The Indian healthcare sector has witnessed major adoption of digital technologies, much of which could be credited to the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of telehealth, wearable devices, health apps, adoption of Electronic Health Records, Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) has seen a significant rise.
A recent report by Markets and Research revealed that the digital healthcare market in India was valued at Rs. 252.92 Billion in FY 2021 and is expected to reach Rs. 882.79 Billion by FY 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 21.36% during the FY 2022 – FY 2027 period.
The digital push can be seen in the acceptance of electronic health records with favorable policy frameworks like the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) and Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA). Highlighting the major developments that occurred in the year 2022, healthcare leaders told ETHealthworld that technological disruptions are going to continue as an integral part of the Indian health sector.
COVID pandemic driving the digital change
Digital transformation can impact all facets of healthcare, from facilitating better access to care to enhancing the quality and lowering costs.
According to Vineet Aggarwal, CIO, Paras Healthcare, healthcare delivery models continue to be under extreme pressure as health systems all over the world struggle with the COVID-19 outbreak. “With the increase in patient volume, employee burnout, labour shortage, supply chain disruptions, shortage of equipment and outdated facilities, healthcare providers are quickly turning towards disruptive technological innovations to address these challenges and enhance the care delivered to patients. Providers are quickly pivoting to virtual care, and increasingly relying on advanced technologies like 5G telecommunications, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), VR & AR, Blockchain and interoperable data and analytics to address existing challenges and reimagine the ‘Future of Health’. Organizations will likely build on the digital momentum from 2022 to 2023 with the aim of achieving true connectivity throughout the care ecosystem,” he opined.
Surya Gummadi, Senior Vice President, Global Health Sciences, Cognizant, feels that digital transformation will continue as companies adjust to the post-COVID market. “Companies are shifting their spending priorities to patient-centric initiatives, developing resilient and optimized supply chains, and implementing smart manufacturing. In addition, there is a focus on advanced R&D in areas such as precision medicine and gene therapies. Moving into 2023, we expect digital spending to reflect a renewed focus on cost optimization given the current economic climate, as well as the emphasis on data analytics and automated data exchange, and enhanced patient experience/engagement,” he said.
Commenting on the technological disruptions Post-pandemic, Ganesh Nathella, Senior Vice President & General Manager – Global Lead, HLS Business, Persistent Systems stated, “The manufacturing capabilities for COVID vaccines have established the foundation for innovation. Worldwide, mRNA technology is getting applied to novel ways for disease treatment and even reversal. The next wave of disruption will be around cell and gene therapies and its application to multiple areas like cancer treatment, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes. Digital health technologies and manufacturing for cell therapies will drive growth going forward.”
He further added, “Restrictions on in-person visits during COVID times led to the development of Decentralized Clinical Trials which, since the end of the pandemic, have resulted in optimizing patient recruitment and improving engagement. Remote patient monitoring and IOT have also established virtual care and at-home care models that are more convenient for patients as well as more cost-effective for Payers. Going forward, non-acute care treatment will be delivered in a variety of settings outside the tertiary care centers.”
Artificial intelligence to emerge in a big way
Today the application of Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning models can be seen in clinical outcomes, financial and operational use cases in healthcare institutions.
Praveen Bist, CIO at Amrita Hospital explained that the adoption of AI will continue to dominate in three ways: “Firstly, the low-hanging fruits can easily be enjoyed with the implementation of simple techniques. Secondly, the amount of data available is increasing, therefore we have larger dataset for our ML to get trained on, for it to be more accurate and predictable. Lastly, with the availability of large databases due to the presence of IoT, the data can be easily centralized and Big-data tools can be applied to derive meaningful information.”
Meena Ganesh, Co-Founder and Chairperson, Portea Medical agreed that technology has emerged as a major enabler and this trend will percolate in the years ahead as well. She said, “The Indian healthcare sector is witnessing significant expansion in terms of new services through technology platforms, next-generation tools for diagnosis, public-private partnerships as well as care at home. It is also attracting a lot of fresh investment from investors across the board. Some trends to watch out for in 2023 are AI emerging in a big way, Remote healthcare, Wearables, and Patient-centricity and personalized healthcare.”
Echoing similar thoughts, Mayank Agarwal, CIO, Fortis Healthcare expressed that the healthcare industry would continue to focus on leveraging technology for delivering better “health” and “care” in 2023. “Higher focus around and better appreciation of managing health including mental well being has been a mainstay of 2022 and is likely to continue as we move into 2023,” he said.
As experts share their firm belief in AI, ML and IOT to revolutionize Indian healthcare industry going forward, it appears that technological adoption would continue to see positive growth. Also, with newer COVID variants being detected and precautionary measures being reinstated, digital disruption will continue to propel the healthcare segment for the benefit of all in the upcoming year as well.