Most discussions on Indian healthcare invariably reveal the elephant in the room and bring home the reality that there are still two Indias. Even more paradoxical may be the fact that while India and its brilliant minds are powering the technology revolution throughout the world, large percentages of our population remain untouched by digital, and were it not for the vision of initiatives like NITI Aayog, might have been left behind.
In 2016, the government called on all of us – healthcare providers, technologists, and media specialists – all stakeholders who could help expedite and promote the widest possible digitization of our nation and the onboarding of hundreds of millions of Indian citizens into the “cadres of the connected”.
So was born the Digital India movement, which recognized this gap and, more importantly, saw the cascading benefits that would inure as this gap is closed. Doctor networks, pharmacies, and lab services have all become available online, and every day, lakhs of citizens enjoy the benefits of digital, universally available healthcare. For many, this experience may represent their first encounter with a certified physician. For just as many, the online pharmacy initiative has enabled access to important and affordable medicine even in the most far-flung corners of this vast country.
Smart Cities is yet another ambitious and game-changing initiative under this umbrella. Core to the Smart City initiative is the promise of Smart Health. Smart Health, covering intelligent, networked technologies for improved health provision, is recognised as one of the most promising remedies to the rising per capita healthcare expenditure and challenges with the Indian system. Smart Health innovations allow medical professionals to cure more effectively, to care for patients more efficiently, and to prevent frequent occurrence and re-occurrence of illnesses.
The sweeping changes that Smart Health promises is an imperative in the Indian healthcare context. It is here that the dichotomy is the most glaring. Private healthcare in India is comparable to the best in the world and addresses over 60 percent of the country’s medical needs, and yet large segments of our population travel miles to access even the most basic healthcare. India has highly qualified and highly skilled doctors, and we also have one of the biggest gaps in healthcare manpower. This widespread and inherent variance in our health care system has a profound impact on the health of our nation.
In order to make healthcare a priority, it is important to reach out to huge masses with limited investment and innovative technology. One of the ways of doing so is through mobile devices. India has the second largest mobile phone user subscription base in the world with over 1 billion mobile phone users. As per most recent statistics, 40 crore Indians own smartphones and 32 crore people in the country use broadband.
India has made reasonable progress with milestones like the National Health programme. Many IT applications in the national health portal are also available through mobile apps. The different facets of Smart Health are visible through online pharmacies, healthcare portals, digitization of healthcare records, and creation of a centralized IT infrastructure for healthcare information access – all of which allows us to take healthcare into our own hands.
An ever-growing disease burden and a populous nation demand fast-paced health reforms. In this day and age, it is critical that healthcare systems and healthcare providers adapt. A synergistic approach between the government, online healthcare companies and private players, and medical professionals can bring about a much-required transformation – an era of Digital Health.
Digital is our best bet for the journey ahead. It is our conduit to be truly smart, and let us all be very clear – smart is not a bonus, it is what we need to be. It is our surest way to a happier, healthier and brighter future.
Pradeep Dadha is the CEO and Founder of Netmeds.com.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)