Lessons from COVID-19: How AP govt is using tech to strengthen public healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic turbocharged the adoption of emerging technologies in the Indian healthcare sector. At TechSparks 2021, GS Naveen Kumar, Special Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of AP discusses how the state is supporting digitisation of public health services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption in the healthcare segment. Emerging technologies such as machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) are now ushering in a new wave of medical services and reshaping public healthcare. 

Speaking at YourStory’s flagship event, TechSparks 2021, GS Naveen Kumar, Special Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh talks about the future of healthcare sector in India and the state government initiatives to bolster the digital and tech adaptation by the industry. 

According to Naveen, a robust public healthcare system is required to fight any pandemic. 

“Without technology, we couldn’t have gone through the pandemic. It is the first thing we learnt. From internal communications using mobile technology among doctors, healthcare workers, and the nationwide vaccination drive; nothing could have been possible if tech and digital adoption was ignored,” Naveen says.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped popularise telemedicine, as people started consulting with doctors over phone. 

A ‘digital driven movement’

Apart from the lack of information available about COVID-19 and the need to train medical staff, the state government had to also solve the logistics problem in ensuring the availability of beds, Naveen said. 

“In Andhra Pradesh, we enabled hospitals to manage logistics supply to maintain the surge of patients. We leveraged data to help patients with hospital transfers, bed availability, or home isolation; it was a digitally-driven logistics management movement that took place in the pandemic,” Naveen added. 

Opportunities for startups

Naveen spoke about the Indian government’s Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), which aims to develop the necessary technology backbone to support the integrated digital health infrastructure of the country.

“The entire idea is to develop a health ID, which would help in proper dissemination of data and enable doctors to perform timely diagnostics. It would also help patients to take health insurance, medicine, and so on. These services would enable patients to avail services at minimum out of pocket expenditures.”

The programme aims for a successful creation of data with proper data security. The creation of this system will lead to a lot of opportunities for healthcare startups in its enablement. 

“To give an example, why can’t all the ambulances be put in like the Uber system. There can be other such departments in the healthcare sector too where startups could play in," he said.

In a nutshell, the government aims to provide universal health coverage.

The Andhra Pradesh government is using tech to improve last-mile delivery of health services. 

AP has created more than 2,000 digital records already. “The state is enabling patients to book digital appointments without waiting in a queue for their turn,” Naveen said.  It is also trying to leverage the Ayushman Bharat scheme at large.

Talking about the future of AI, Naveen said that AI would help doctors in taking more cautious decisions. “AI cannot be the remedy for patients but a supportive system for doctors to provide diagnosis and treatments.”

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Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti