How wearable technology is changing the face of the healthcare market in India
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According to IBEF reports, the Indian medical devices sector is estimated to be worth $10 billion in 2021. The market has significantly grown in the last decade and has been growing consistently ever since.
At TechSparks 2021, Asia’s largest and most influential startup-tech conference, Rohit Bhayana, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Lumis Partners shared key insights on the evolving wearable technology/devices scenario in India.
The rise of medical devices
Commenting on the rapid growth of the medical devices sector in our country, Rohit said that India is an emerging market and it has become the world’s third-largest devices market.
“I think the pandemic really has accelerated this globally in India for sure. At the most basic level, lockdowns were caused by COVID-19 and the natural conduct of life had to go on so people who were suffering from chronic conditions, who were fitness freaks, who had long-time condition monitoring, all of them will have no better way to do that than having wearables,” he says
He added that wearables have not only become pervasive in people’s lives but they have also evolved from monitoring physical activity to psychological, physiological and electrodermal activity monitoring. “I think they have been a big part of how care monitoring and management happened over the last 18 months,” said Rohit.
Commenting on the role of startups in the grander scheme of things, Rohit said that while many startups emerged to produce different devices, the real innovation happened with the apps that were driving tracking, monitoring, notification alerts, etc. “These are apps that were doing even smart dosing with human assistance so those really made a big difference,” said Rohit.
Despite India not having a proper hardware foundation, the country has been doing a commendable job on devices.
“I would say the first and foremost thing is just coming on board and strapping a device on your wrist. People get mentally more accepting, across age groups, that was trend number one,” says Rohit.
Apart from this, people have been quite willing to allow their data to be used, benchmarked, and measured against their own age or disease profiles, regional profiles and friend circles which has allowed for active management. These days, instead of patients asking questions to the doctors, doctors are asking the patients in video consults to check their vitals on the devices and report it to them. “It’s so interesting to notice that people are getting so comfortable with new vocabularies such as 90 day moving average of sugar, calorie burn, etc. How fascinating!” says Rohit.
He explained that in our country, the doctor to patient ratio or attendant to patient ratio is quite bad and it is even worse in the hinterlands of the country or in the Tier II/III cities. According to the information gathered in The Economic Survey 2019-2020, the doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000. This is where, Rohit explained, wearable technology is going to help in increasing the span of care management without compromising on the quality of it.
Apart from that, the technology is also going to help bring down human error while monitoring patients. The wearable devices are also aimed at improving response management using long-term longitudinal data.
Speaking about the careful usage of data, Rohit says that there is no innovation without data because when the long-term analysis is done, powerful insights are being driven in, which, in turn, drives the next leg of innovation. “Customers and patients do need to allow their data to be leveraged”, said Rohit.
The role of startups
Since startups are dealing with a lot of data, the most important thing for them to do is to encrypt the data for security purposes. “Once the data is secure and encrypted, you have to let the customer know that we will only use it as long as you allow us to and the day you tell us that we can’t use it, we will not only stop using it but we’ll delete all your past data,” says Rohit.
The control and access to data should also be given to the customers so they can draw insights from them. “End of the day, it’s their property,” he says. Being extremely transparent about the data is of utmost importance.
“Perhaps just a few years before a GDPR regime in full force will come to a country like India and before it comes we have to robust our systems, cultural conduct and professional ethics around it,” says Rohit.
According to Rohit, the biggest trend is going to be “data”. The most effective models and interventions would be the ones that are data-backed. He thinks that access to sensors, devices, demographics and a host of other things are going to be commoditized. “What is being done to draw insights out of the data?” will be the most important question over a period of time, he believes.
“With the kind of force with which the pandemic has hit us, I think people in countries will need to trust each other on the bank of some trust which comes from not what we say but what our devices say to each other,” says Rohit.
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Edited by Kanishk Singh