India has set itself a target of providing universal health coverage by 2022. With public health spending at 1.28 percent of GDP, one doctor for 1700 patients, 70 percent of healthcare infrastructure focused around a few cities catering to only 30 percent of the population, this seems to be a tall target. National health programs such as PMSSY and Ayushman Bharat-NHPM and growing interest of international hospital groups and investors will help bridge this gap to some extent but it cannot be denied that the ability of the private players to cater to demand in an economically sustainable manner will remain limited, as the price points for such schemes are likely to be significantly lower than those prevailing. Remote clinical monitoring, chronic disease management, and preventive care are feasible propositions. Faster inclusion of AI, Internet of Medical Things, and Deep Learning into the country’s existing diagnostic and treatment processes may be one of the key options to combat the disease-prone diaspora of India. With 993.43 million cellphone subscribers, of which 410.25 million are in rural India, 400 million smartphones, and 320 million broadband internet users, the Accenture forecast of AI adding USD 1 trillion or 15 percent of current GVA (gross value added) to India’s economy may just become a reality.
The idea is not to replace healthcare providers but to provide them with the data gathered from devices for better diagnoses and treatment plans as well as to reduce inefficiencies and waste in the healthcare system. Healthcare facilities get help with workflow optimization, inventory management, and medical device integration.
The challenges that the medical industry faces in this transition are substantial but surmountable. To list a few – absence of a healthcare regulatory body, low collaboration between various stakeholders, unaffordability, absence of adequate laws for privacy and security of data, unavailability of relevant data, and interoperability issues between various IoMT devices and solutions available in the market.
All forces will need to come into play to translate the latent demand into consumption and to ensure that all players in the entire spectrum of care, diagnostics providers, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment manufacturers remain on track.