[World Health Day] What the healthcare sector needs to focus on post COVID-19 pandemic

After the COVID-19 pandemic, medical experts and consumers have woken up to the potential of digital transformation in healthcare. The sector is now poised to tap the many opportunities and build the future of the healthcare industry.
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COVID-19 did what nobody could: it accelerated the digital transformation of healthcare delivery at an unprecedented pace. 

Digitisation in the healthcare sector was underway in India, but medical experts and consumers did not realise its full potential. But amid the pandemic, they all moved online. 

The year 2020 clearly marked a behavioural shift in the healthcare segment. With the world realising the full potential of online healthcare in solving several issues, including accessibility and affordability, this change is now paving the way for a new model of healthcare delivery.

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“There was already a trend of bringing digitisation capabilities in healthcare for diagnostics, screening, and other solutions. Using digital or tech in healthcare was already coming in, but not in full force for many reasons, including behavioural patterns and resources. But the shift has been accelerated due to COVID,” Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO and Director of C-CAMP (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platform) told YourStory.

According to the IAMAI-Praxis report titled HealthTech Predictions 2021, the Indian healthtech market is growing at a 39 percent CAGR to reach $5 billion by 2023. The market currently stands at $1.9 billion, which is only 1 per cent of the total Indian healthcare market.

Harshit Jain, Founder and CEO of Doceree, said digital services would play a significant role in the healthcare sector after the pandemic.  

“The theme of this year’s World Health Day is to build a fairer and healthier world, and it will not be possible until the potential of digital is well exploited to take quality healthcare to people in far corners of the world. The next wave of innovation in healthcare will have to focus on building the digital ecosystem,” he added.  

Startup ecosystem vs pandemic

COVID-19 added immense pressure on India’s stressed healthcare infrastructure. And amid lack of healthcare professionals, rising cases across the country are only adding to the pressure.

However, the Indian startup ecosystem fought the pandemic with numerous innovations. Entrepreneurs and innovators went beyond their own businesses, pivoting from their core model to build solutions to fight the pandemic.

Last year, after the lockdown was declared, the Indian healthcare sector was struggling to meet the demand for PPE kits, masks, sanitisers, and test kits. Now, the country is not only exporting these to other countries but is also running one of the largest vaccination drives in the world.

Shyatto Raha, Founder and CEO of MyHealthcare Technologies, said the healthcare sector in India has been one of the slowest adopters of digital technology in the delivery of care due to legacy operating issues and infrastructure hurdles among others.

COVID-19 has been a catalyst to push through much-needed behavioural change in patients and doctors, but it is yet to be seen how hospitals and healthcare institutions take advantage of the healthcare startup ecosystem. Startups need to look at creating solutions and platforms that solve issues of access or efficiency care, and test a few scenarios through partnerships with healthcare institutions,” he added. 

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Gearing up to fight the second wave

With India gearing up to combat the second wave of coronavirus pandemic, Vikas Gupta, Co-Founder and Programme Director of MyDiagnostics, said the startup ecosystem will need to “continue to focus on improving overall care delivery”. 

The startup ecosystem must focus on building solutions for remote health monitoring, health risk analytics, rapid point-of-care testing kits, and portable IoT-enabled medical devices among others.

Dr Taslim said the healthtech startup ecosystem has now experienced the COVID-19 crisis for one year and realises the main challenges.

“This is a time for them to do two main things. One, not take a shortcut in terms of quality of healthcare delivery, and aim for global standards and world-class quality. Secondly, look at products or innovation from a scaling-up perspective. They cannot build prototypes and claim that they have built a healthcare innovation. That has been a small challenge for us,” he said. 

“Startups need to look beyond COVID-19 and build products that will be relevant even after the pandemic is over,” he adds. 

Nilesh Aggarwal, Founder and CEO of MedTalks, said the startup ecosystem also needed to create a greater resource pool of equipment and skilled professionals to fight the second wave of the pandemic.

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Looking beyond the pandemic

COVID-19 put the spotlight on health and fitness, amping up the demand for several health and wellness services.

“The positive part is that COVID made most of us realise the importance of staying fit, strong, and increasing immunity. Consumers made a move to digital platforms for exercise such as dance, Zumba, yoga, and other DIY home workouts. This has been a win-win for the health and wellness industry and consumers,” said Asheesh Grewal, Founder and CEO of MyHealthBuddy.

Shyatto said digitisation and penetration of mobile internet would be a game-changer for the Indian healthcare industry. He added that “access and enhancement of the efficiency of care delivery” are the two major challenges that need solutions. 

“Robotics has been around for a while and has delivered significant advancements in surgeries and invasive procedures, which can now be done more precisely and remotely. AI and ML cannot replace a doctor, but it has the potential to transform healthcare delivery. With better patient data analytics, AI will be able to provide predictive information that can help in better diagnosis and timely care interventions.” he said.

Healthcare stakeholders have also emphasised the need for maintaining electronic medical data, which will help healthcare workers stay informed about the patient’s medical history and make informed decisions. 

With the government doubling down on its efforts to support the healthtech ecosystem by increasing the budget outlay and the launch of National Digital Health Missions among others, India seems poised to take a leading position in the global health sector.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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