How digital technology is empowering patients and transforming healthcare in India

In a country where almost 70% of the population resides in rural areas with limited access to quality healthcare, digital technology has the potential of not just enhancing but revolutionising healthcare delivery in India. This shift towards a more personalised, efficient, and preventive healthcare model leverages the convergence of various innovative technologies, setting a global benchmark in healthcare transformation.

The Current Landscape: Leveraging Innovative Technology Combinations

The integration of digital technologies in healthcare is addressing critical gaps and transforming patient outcomes across India. For instance, the adoption of AI in conjunction with mobile health applications has surged, enabling real-time health monitoring and virtual consultations that are crucial for remote and underserved regions. This is critical in a country where there are only 0.9 doctors per 1,000 people, far below the numbers in developed countries, and physical infrastructure and resources will always be playing a catch-up game to the surging demands. 

Wearable technologies combined with advanced data analytics have become pivotal in chronic disease management, a pressing concern given that chronic diseases contribute to most of India’s disease burden. These wearables not only track vital parameters but also utilise machine learning algorithms to predict potential health risks, offering a proactive approach to disease prevention.

Furthermore, telemedicine platforms integrated with cloud computing have revolutionised patient care by enabling seamless communication and information sharing across vast distances. Telemedicine has cemented its place in the Indian healthcare since COVID-19 and continues to play an increasingly important role in enhancing patient access to healthcare services and reducing the burden on overstressed healthcare resources. 

These strategic integrations not only mitigate the resource constraints in healthcare but also streamline processes, reducing costs and improving the quality of care. By turning data into actionable insights, these technologies empower healthcare providers to deliver more accurate, timely, and personalised care. Deloitte’s report on ‘Future of Health in India’ underscores the surging demand among empowered patients of the future as well as clinicians who demand access to comprehensive patient health information for better clinical decision making. 

ONDC and the Future of Health Information Exchange

The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) initiative holds significant potential to revolutionise how health information is exchanged between providers and consumers in India. ONDC aims to create an interoperable platform that can democratise health information by making it accessible across various apps and services without the users being locked into any specific platform.

Imagine a scenario where a patient uses an app connected to ONDC to access his electronic health records, which are stored in a hospital’s database in another state. The patient can share these records instantly with a specialist in a different city for a second opinion and even connect with a local pharmacist to fulfil prescriptions based on the specialist’s recommendations, all within the same network. This seamless integration across different service providers on a single open network can ensure that health data is not only easily accessible but also securely exchangeable across multiple platforms, enabling continuity and coherence in healthcare delivery.

AI and Big Data: Catalysing Precision Medicine and Predictive Healthcare

The role of AI and Big Data in enhancing healthcare efficiency and accuracy cannot be overstated. Innovations in these fields are improving diagnostic precision and scalability across populations.

Additionally, platforms that utilise Big Data to monitor disease outbreaks in real-time exemplify how predictive analytics can aid public health management by enabling proactive responses and long-term health policy planning.

Navigating Challenges: Strategic Actions for a Digital-Forward Healthcare Ecosystem

Addressing the challenges inherent in digitising healthcare is crucial for harnessing its full potential:

    1. Data Privacy and Security: Implementing robust data protection regulations specific to healthcare will safeguard patient privacy while enabling useful data exchange.
    2. Bridging the Digital Divide: Expanding digital infrastructure into rural and underserved areas is vital. Initiatives like Digital India should intensify efforts to enhance digital literacy and technology access, ensuring that digital health benefits are universally accessible.
    3. Regulatory Frameworks: Developing updated regulatory frameworks that adapt to technological advancements is essential. These should provide clear guidelines for developing and implementing AI in healthcare, ensuring these innovations are safe and effective.
    4. Collaboration Between Stakeholders: A robust digital health infrastructure requires collaboration among government, healthcare providers, technology developers, and the community. Platforms like the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) can facilitate this, incorporating diverse perspectives into healthcare policy and implementation.

Conclusion: Crafting a Future-Ready Healthcare Paradigm

Embracing digital technology in healthcare promises to make India’s healthcare system more accessible, personalised, and preventive. With strategic actions addressing current challenges, digital health can democratise high-quality healthcare, ensuring it reaches every corner of the nation. By safeguarding against potential pitfalls and encouraging technological adoption, India’s healthcare system will not only be future-ready but also resilient and inclusive, serving as a model for other nations.

The authors;Joydeep Ghosh and Srikanth Mahadevan are Partner, Industry Leader – Life Science & Health Care, and Director, respectively at Deloitte India. The views expressed are their personal.  


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