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Why digital will turn a new corner in addressing healthcare gaps

When India launched the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) in 2020, the roadmap was clearly laden with some remarkable milestones – A compact digital health ecosystem with personal health records, DigiDoctor, health ID, and health facility registry. E-pharmacy and telemedicine services are an extension of this vision. What matters most at this point is the digital ecosystem that will help us lead this transformation. We are standing at an important juncture, especially where India is expected to have 1 billion digital health users by 2030. What does it mean for our healthcare system and its accessibility to people?

We must start by imagining healthcare that reaches the last mile, at the same time, costs keep falling, and a system that efficiently prevents and treats diseases. We need a system, which is tailor-made for individual lifestyles and disease profiles, all at an affordable price. The answer in one word – precision health. And the way to achieve it is through algorithms that matter, all powered by artificial intelligence. We are already witnessing how digital healthcare has greatly reduced mortality rates around the world, relying on accurate diagnoses.

Relying on algorithms. To expedite strength­ening digital infrastructure and enhance quality-healthcare delivery, leveraging data is integral to the shift. Healthcare providers are exploring storing valuable health information, analyzing it, understanding broader patient history, and using these insights to improve patient outcomes. This is where solutions like cloud computing come into the picture.

Cloud computing would be a key enabling technology that would democratize patient care, thereby improving clinical outcomes. High-speed data transfers minimize medical errors, and reduce the time taken to diagnose and deliver care. Thanks to the adoption of cloud technologies, the timeframes for clinicians to get processed images from anywhere has dramatically improved. This enables clinicians to turn data into impact, and research into life-saving treatments.

Over time, cloud platforms are also being geared to provide additional services, including device protocol management and care pathway analytics, which can advance the role of AI in clinical care.

The potential of 5G. Healthcare remains a dynamic field, and the role of cloud can be pivotal to processing large amounts of healthcare data in a timely manner. 5G technology will bring patient at the center of the ecosystem. It will open the doors to new opportunities, making healthcare patient-centric. 5G in healthcare was valued at an estimated USD 215 million in 2021, and is projected to reach USD 3667 million by 2026. With 5G comes the advantage of massive bandwidth, high data speeds, low latency, and highly reliable connectivity. 5G has the potential to disrupt the patient care continuum, transforming diagnosis, therapy, and prognosis.

This will help clinicians access data easily, with deeper insights into the patient history and best-practice case studies, enabling research and clinical application. This leads to more informed decision-making – faster diagnosis.

The pandemic came with many lessons – lessons we were waiting to learn and healthcare shifts that were long pending. Covid-19 changed the purview of the health system, propelling governments, hospitals, and the healthcare industry to accelerate the adoption of digital healthcare and wellness strategies.

Powered by AI, the digital world will transform the way patients are treated, and address the many gaps that exist when we talk about accessible healthcare. We are on the cusp of a significant change with digital adoption leading the way.

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