Opinion

MedTech sector’s role in the digital journey

Sandeep Makkar/Shravan Subramanyam | Updated on September 30, 2021

Transforming healthcare   -  istock.com

The Covid pandemic shows us how democratising healthcare with digital transformation is of crucial importance

The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), launched in 2020, has advanced our digital agenda through application of health information exchange, adoption of open standards and a national health information network. It has created green shoots of multiple public and private initiatives for accessible, connected and personalised healthcare for patients.

Covid-19 disrupted the already overburdened and under-resourced Indian healthcare system.

High volatility and unpredictability in demand patterns, concentration of infrastructure and professionals in metros/Tier 1 markets, shortage of specialised, skilled labour, increasing costs of operations, shortage of vaccines, medications and essential equipment, underdeveloped and fragmented data systems and an unpredictable policy landscape created the perfect storm and an immediate call to action.

With increased pressure on labs, hospitals and other healthcare services, digital health initiatives proved to be a gamechanger, bridging gaps in access through holistic, personalised solutions, regardless of location. They helped identify hotspots, contact tracing, testing, e-consults and vaccine registrations. Digital health is slowly democratising access to affordable, quality, personalised healthcare.

On the testing and virtual care front, several companies received approval for indigenous self-test kits powered by AI which save time, cost and improve access. Virtual care is now mainstream as Covid-19 witnessed shortage of intensivists and infrastructure. For example, Centricity, a tele-ICU service from GE provides effective remote access for critical patients. Similarly, Tele-ECG consultation is helping general practitioners manage patient triage. AI and IoT being 30 times faster with 99 per cent accuracy are being used by clinicians to predict, test, automate and improve patient experience and by hospitals to smoothen transfers, streamline workflow and discharge procedures.

The medical devices segment too is transforming into a progressive MedTech industry. Today, medical devices are integrating and connecting software and hardware solutions such as advanced visualisation, precise instrumentation, data and analytical capabilities, and advanced sensors including haptics.

Solutions such as software as a medical device (SaMD) focus on affordable, accessible and quality-driven patient care, helping healthcare professionals gather and interpret data to take decisions faster. Software vendors are supporting offline healthcare providers in t ransitioning to digitised health information users and health information providers. Additionally, companies are creating plug-and-play applications for existing online health providers.

Also, MedTech providers are integrating digital technologies to accelerate skill development through simulation-based training with virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning. As part of a suite of digital solutions, Johnson & Johnson Institute is launching a collaborative Virtual Reality experience connecting surgeons from Tier 2-3 hospitals to experts in metros/Tier-1 and global centres of excellence, to increase skills and confidence in safe and effective use of medical devices for established and emerging surgical approaches including Direct Anterior Approach for Total Hip Replacement.

The hybrid approach of digital learning and intra-operative proctorships enables multiple effective and iterative touchpoints in the learning journey of the surgeons. Johnson & Johnson Medical India trained over 40,000 healthcare providers across India between April 2020-July 2021 with high satisfaction rates for trainees and faculty.

A future-ready ecosystem

In this digital journey, a range of mediums are available to patients and providers today such as hospital@ home, E-ICUs and remote health monitoring. One example is Digital Expert from GE, a comprehensive tool that gives on-demand applications support to end users at their fingertips.

In this scenario, companies will need to seamlessly transition across care areas using technology to enable smooth logistics management, workforce training and equipment to achieve quadruple gains. Even supply chains are being automated with new technologies to enable better inventory management and tracking, improve order fulfillment, prevent counterfeiting.

The need of the hour is collective spirit and synergy among stakeholders to promote ease of doing business and a transparent regulatory environment to drive accessibility, affordability and capacity building.

As leaders, we have to be ambidextrous, respond with urgency to crisis and also plan business recovery and sustenance through learnings and emerging trends.

It is critical to identify and activate an ecosystem of motivated and capable partners including the vibrant healthcare start-up community in India to increase reach, affordability, effectiveness and consumer patient outcomes. We must act now to shape new pathways for democratising healthcare with digital transformation.

Makkar is Managing Director, Johnson & Johnson Medical India (JJMI); and Subramanyam is Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare Pvt Ltd; President & CEO, GE Healthcare South Asia

Published on September 29, 2021

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