NEW DELHI: Digitisation of the Indian healthcare system is seen as one of the most successful defence against the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
Public heath experts hold that a digital healthcare infrastructure connecting care givers, patients, and insurers across the country will act as a big enabler for policy makers to handle situations like pandemics.
India is currently at the cusp of the COVID-19 crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said to prevent an exponential increase in cases, countries must take immediate steps to identify those who may be positive for COVID-19, provide them with adequate care and isolate them from others. The apex agency has also called for using technology to mitigate the burden.
“Digitization, combined with other technologies, can help in multiple ways. For example, at an individual level, patients who are positive and do not have significant co-morbidities or risk factors can be managed remotely, reducing exposure to healthcare workers,” said Radha Rangarajan, chief scientific officer at HealthCube, a portable diagnosis system that can be used easily anywhere by anyone with minimal training.
“At a population level, data of positive individuals can be mapped by address. In areas where clusters are observed, additional provisions for hospital beds, ventilators and supportive care can be dispatched,” she said.
According to a recent report by federal policy think tank NITI Aayog, digital health could well be the lever that takes the country to the next levels in terms of achieving improved health outcomes. Digitisation could help healthcare workers give quality care while minimizing inconvenience and annoyance to patients, said the report which made a strong case for ‘wiring’ the healthcare infrastructure to leverage information to drive costs down and to improve efficiency. The report, according to NITI Aayog chief executive Amitabh Kant, presents a menu of “strategic choices available before India to steer its health system.”
The NITI Aayog report suggested that India needs its own common data standards and technology platform for data exchange across hospitals and insurers to digitise healthcare system. “We live in an era when technology costs continue to deflate at a rather rapid rate, especially that of mobile devices and network access, thus making digital health ever more affordable and attainable.” the report said.
According to Vikram Thaploo CEO, Telehealth Apollo Hospital, use of telemedicine needs to be encouraged as one of the ways of combating the coronavirus disease. “Apart from remote working, remote healthcare must also be given precedence. Rather than going to hospitals for general health issues, people must try to seek help through telemedicine to minimize their risk of catching the infection,” he said.
The COVID-19 disease has already so far claimed three lives in India and infected over 140 Indian nationals. The coronavirus outbreak, which was first reported from Wuhan in China on 31 December 2019, quickly spread to become a pandemic. Against this backdrop, technology startups also started working with government agencies, clinicians and academics to help contain the outbreak.
“China is becoming the largest testing ground to demonstrate how emerging technologies can be harnessed to improve epidemic management and minimize the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak,” Venkata Naveen, Disruptive Tech Analyst at GlobalData, said.
With the advent of technology, companies are coming up ideas ranging from portable diagnostic services and home healthcare. “Complete patient records from diagnosis to recovery can be used to derive insights on disease progression and resolution. Such analytics can help stratify patients and get them the necessary care,” said Rangarajan.-Livemint