Bringing the concept of a connected care ecosystem to India
A lot has been discussed about the state of healthcare in India especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. It is no secret that technology combined with a change in delivery approach is going to be the panacea for the embattled healthcare ecosystem in the country.
Despite bearing 1/5th of the global disease burden, India is way short of the global minimum when it comes to qualified doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff, hospital beds, and equipment. Specialists such as surgeons, paediatricians, gynaecologists, and mental health experts are perennially in short supply. To make matters more complex, the existing infrastructure and medical expertise is concentrated in major cities, leaving the vast majority of the country without adequate coverage.
Even with the best intentions and expedited efforts, it will take years or even decades to plug the gap when it comes to ensuring deployment of qualified professionals in all specialities across the country. This is where there is a need for a connected care ecosystem in the country that can leverage the existing resources optimally by creating a digitally-driven pool of services. Such an ecosystem of connected single-point delivery of care works on an on-demand access to healthcare support and guidance, and fosters preventive care. Platform-driven ecosystems connect doctors, hospitals, diagnostics, ambulances, pharmacies, corporates, insurers, patients, and their families etc., to create an end-to-end net of high-quality care.
We have already seen ample glimpses of the model, and its benefits in the wake of the pandemic. Usage of health trackers, devices to digitally monitor patients’ vitals, emergency services, online pharmacies, e-consultations, and other such digital services have helped millions of patients during the last two years. Going forward, the evolution of connected care networks will transform the Indian medical sector by helping people overcome key challenges of quality, access, affordability, and accountability.
Quality – No more than 2% of hospitals and healthcare facilities in India are accredited, and the menace of quacks, under-qualified or unqualified doctors is perennial in the hinterlands. This is where a connected digital healthcare delivery ecosystem ensures access to consultations, monitoring of condition and prescriptions by qualified specialists online. The patients don’t need to rely on quacks or bogus doctors.
Access – It is common for people from smaller towns, and rural areas to visit the big cities for diagnostics, treatment, doctor consultations, or even to purchase prescription medicines in the absence of local access. The integrated digital ecosystems eliminate this need by offering video consultations, monitoring of patient condition through portable healthcare devices, and facilitating patient transport/hospitalization if need be. Thus, there is a uniform coverage possible for all users irrespective of their location.
Affordability -Vast majority of Indian population continues to suffer from routine as well as life-threatening diseases simply because the patients or their families can’t afford the treatment. About two-third of healthcare expenditure in the country is out-of-pocket. Despite the growing awareness, launch of public health insurance programmes by the Government of India/state governments, insurance coverage remains low. Moreover, the existing health insurance mechanisms are such that a lot of expenses especially the costs of diagnostics and out-of-hospital care are usually not covered by the policies. This can be changed by healthcare management companies which offer subscription based end-to-end healthcare support and financial coverage for the patients.
Accountability – Accountability in healthcare is a contentious subject and is often the subject of litigations, heart-burn for the patients or their families. Even if one has a health insurance coverage or a hospital nearby, it doesn’t guarantee timely/quality access to care or any mechanisms to check whether the medical services delivered were adequate or not. Healthcare management companies can bring about a transformation by offering complete transparency and hand-holding support for the patients/their families by offering end-to-end support on call. Getting an ambulance, consulting the right doctor, assisting hospital admission or helping in the insurance claim process, a healthcare management company collaborates with the subscribers at every step. This not only improves patient experience, likelihood of positive outcomes, but also reduces friction for the caregivers, and helps in a seamless conduct of the entire medical ecosystem.
The concept of healthcare management has rapidly gained visibility and acceptability in the recent years. Considering the current scenario and the future projections of healthcare arena, the time is ideal to generalize the connected care ecosystem in the country by bringing together hospitals, doctors, nurses, patient care services, health records, pharmacy, home care services and the patient, on a digital platform. This will be truly empowering for the masses, and help India leverage its demographic dividend to achieve the economic and social growth goals in the future!
(The author Sanjay Vinayak, Founder and CEO, Connect and Heal and the views expressed in this article are his own)