India has one of the fastest-growing healthcare markets in the world and has witnessed an overwhelming CAGR of 25% in recent years. The rising income levels, an ageing population, increasing insurance coverage and the imbalance in demand-supply ratio present a big opportunity for healthcare providers to increase their capacity and for further investments in this sector. The recent approval of the ‘National Health Policy’ from the Union Government and with plans to increase public health spending from the current 1.1 per cent of GDP to 2.5 per cent by 2025 is an indication that more and more healthcare coverage will be possible.
Health IT and disruptive technologies are increasingly becoming important for India, making the healthcare industry smarter! The market value of Health Information Technology (HIT) is pegged at USD 1 billion currently and expected to grow one and half times by 2020. It is not the private healthcare alone that is investing in technologies, the government’s e-health initiatives in line with ‘Digital India’ campaign are also giving a fillip to the sector’s growth. Domestic market’s growth will give a boost to both the healthcare domain and to the IT professionals’ job markets.
Even though the cycle times for revenues and profits are longer, nearly 300 start-ups entered the market in HIT in 2015. Health apps, from those monitoring person’s vitals to making diagnosis easier, real time data capture, point of care devices, trackers and remote monitoring and telemedicine are being used to improve patient care. mHealth apps, appointment booking, wearables, telemedicine, data analytics, practice management, wellness and clinical decision systems were the most-funded health technology areas, from 2010-2015, in that order. Telemedicine market in the country is estimated to be over USD 32 million by 2020.
The rural and urban divide in access to quality healthcare services would reduce over the years due to technology adoptions. “Medical infrastructure in India is concentrated in the urban areas, while a substantial section of the population lives in the rural areas with a limited access to such facilities. Through the use of technology, this divide can be bridged. Consultation through mobile devices using video, images and conference calls can help rural patients gain access to basic medical advice." Mobile users in India crossed the one billion mark in 2016 and in the years to come they will start using smartphones. This development, along with faster Internet and data usage will not only bridge the rural-urban divide in healthcare access through technology, but also support ‘health education’ of vulnerable groups in a big way.
Health IT would help improve a number of care processes such as patient diagnosis, data management, e-prescription, pathology lab management, scheduling of appointments, case analysis etc. Other hospital functions like marketing, HR, administration etc would also benefit with applications in enterprise resources planning software and hospital management information systems. Partnerships with private and public players are all ready to leverage the power of technology and CSR in technology-based programmes. They are now looking very attractive to large companies. However, with the growing usage of IT in healthcare, organizations have had to find a structured way to building capacity by introducing the right skillsets amongst the aspiring health and hospital management professionals.
Electronic Medical/Health Records, cloud computing for data access and management, mobile and Internet of Things will impact care processes positively in various settings, be it in outpatient, in-patient, emergency/ambulance, ICUs, critical care, robotic surgery and home healthcare services among others. When it comes to technology adoptions for healthcare in India ‘sky is the limit’ and there is excitement all around. Harnessing the power of technology to improve access to quality healthcare, reduce the inequities in access and affordability, and achieving ‘health for all’ is a humongous task. But, “Together - We Can”.
This article is written by Prof. Usha Manjunath , Officiating Director and Dean-Academics, IIHMR, Bangalore