Though in dire need, healthcare has been amongst the most under-invested sector when it comes to digitalisation. Despite COVID-19 bringing in a fair share of disruption, it has also steered attention towards technology. Kudos to the newfound focus, the global digital health market that was valued at $95.8 billion until 2018, according to the Global Market Insights, is set to grow into a $379 billion market by 2024. India specifically, whose market was valued at ₹116.61 billion in 2018, is estimated to reach ₹485.43 billion by 2024, according to Research and Market.
Today, investing in digitalisation is no longer a risk-taking mindset but a necessity. Telemedicine, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled medical devices, blockchain electronic health records, Virtual Reality (VR)-based patient treatment, etc can streamline physicians, optimise systems, improve patient outcomes, reduce human error and lower costs. Besides, with segments like research and drug discovery becoming more crucial, technologies like Big Data can enable the collection of data that is far richer and more diverse. Real-world data can be used as digital biomarkers to help determine the most responsive subpopulation in trials, improving executions and outcomes.
Technologies could help equalise the relationship between medical professionals and patients and make it sustainable. Like, AI – a potent piece of technology – can use its algorithms to mine medical records, design treatment plans or even create drugs faster. To give an example, NIRAMAI Solutions, a start-up based out of India, uses AI-based thermal image processing that detects breast cancer at a very early stage pain-free, without radiation or touching the patient.
Though there are plenty of opportunities in India for digital healthcare to grow, it has its own significant set of challenges. Factors like lack of digitised data regarding patients’ info and prescriptions, inferior technology infrastructure, lack of structured regulations, high cost of customer data acquisition, complex multi-layered ecosystem, etc hinder the transformation process. Plus, with 65% of India’s population being based in the rural pockets of the country, it would be important to implement customised integrated solutions/technologies for the urban, semi-rural and rural geographies. Today, with the data of Indians being available on a single platform, Aadhar, it can be used to collate health records of a person and provide customised healthcare services. Considering the market is now among high-investment sectors, it’ll be imperative that companies involved offer tailored hospital care model for inclusion, drive efficiency through design-to-cost approach to evolve optimal variables and fixed cost structure, sustain operational efficiency, build a model focused on primary care, wellness & health outcome and foster patient dignity through transparency and communication.
The healthcare industry presently has a huge opportunity in front of it to leverage technology to improve the critical process to deliver quality healthcare. By developing an infrastructure for telemedicine, technology-based patient monitoring and connecting patients, medical professionals and data, companies can shape the digital healthcare market not just in India but globally. This relatively untapped market offers high potential, and if executed properly, can make a difference for the generations to come with lower healthcare costs. And needless to say, this can put India on the world map as the leader in adopting digital health.