How Digital Revolution Is Transforming Healthcare Industry In India

Anand Pathak, Director - Sales & Marketing, Netmeds.comIn his career spanning over 15 years, Anand has held key roles across companies such as SPG Media, Santec Solution, and B & G Digi Tactical, prior to joining in 2015, where he has been instrumental in making the company one of India's leading online healthcare services platform.

In this day and age, one cannot debate the role that technology plays in transforming our lives, starting with everyday decisions such as food & travel, to important financial and health related choices. Internet and the digital revolution in India have been the key markers for growth in almost every industry. Indians have embraced technology like no other country. Today, we are the largest & fastest growing digital consumers with 560 million internet subscribers in 2018, second only to China. Indians consume 8.3 GB of mobile data on an average each month and have downloaded more than 12 billion apps in 2018. The average Indian spends 17 hours on social media each week, far more than users in China and the U.S.

The numbers speak for it self! There has been extensive adoption of technology driven solutions in every traditional industry in India, and healthcare is at the helm of a digital upheaval too. Digital technologies have changed and resolved the shortcomings of the industry by making healthcare accessible and affordable to all.

The Challenging Landscape of Indian Healthcare
Despite the widespread adoption of technology, there are certain fundamental realities that still, to this day, govern how we observe India's healthcare landscape. According to the McKinsey Digital India Report 2019, we have 2.2 medical professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives) for every 1,000 persons in India. About 60 percent of Indian hospitals are situated in the cities, whereas only 32 percent of the country's population resides in these metros. Shortage of doctors and nurses is particularly acute in rural areas, and access to quality medicines and healthcare remains one of the biggest concerns.

This is where health-tech startups bridge the gap. Today, e-pharma companies have made medicines accessible and affordable to the remotest corners of the country. Apart from their core offering of online medicine delivery, health-tech companies have created a complete product suite in an effort to integrate various aspects of a consumer's healthcare journey. They connect the patient to medical professionals,
make medicines accessible, help in chronic disease management, automate processes and operations for various stakeholders such as hospitals, diagnostics labs, and health insurance companies, to name a few. Healthcare in India is moving towards digitization of operations in addition to improving the overall experience of the consumer.

Disruptions Redefining Healthcare
There are many ground-breaking technologies that have disrupted the traditional healthcare industry. Emergence of e-pharmacy, telemedicine, online doctor comparison & discovery platforms, and chronic disease management apps has found widespread reception and acceptance among consumers. Adoption rates of such technologies have been higher in metros as compared to non-metros primarily because of lack of awareness, education and limited knowledge & technological dexterity. Health tech companies have constantly tried to bridge this gap when it comes to introduction and adoption of digital healthcare initiatives non-metro markets.

Digital technologies have changed and resolved the shortcomings of the healthcare industry by making healthcare accessible and affordable to all

However, the rate in which India adapts to digital solutions can be considered as a clear marker for growth in the health-tech industry. E-pharmacies provide wider reach, accessibility, cost effectiveness and convenience, even in remote locations. It helps curb the over-prescription problem and ensures that a patient receives genuine and quality medicines, instead of sub-standard and counterfeits present in a non-monitored and under-observed `brick & mortar' pharmacies.

Remote consultations powered by telemedicine platforms have redefined the healthcare experience especially in rural areas with high dependency on unqualified medical practitioners. This provides effective medical care and access to trained professionals at 30 percent lesser cost than a traditional visit to a nearest hospital. Smartphones and improved internet connectivity in rural quarters of the country has given an opportunity for medical professionals to engage directly with their patients, and monitor & measure their course of treatment.

Digitizing patient profiles and health records improves the overall diagnosis and patient care. Apart from a few urban pockets, medical professionals are yet to embrace the EHR (Electronic Health Record) movement. EHRs help medical professionals make an informed diagnosis, reducing the risk of errors. This will help secure the e-pharma supply chain against the intrusion of spurious, counterfeit and expired medicine.

Sophisticated Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning platforms that power most health-tech companies today use the data assimilated, predict trends, assess patient record, improve diagnosis and provide evidence-based care at different stages of a patient's journey.

Creating a Conducive Digital Healthcare Ecosystem
The future of healthcare in India, as the trend suggests, will be entirely driven by technology. The creation of a digital healthcare ecosystem will bring a complete gamut of healthcare products and services under one roof. Integrated and personalised health solutions, will bring various service providers such as hospitals, e-pharmacies, and insurance companies together, as the need for care will begin from pre-diagnosis stage all the way to treatment and chronic disease management.

With the right regulatory environment and government's focus on the digital movement in the country, it will create a favourable atmosphere for health tech companies to weave their product offering into the existing framework for effective and efficient patient-centric ecosystem.