The outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic in 2020 upended the traditional framework of commerce and healthcare. Maintaining due diligence of contact-less operations became the prevailing protocol to avert the mass spread of the contagion. A big wall to be cracked down. Technology, however, always came to the rescue to aid streamlined operations remotely. In rocked by the pandemic, Healthcare too caught the wind of the lucrative opportunity to attend to the patients and their varied needs virtually. Seeing historical changes, in just two years since the pandemic’s upheaval on human life and livelihood, technology has come a long way in its application in the health sector.
Teleconsultations, digital wellness & health tracking, e-diagnostics, e-pharmacy, etc., started witnessing a staggering increase with more and more people seeking remote healthcare solutions. Health-tech has hence been picking up since the onset of the pandemic. Reportedly, the health-tech market is pegged to see a CAGR of 39% through FY23 from FY 20. It is also deemed to clock $50 bn by 2033.
Opportunities are boundless for health-tech
Invest India, the government’s investment promotion agency anticipates health-tech to create 40 mn jobs by 2030 with an astounding 3000 health-tech-focused startups. On the back of increased healthcare awareness, better incomes, and improved insurances, people are increasingly relying during this pandemic era are increasingly availing of tech-backed healthcare services. According to India’s Healthcare Sector Transformation in the Post Covid Era report by KPMG, to make telemedicine a legal practice in India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW), with NITI Aayog has unveiled new guidelines which allow registered medical practitioners (RMPs) to provide healthcare services using telemedicine. Furthermore, the report mentioned that the government has also launched the NDHM (National Digital health Mission) which focuses on telemedicine, health IDs, health records, along with e-pharmacy, and Digi-doctor services to address the country’s leaping health crisis.
Telemedicine and the ushering digital health and medicine services have done stellar work in showing light on the other side of the tunnel during the darkest moments induced by the pandemic. Reaching patients in dire need with assistance was a far cry previously. To state a few advantages of telemedicine, the telecommunication prowess has progressed year on year making transmission of images and sound files (visceral organ sounds like that of heart and lungs) faster and streamlined. Immunocompromised patients do not have to risk their well-being by being exposed to infectious diseases. Telemedicine and digital health services lessened the severity of the near-collapsing health infrastructure through the first and second waves of COVID infections in India. Citing about it, even for diagnosis of COVID reports, when the Covid testing facilities were at capacity in the country, several pathology labs made home sampling collection visits available for all via their website and telephone numbers to accommodate every request in an unbiased way.
Following the US, China, and the UK, India currently holds the fourth position in attracting VC funding to the Health-tech sector given the plethora of startups catering to this segment. From 2016, these homegrown health-tech startups have received $4.4 bn in VC investments of which $1.9 bn has been clocked in 2021 alone.
At this rate, with globally accredited compliance in check, the homegrown health-tech startups catering to the array of the healthcare sector are set to flourish.
Challenges for Health-tech
Though the future for health-tech looks lucrative, some wrinkles still need to be ironed out.
Health-tech remains highly scattered when it comes to addressing the right demography. A sizeable number of patients still believe in the traditional clinic consulted results and buying their medicines from brick-and-mortar pharmacy stores. They also seldom show faith in digital services fearing accurate diagnosis and buying old-stocked medicines for the discounts offered on online platforms.
Another challenge that arises is apprising the physicians and the practitioners with guidelines to better address the patient’s disease and worry. No past patient data makes it difficult for the physician to know about the patient’s history of ailments. Also, in instances, technical snags can lead to miscommunicating information.
Yet another gap keeping heath-tech’s increased penetration at bay is the lack of an online repository of the patient’s data which makes it cumbersome to understand and address the patient’s history of medical record.
Telemedicine has been existent for ages and dates back to 500 BCE and has seen revolutionary changes in communicating to the global citizens century over a century. In the modern era, being harnessed by technology, telemedicine’s time is here and it will only improvise from here to better cater to the patients. If the aforementioned challenges are addressed mindfully, health-tech will taste success exponentially.
(The author is Founder of Genesis Healthcare and the views expressed in the article are his own)