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An electronic backbone for healthcare

| | Updated on: Jan 22, 2016
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As healthcare demand grows, new players bring in customer-centric digital solutions

Healthcare last year saw a transformation on two fronts. Eight years after the last healthcare Initial Public Offering (IPO) hit the market, the year saw two leading players go through their listing process. The trend will continue this year, as more companies complete their IPO filings.

On another front, private equity is seeing healthcare as a key investment opportunity in India guided by the demand-supply equation.

For instance, the startup ecosystem saw the emergence of 300 healthcare startups with 36 of them going through early round funding. A sign of the changing times — it has been defined by the forces of consumerism and the investment world’s willingness to back new consumer-centric models of healthcare. And a key theme in 20 of the healthcare startups ranged from med-tech, home health and genomics to consumer-clinicians connect platforms, all with the ability to revolutionise the sector.

The Internet of Things finally saw its impact in the Internet of Healthcare. While the future belongs to reducing the infrastructure gap in terms of hospital beds availability, the play in healthcare is headed just as strong the digital way. Year 2016 promises to bring with it a second wave of digital health disruption and shift in the place of care. With wearables, point of care diagnostics, virtual care, and remote health apps, the connected healthcare consumer will support the creation of powerful platforms.

Wearables with assistive clinical applications like diabetes monitoring are going to get more relevant. Cloud-based hospital hygiene systems are making it possible to control hospital acquired infections by monitoring staff interface with hand-sanitiser dispensers using remote tracking location systems. We will see the acceleration of the asset light healthcare delivery system to support the healthcare agenda for India.

3D printing application will revolutionise surgery and have positive impact in patient care. There are case studies from healthcare institutions globally including a publication in the New England Journal of Medicine where doctors are using 3D printing to create realistic surgical model of a patient's heart valve or an optic nerve to practise a complicated surgery. Doctors in India have begun using this technology. Surgeons are implanting 3D printed stents, prosthesis and replacement segments of the skeletal system.

US-based Autodesk has created a $100-million fund to invest in 3D printing companies. Artificial Intelligence in medicine which has been symbolised by IBM's Watson will hopefully see a wider application during the year and a new wave of AI will help transform the delivery of patient care. Startups focused on long term sustainability, proven outcomes and leap forward solutions with unit economics in place will drive 2016.

The rise of on-demand healthcare, which respects the science of healthcare as the enterprise becomes more consumerised, will be the framework.

With digital health disruption and new devices, it is now possible to collect majority of clinically relevant data outside of clinical settings making the delivery of care more dispersed. While financial capital has begun to aggressively back innovative healthcare delivery models it is the human capital needs of this sector that can have an impact on the acceleration of these models.

A dogmatic focus on human resources in healthcare, their training and skill development and creation of a talent pipeline for this sector will be a key driver for value creation. Year 2016 should also be about technology creating a multiplier effect on skill development.

India’s healthcare is indeed on its path to transformation.

(The writer is Chairman and Co-founder of Medwell Ventures. Views expressed are personal.)

Published on January 19, 2018

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