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Digital Health as a Path to Care for All

Posted by: Karthikeyan Natarajan On June 16, 2016 03:53 PM

A country the size of India presents massive challenges for the delivery of services that can reach the entire population. No one faces the brunt of these challenges more than the Government. In the face of extraordinary challenges, we have done well. Our Postal System and Railways are remarkable examples. So is our healthcare system. Our care is delivered through a combination of Civil General Hospitals, smaller hospitals and dispensaries in districts and large villages. Rural hospitals, Community health centres, primary health centres and sub-centers provide various health services and outreach services to remote and rural areas. Many private organizations and NGOs have expanded both the reach and range of healthcare available to citizens. On another note, our private healthcare is so well equipped and our doctors so qualified that people from around the world come to India for their healthcare needs.

But, we have only 9 beds per 10,000 people and only 6.5 physicians for every 10,000 people. Clearly, we are not there yet.

Digital Technologies could help us get there, though. We are living in a time where the commoditization of technology is revolutionizing many things. Evolutions in networking, compute and storage, sensor technologies, wearables, analytics and Big Data are opening up immense possibilities. But the greatest potential, perhaps, lies in healthcare, at the convergence of traditional medicine, fitness and wellness.

We are making great strides in connectivity across the country, even to the remotest corners. We should leverage this to extend the reach of every hospital using Hub-and-Spoke satellite units and Virtual Clinics. Satellite stations can be used for a variety of healthcare services, including Telemedicine, Audio/Video integration for remote consultations, Telemetry enabled medical devices and integrated billing systems. I have no doubt such technology will do a lot to ensure Primary Care is accessible to everyone.

Remote Patient Monitoring and wearables are changing healthcare, by assisting doctors in the operating rooms, delivering remote care through video conferencing, providing real time access to Electronic Health Records (EHR) and others. People can now monitor their blood pressure, fitness, heart rate and diabetes and share them with their doctors real time. This overcomes shortcomings in our traditional healthcare system by moving recovery care to homes than hospitals. It encourages patients to move towards wellness and preventive care rather than reacting to sickness. So, IoT and Digital Technologies are helping hospitals do more with their existing resources.

These are just a few of the possibilities for healthcare. I am excited to deliver the keynote at the IoT Healthcare Summit 2016 at Bangalore on June 17. We will certainly learn much more about IoT in healthcare from other distinguished speakers at the summit.

I invite to share your thoughts.

Tags: Thought Leadership
 
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