“Digital Health Market is estimated to grow at over 17.4% between 2021 and 2027.”
With the advent of digital transformation, the healthcare industry is paving the path for digital transformation to make healthcare a priority.
Keeping in place the scope and challenges for the Digital Healthcare industry, we conducted a Podcast series with Mr Veneeth Purushotaman CHCIO, Group CIO at Aster DM Healthcare, in a meaningful conversation with Mr Pranav Kumar, CEO, ICD Technologies, on the most talked about topic- Digital Health. Post Covid-19, digital health garners attention and raises concerns among leading healthcare providers worldwide.
So let us go through the insights and information shared in the podcast series - Digital Health and the future of healthcare.
We asked Mr Veneeth a few questions about how the digital health landscape has changed over time. We also discussed the challenges posed at present and what actions might help improve the digital healthcare scenario.
Here are some of the interesting topics touched on during the podcast.
So, first things first, what are the opportunities and powers of the digital healthcare industry?
According to Veneeth, healthcare has always been slightly behind compared to other verticals in the use of technology and digitization. However, the pandemic gave it the much-needed impetus. Many of the buzzwords in digital health viz Teleconsultation, IoT/IoMT, Remote monitoring etc have been there for decades but never got the spotlight or if I may put it this way, the real use case for adoption like it happened during the pandemic.
The key stakeholders in healthcare, the care provider or Doctor and the Patient, found these technology solutions so useful and appropriate for the situation that adoption was no longer the problem. Suddenly, it was all about how to scale this up, how we make these solutions seamless for the patients and the doctors and most importantly how we make this safe for both the stakeholders. Both Virtual Consult and Remote Monitoring made healthcare accessible and affordable as the ease and cost of care delivery got better.
Veneeth says that as health systems across the world reacted to the pandemic and as communities and cities went into lockdown, the care delivery to chronic care and geriatric patients was impacted and the solutions like Virtual Consult or Teleconsult came to the rescue. Initially, the care was delivered with whatever solutions the doctors had access to like Whatsapp, Teams or Zoom but in a matter of months, the technology teams and partners got together to provide seamless access to Clinicians to consult and prescribe medicines to patients while they remained in the safety of their homes.
Similarly, within the Hospitals, the doctors and care providers could use remote care and monitoring solutions to provide care to patients in the Isolated Covid wards and this made a lot of difference to the clinicians getting affected by Covid. Digital Health was a saviour all the way.
Veneeth undoubtedly finds Telehealth and remote care among the top technology trends in digital healthcare. Telehealth or Virtual Consult or Tele-consult, whatever be the name, helped solve the problem of access to care even when the patient was confined to the home during the lockdown; this with the prescription uploaded and medicines delivered at the doorstep from the neighbourhood pharmacy was a saviour. Remote care allowed the Doctors to not only help the patients in the isolation wards using the remote care tools but also helped in taking care of the patients at home, be they senior citizens or chronically ill patients.
The second top trend is the use of AI in digital healthcare. Artificial Intelligence algorithms working on the data captured from Electronic Medical Records, X-rays and Scan images and even from wearables capturing Vitals can be used to proactively help the patients and act as a second opinion to the clinicians. An alert sent from such an AI-enabled device could save the life of patients with timely help. AI in Imaging has helped detect patterns and identify a Covid patient even before the other test arrived thereby helping in early medication and cure.
The Excerpts that we can draw from the first set of questions is that digital healthcare was present before the pandemic; however, it became more relevant during the pandemic. It happened because of the sudden switch to everything virtual, a zero physical contact scenario.
The transformation has been quick and convenient, as the use cases for most of it are expected. This helped a lot in the prompt service in the healthcare sector during the unfortunate emergency.
Digital healthcare has caught the speed and attention and is soon on the way to becoming a full-fledged healthcare solution. The primary focus would be on making healthcare accessible and affordable.
Mr Veneeth thinks that data is the most sensitive and crucial element in the digital healthcare industry. Digital Healthcare relies entirely on data and therefore the most important ingredient of Digital Health even before technology and gadgets. Imperative therefore to ensure All Data is captured Always and Correctly with the least manual intervention to ensure a successful deployment of digital health.
Industry fellows are working hard to ensure digital health data is captured well and correctly. Data is the fuel for this sector, without which it cannot run. Data can indeed be considered oil, and much work needs to be done to make this crude oil into good oil.
Veneeth says the data in this sector is at the highest risk because it’s about an individual’s health or disease and is therefore much more confidential and personal than credit card or bank information. The exact reason why this is the most vulnerable to ransomware and phishing attacks. The unique aspect of health data is that it has to be shared with multiple caregivers and clinicians so that they can treat the individual, unlike a credit card or other info which can be safeguarded and not shared. This, therefore, brings the need to spread awareness on confidential data handling. Hence, everyone needs to deal with the data safely and use it when and where required. The only way to make it secure yet usable is by educating the people in charge of this data and making them aware of its importance.
According to Veneeth, the most challenging part of digital healthcare technology is the gap in demand and supply. Both in terms of Skilled manpower and also in terms of a strong partner ecosystem.
There are very few stable and strong partners who provide a healthcare solution landscape end to end, and these solutions come at a steep price not affordable to most of the health systems in third-world countries. This then leads to several players who have solutions in bits and pieces.
If people see it long-term, it’s an opportunity knocking at the door. The big technology companies and startups can start thinking of ideas related to innovation in digital healthcare technologies that can be of meaningful use for the companies and the users.
Another challenge would be the cost of building systems. So, another aim should be to make affordable solutions, and this requires a mix of expertise of people with conventional healthcare experience and people with knowledge of technology seeking opportunities to make the industry function better and smoother.
To summarise, the digital healthcare industry needs to focus on building affordable healthcare solutions. Businesses in other spheres must consider developing systems specifically for the healthcare sector.