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September 2021

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 sep 2021

Healthcare infrastructure, both public and private, in small towns and rural areas of India is still rudimentary and lacks quality and efficiency. COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the sorry state of healthcare delivery. Moreover, during pandemic times healthcare facilities became out of reach for non-COVID patients with other diseases and healthcare issues. Fear of COVID infection was one of the major factor that made healthcare delivery situation worse. Most OPD's and in-patient treatment in big hospitals, both public and private, was restricted. Technology-enabled healthcare and telemedicine came to the rescue during this time. Many healthcare facilities even tested advanced digital technologies to fill the gap and to keep themselves afloat businesswise and manage revenue streams. Technology also helped healthcare to expand reach to rural and remote areas. Keeping this in mind, last year the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), NITI Aayog, and the Board of Governors (BoG) Medical Council of India (MCI) released the initial formal guidelines to regulate practices across India leading to democratization of healthcare delivery, especially telemedicine. Remote healthcare delivery also hastened during this time. Concept of remote or smart ICUs also became prevalent considering the shortage of critical care staff in hospitals. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices came handy in remote and digital healthcare. With AI, predictive analytics, electronic health records etc medical consultation has become more efficient. This particularly helped during pandemic and is very relevant for areas where physical healthcare delivery is limited or unavailable. The scope of remote healthcare in India is promising. According to the latest McKinsey report telehealth is projected as a quarter trillion-dollar industry post-COVID. The report states that telehealth use has increased 38 times from the pre-COVID-19 baseline. The industry is projected to reach a size of US$ 10.6 billion by 2025 in India. The healthcare delivery for rural and remote areas has to combine both digital and physical modes, the evolved 'Phygital Model'. As India's rural population is sizeable, about 65% of total population, the healthcare efforts would require contribution from both public and private sectors. Currently, patients from rural areas and small towns have to travel to larger cities to avail better healthcare facilities, increasing the load on already burdened healthcare infrastructure there. Moreover, it also increases the cost of healthcare for those who travel. Use of phygital model will reduce the cost of healthcare and lessen the burden on large cities. Innovative startups and entrepreneurial spirit of India's youth can help bring this healthcare transformation with support from government and investors. Read on...

Businessworld: How Are Advances In Digital Technology Making Healthcare Delivery In Rural India More Efficient?
Author: Col Hemraj Singh Parmar

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