Digital Technologies Can Help Revolutionize Healthcare In India

Date:   Friday , May 20, 2016

Located in Bangalore, Philips Innovation Campus shines as tech hub of Netherlands-headquartered Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA). PIC is focused on crafting complete products and innovative solutions for India as well as for global markets across Healthcare, Lighting and Lifestyle.

There is a growing and an urgent need to address the healthcare challenges in India. The poor accessibility to care and the increasing cost of care, coupled with the lack of trained medical professionals is only alleviating this problem. Adding to the woes is proliferation of non-communicable diseases like Cardio Vascular diseases, Cancer, Pulmonary diseases and Diabetes at a young age! Reasons are aplenty - work related stress, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy food habits of people.By 2025 if this is not addressed, India will be all set to become the chronic disease capital of the world, accounting for over 60 percent of the cardiac patients in the world. According to a Medical Council of India, the doctor to population ratio is 1:1681. Over 75 percent of the Indian population lives in rural India and only 20 of the doctors serve this rural population. Currently the healthcare industry in the country is trying to meet this huge gap. With about just 9.5 lakh registered doctors, there is an urgent need for the digital revolution to happen in healthcare system.

However, the rise in technological advancements,adoption of mobile phones, internet penetration, it gives us a ray of hope. India has been a front runner in the adoption of new technologies. The user base of mobile phones is over 950 million and is growing exponentially. This is a huge change when compared to where India was in the early 90\'s, with a very low telephone penetration. Given the technology adoption trends, the increased awareness among providers and consumers, the time is right for the healthcare industry in India to aggressively embrace this digital revolution to help solve the healthcare challenges in India.Companies world over, whether they are in the B2B or B2C space are embracing these emerging technologies and trends - Cloud, Analytics, Sensors and Collaborative tools, Big Data, Internet of Things and more.

The health care sector is beginning to move to cloud-based platforms, driven by the need to increase storage and compute capacity using limited investment and the ability to centrally manage patient data that now exists in silos. The direct benefit to the Indian healthcare system could be by connecting all the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare centers with the data relating to patients hosted on the cloud. This will help reduce the upfront investment and the operational cost and also will provide a gateway to leverage telemedicine. Another factor that has played a role in these changing times in healthcare is the rising use of sensors. Its use varies from a popular tool for tracking personal health activities and vital signs, to remote monitoring.

If we look at Big Data Analytics, there is large amount of data that is generated by various devices in a hospital. Hospitals and healthcare providers are realizing the power of data. They know that analyzing the tremendous amount of data over a time period has many uses. It can help in better service by monitoring and optimizing the usage of the device, help doctors quickly and easily access relevant patient information, including medical history and body stats like blood pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose levels. This analysis of time series data aids accurate clinical decisions in real time and thereby influence patient outcomes.

The true power of digital lies in the longitudinal management of patient or customer data across the health continuum. What this implies is in providing care solutions to patients and hospitals, extending from healthy living, prevention, early diagnosis, treatment to managing the patient at home or in the community. Using this data for clinical decisions can not only help in early diagnosis but also in prevention of diseases. Healthcare providers are not only adopting these technologies but are preparing for this by embarking on a journey to have all their products connected leading to great advances in connected healthcare.

Infact we leverage these digital technologies and have deployed them successfully. These are helping in extending the accessibility and quality of care to areas that were not accessible before. Another area which these solutions are making an impact is in improving the efficiency of hospitals, which in turn can provide a platform to bring down the cost of care. Remote monitoring of equipment like MRI\'s or CT\'s in hospitals can help in reducing the cost of maintenance and reduce downtime. Whether it is to track the level of helium in a MRI machine, or to predict the failure of a part, the real time data from these machines when analyzed can go a long way in making this a reality. Many companies like us are already doing this. Digital technologies can also be leveraged to provide tele-radiology services. For example, an experienced radiologist, sitting in a remote location, can guide and help the less experienced radiologists in reading a MRI image and help in better diagnosis.

Using the power of sensors and remote monitoring, care can be extended to the home of the patient or even to the community. Deployment of solution such as Intellispace Consultative Critical Care, a solution to monitor ICUs remotely,is highly reliable and can help a doctor sitting in a hospital or even on the move, to monitor ICU patients remotely. Real time analytics coupled with clinical decision support can help the doctor not only to manage more patients but also to be able to provide quality diagnosis and care. This can be extended to the patient home too for managing patients with chronic disease.

The possibilities of \'digital\' solving the healthcare challenges in India are limitless. Improved workflow in hospitals, reduction of infrastructure costs by leveraging the cloud, tools to help in faster and early diagnosis of a disease state can help reduce the cost of delivery. Trained nurses with low cost tablets with appropriate applications can help in extending the reach of doctors and specialists to areas where care was not available before. The cost of post-operative care can be easily reduced through a combination of remote monitoring and video conferencing by ensuring that patients don\'t have to travel to cities for regular checkups.

In order to address these challenges the various stakeholders in India across the private and government sector need to innovate and collaborate for solutions in prevention, diagnostics, delivery and management of chronic diseases. There is a strong need for localized solutions that are specific for India and I am sure digital technologies have the potential to ensure healthcare is accessible and affordable.