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Remote healthcare

It is unwise to discuss the future of healthcare without a mention of COVID-19. During the pandemic, known gaps in healthcare delivery widened further. These gaps are in context of infrastructure, skills, cost, and technology.

If addressed conventionally, these gaps in healthcare delivery will widen further and rather would increase exponentially. As a healthcare technologist, I only see digital as the way forward. Primed by gaps in demand and supply even in pre-pandemic times, healthcare was transitioning toward technology adoption, but COVID-19 amplified this transition.

In an unforeseen way, technology has emerged as a sutradhar that empowered the health workers to deliver care and in some cases enabled better ways of working. Healthcare technology is the unsung hero of COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to pandemic pressure – Care away from the hospital now tops the list of priorities in the healthcare industry. This is bringing about transformational changes in the ways care is being delivered. Following are the four areas where IT-led disruptive transformation is underway and is expected to further change the way healthcare is delivered.

Telemedicine
Why should the quality of care you receive depend on where you live? COVID-19 was the tipping point for usage of telemedicine across the globe. Medanta despite being an early adopter of the platform, witnessed phenomenal growth of 1100 percent in telemedicine consults compare to pre-COVID era and our telemedicine app downloads crossed 100,000 in 6 months. Various myths were busted on analysis of various dimensions of telemedicine patients – Age that only younger patients will use the platform; Specialties that only non-serious and non-chronic patients will use the platform; Location that platform is more of a big city behavior; and new patients will not use this platform to do first time consult with doctors.

Mobility
In sync with AAA – (any time, any device, and any place), mobility has helped clinicians to take well informed decisions based on complete patient history. This flexibility of AAA helps clinicians in improving the speed and quality of healthcare delivery. For patient (read customer), mobility provides freedom to digitally share their medical records and with that comes the right to choose their caregivers.

AI using Big Data and IoT
There are many enablers of Big Data and IoT including Internet connected bio-medical devices, better storage capacities, fast computing, and rich UX for visualization. Multiple avenues are present in healthcare for applying AI/ML techniques using Big Data and IoT and thereby improve patient care, enhance efficiencies and reduce delivery costs. Some of the prominent use cases are in remote patient monitoring, predictive surgical outcomes, remote ICU supervision, chronic disease management, preventive healthcare, and several other areas.

Virtual reality
Training and learning on cadavers is not effective and Dronacharya was only for Pandavas. Virtual reality (VR) has the potential to train many Ekalavyas. There are numerous applications of VR in healthcare for training doctors, nursing and paramedics on realistic immersive 3D models made to scale or on simulation based scenarios like disaster management or surgeries.

Worldwide during pandemic, mobility and telemedicine have become mainstream in the healthcare space, enabling clinicians to deliver remote care in a safe and efficacious manner. Now with changed behavior of patients and clinicians, remote care is seemingly emerging as the new norm in the healthcare delivery. Advancement of above transformational technologies will further expedite it. In a country like India where accessibility to a doctor and associated infrastructure is a still a distant reality, technology will certainly lay the foundation of healthcare for masses, a gap that has long gone unaddressed.

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