India finds itself on the cusp of yet another digital revolution, and this time, it’s poised to unfold within the healthcare sector. The convergence of groundbreaking technological advancements over the past two decades, coupled with the catalytic impact of Covid-19, has instigated a significant shift in how healthcare is delivered, monitored, and accessed not only in our country but also globally.
This shift is evident in the increased adoption of digital healthcare and telemedicine, the emergence of quality-focused healthcare centres and clinics, and a heightened emphasis on patient choice, patient-centricity, and empowerment. As someone who has witnessed and contributed to Practo’s journey of delivering high-quality healthcare to over 30 crore patients, I am filled with both enthusiasm and confidence regarding the future of healthcare, particularly digital healthcare, in India. With a greater emphasis on quality and convenience than ever before, I am certain that the upcoming years will play a pivotal role in reshaping the trajectory of primary care in our nation.
Here are some of the trends that I believe are poised to drive this change and reshape the healthcare landscape in our country:
1. Seamless access will take centre stage:
The ease of access to primary care is poised to undergo a further transformation, becoming more seamless and convenient than ever before. The proliferation of smartphones and pervasive internet connectivity will empower patients to engage with healthcare providers from the comfort of their homes, transcending geographical barriers that have traditionally limited access. With an estimated 1.10 billion smartphone users in India as of 2023, patients can now effortlessly connect with healthcare professionals through video consultations and instant messaging, sidestepping the burdens of travel and protracted waiting times.
2. Primary care will become more holistic and integrated:
The integration of primary care into the broader spectrum of healthcare, including secondary care and patients’ comprehensive health journeys, is set to become more cohesive and comprehensive. Digital platforms like ours, alongside government-led initiatives such as the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, which has already garnered adoption by over 449 million Indians, are poised to bridge the gap between primary care providers, specialists, hospitals, and patients. This integrated approach will facilitate seamless communication, coordinated care, and shared decision-making, thereby ensuring patients receive timely, appropriate care from the most fitting healthcare professionals.
3. Increased spends in clinic infrastructure will lead to better treatment outcomes:
Investment in clinic infrastructure is a critical component of the evolving healthcare landscape. As clinics modernise and embrace digital tools, they are better equipped to provide efficient and effective care. Infact, in a report published by PwC titled Capital project and infrastructure spending Outlook to 2025, it was reported that infrastructure spending will grow from $4 trillion per year in 2012 to more than $9 trillion per year by 2025. With the many lessons Covid has taught us, we’ve also learned that upgraded clinic infrastructure is linked to improved treatment outcomes, reducing the burden on patients and healthcare systems.
4. Predictive and preventive healthcare trends will continue to emerge:
Digital primary care will transcend mere disease treatment to encompass a preventative dimension. Leveraging data analytics and wearable technologies, individuals will gain insights into their health trends and wellness. Early indicators of potential health concerns will empower patients to embrace healthier lifestyles and make informed choices. Preventive healthcare will assume a central role in digital primary care, fostering diminished hospitalizations and heightened overall well-being. For instance, the proliferation of wearable devices, a phenomenon familiar to many, is indicative of this trend. According to IDC India, a total of 14.4 million wearables, including 12.2 million smartwatches, were shipped to the country in a single year.
5. Government initiatives on digitisation will boost digital adoption of primary care:
Government initiatives play a pivotal role in driving the digital adoption of primary care. Programs such as the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) which aims to digitise healthcare, are gaining traction and already benefiting millions of Indians. The digitisation of healthcare not only enhances access but also contributes to a more connected and efficient healthcare system.
6. Virtual health records will become commonplace:
In the coming half-decade, a sweeping transformation in health record management awaits. Traditional paper-based records will transform to secure and accessible virtual health records, made possible by governmental initiatives. Patients will have a consolidated platform to house their medical history, test results, prescriptions, and treatment plans. This shift, enabled by the ABDM in India, will empower healthcare providers with comprehensive patient profiles, facilitating tailored and precise care delivery.
7. Painless and long-lasting treatments pushing consumers to adopt primary care:
Advancements in medical treatments have made primary care more attractive than ever. Painless and long-lasting treatments, like minimally invasive surgeries, laser therapies, and innovative pharmaceuticals, encourage consumers to embrace primary care for their healthcare needs.
8. Data privacy and security regulations in healthcare will become stringent:
While the merits of digital primary care are undeniable, addressing data privacy and security concerns will become paramount. The ensuing five years will witness stringent regulations and technological leaps to ensure patient data remains confidential and safeguarded.
9. Patient centricity and empowerment will take centre stage:
Digital primary care will cultivate a reciprocal relationship, fostering elevated patient engagement. Patients will wield a comprehensive understanding of their health conditions, treatment options, and self-care protocols and be more interested in preventive healthcare. Engaged patients will assume ownership of their well-being, engaging in active collaboration with healthcare providers.
10. Economic accessibility will become important in healthcare:
Among the transformative facets of digital primary care, its impact on economic accessibility stands out. As healthcare costs ascend, digital platforms present cost-effective alternatives for primary care, particularly benefiting underserved or remote populations. This democratises access to high-quality healthcare services, and I believe that more healthcare players will follow suit.
11. Collaboration and data sharing will become catalysts for better patient outcomes:
Digital primary care will kindle seamless collaboration among healthcare stakeholders. Patient data will circulate securely throughout the continuum of care, spanning primary care physicians, specialists, and allied healthcare professionals. This real-time data exchange will foster informed decision-making, reduced redundancies in testing, and enhanced care coordination.
In conclusion, I truly do believe that the horizon for digital primary care shines with promise and transformation. The intersection of technology, medical knowledge, and patient engagement is poised to revolutionise the accessibility and delivery of primary healthcare services. As information becomes increasingly accessible and the healthcare industry undergoes a transformation in mindset, patient empowerment will emerge as a focal point. This empowerment will enable individuals to make informed healthcare choices seamlessly, resulting in improved healthcare outcomes.
As Practo continues to champion this digital revolution, we envision an era where healthcare orbits around the patient—preemptive, patient-centric, and accessible to all, regardless of geographical confines. The ensuing five years carry immense potential to remould healthcare, and we are thrilled to spearhead this journey in unison with fellow stakeholders, policymakers, and innovators united by the shared goal of expanding. The Practo Blog