By Puneet Bajaj
Our health or the healthcare sector overall, as we are witnessing today, has become the priority all over the globe. Covid-19 pandemic has brought the entire world to a standstill. Ranging from the decision makers to the general population, everyone is looking up to the healthcare sector for faster innovation, diagnosis and results that has led to new challenges as well.
With the advancements made in technology, it is only natural to expect it to improve the lives of people and healthcare services everywhere. These technologies have, nevertheless, been working to change the status quo and are helping the healthcare system to improve globally. The procedures of approaching and seeing a doctor along with treatments are undergoing a huge change. The advent of new age technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality, and Data Analytics are bringing unforeseen developments to the sector in the last decade.
According to a report by Deloitte, global healthcare expenditures are likely to go up as spending is projected to rise at an annual rate of 5.4 percent between 2017-2022, from USD 7.724 trillion to USD 10.059 trillion. India’s Healthcare budgets has increased by 5.7% in 2020 but it’s still a mere 1.6% of the GDP, far behind other nations.
The technology is going to become an important limb of modern healthcare as every sector is undergoing digital transformation. Healthcare sector is going to increasingly invest in the following digital technologies and alter the landscape. The timeline and adoption of some of these has been put on steroids by the current Covid-19 pandemic.
- Artificial Intelligence: One of the biggest challenges is the inability to get diagnosed with a particular disease in time. It is here that AI-ML are going to be game changers. It is being used immensely to identify potential patient risk by looking at large volume of patient data to identity patterns and anomalies. This is being done basis the diagnostic data, patient history, treatments and their results being cumulatively studied at a regional and global level
- While these solutions are quite complex, a similar case could be noticed in the health-related apps we are using. The latest example of AI could be seen in the Aarogya Setu app, developed by the Government of India in its battle against Covid-19 in India. The app has a chatbot which asks you certain health related questions and helps you understand your probability of getting infected
- Internet of Things (IoT): IoT will continue to grow and play a big role in the overall transformation of the industry. From being used incredibly both by the patients as well as institutional users like physicians, clinics, hospitals and researchers.
For patients, wearable devices like smart watches, fitness bands and wireless connected devices such as BP and heart rate monitoring cuffs help them get access to their personal health on immediate basis, especially elderly patients.
In the medical institutions, IoT devices and sensors are used to do real-time patient health tracking, diagnostics, generate automated reports, location tracking of patients and equipment etc. enabling faster results, remote monitoring and control over patient’s health.
- Big Data & Data Analytics: This can, without any second thoughts, be called the ruler of technology in the healthcare domain. Data has become synonymous to new oil to run the organizations and the same can be held true in the case of healthcare. All the data that is collected through the implementation of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT) can be used in its best capacity if it is analyzed well. It is with the help of Data Analytics that health conditions could be predicted, and a disease could be diagnosed well in time. A doctor can check if a certain procedure or treatment has show positive results on another patient in a different country. Institutions can use it for better patient inbound-outbound management, services usage, planning etc
- Remote Consulting: The trend is changing rapidly from visiting a doctor to setting up virtual appointments. Remote consulting is also key for providing healthcare services in remote area with low population density as well as highly specialized treatments. This could again prove very helpful, especially in the present situation of lockdown where not everyone can go out or are skeptical to visit hospitals for generic medical guidance.
Healthcare industry has always been a crucial element of an economy as well as human existence. Hence, it is of outmost importance that emerging digital technologies help resolve challenges and contribute to its transformation and excellence.
(The author is Partner at IFI Techsolutions)