efficient and well-run health system

India’s health sector has a huge opportunity to leverage technology for delivering quality and affordable care to its citizens who are spread across a vast geographic area. These include delivering quality and affordable medicines, providing tele-consultation by specialists and hence more accurate diagnosis to people in remote areas, managing surgeries, and bridging the skills gap.

In recent years, universal health coverage has emerged as a central imperative of the World Health Organization, the United Nations and most of its member-states. India has certainly came a long way since October 2010, when the High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was constituted by the then Planning Commission, with the mandate of developing a framework for providing easily accessible and affordable healthcare to all Indians.

India’s commitment towards achieving UHC is evident in its policies, institutional mechanisms and various programmes that are focussed on increasing coverage and access to healthcare — one example of this is Ayushman Bharat, which is one of the most ambitious schemes launched by the country.

Achieving UHC requires a strong, efficient, and well-run health system — a system for financing health services; access to essential medicines and technologies; and a sufficient capacity of well-trained motivated health workers.

A digital health ecosystem put in place, complete with a personal health ID for every Indian, identifiers for doctors and health facilities, and personal health records, accessible through an app or a website with the health records, could be a game-changer in achieving India’s goal of UHC by 2030.

E-pharmacies

Digital healthcare companies have a big role to play in this, as the technological advancements that they bring to the entire value chain of the healthcare sector is immense. For example, e-pharmacies are invaluable in reaching affordable and quality medicines to consumers, and they also bring more transparency, have accurate data and transactions record, and better inventory management system.

These technology-driven e-pharmacies have introduced numerous innovations in the supply chain. They have added value by integrating technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, blockchain and IoT (Internet of Things) and transformed the way medicines are delivered.

Apart from e-pharmacy, the digital healthcare companies have expanded across telemedicine, diagnostics, insurances, electronic medical records, and point of care.

Digital health can revolutionise the way India deals with healthcare delivery by not just helping in preventive management, but by also playing a catalytic role in the entire continuum of care from tracking data to preventing an epidemic through ensuring timely medical intervention.

The new digital healthcare ecosystem needs a major focus from all stakeholders, including governments, and requires innovation to drive growth.

Apart from robust implementation of digital health solutions to achieve UHC, India, most importantly, requires the government to increase its investment in innovation in the digital healthcare ecosystem and a pre-requisite for this is a simple and clear regulatory pathway for innovation to thrive in this important space.

The writer is Convenor Digital Health Platforms and SVP 1mg

Published on March 03, 2021

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