Posted on: 09/08/2016

Digitization of Healthcare in Small towns

digitization of rural healthcare servicesAn unhealthy economy can not be a fast growing economy. India is in the top 5 nations with preventible Child deaths in the company of nations like Congo, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. If we take just the women of India, and make them into a separate nation, they will have by far the worst health indicators in the world, much worse than sub saharan Africa.

And with these dismal statistics, we are now faced with the dual burden of Disease. We are growing old without getting rich, while the western countries had the luxury of being rich and then getting old.

India clearly has a lack of Doctors. A Doctor is unfortunately not like a singer who can reach out and influence millions of people on TV or Radio. A doctor has to see, feel and touch his patients.? With digitisattion we can fill the gap.

The Villagers are loathe to travel to the cities to manage their Blood Sugar levels, BP Levels or to get regular Preventive Checkups. So they reach the hospitals when they get complicated and that leads to spiraling healthcare costs. We also promote that by promising them free dialysis for End Stage Kidney Disease and free surgery to amputate their feet but not free OPD consults and medicines for managing their Diabetes.

So what is the way out to treat the people in the small towns? Is it impossible for us to get them the best healthcare access? Will Digitisation Help? Looks like a perfect scenario for Digital Healthcare to step in with all its fancy gadgets and the promise to get the best doctors on the screen. But why have we not been able to do it till now? Is it impossible?

The importance of "convergence of health care" is the biggest thing we can do. There are immense possibilities that could result from bringing together health care, IT and mobile phones. With more than a billion mobile-phone users countrywide, almost every Indian has a cell phone.

How can we use that to heighten health awareness and prevention, and provide appropriate access to the right health care? The mobile phone can't do bypass surgery, but it can do something to prevent cardiac surgery, at least to a degree. It can help people know where to go for care, or to call an ambulance.

Indian Healthcare is not only underserved, it is underconsumed as well. Our hospitalistion levels are 5.5% as compared to the global average of 8-9%.

25% of our 1.5 lakh PHCs don't have electricity and water connections. We produce only 2600 odd super specialists every year for our population of 1.25 billion people and our 650,000 villages. Even if we implement EMR and have all his records on the cloud, there is no guarantee that if he goes to another town, another set of hospitals will have the wherewithal or the intent of looking at his records on their systems.


There is still a lot of resistance to them using technology instead of their old pen paper and stethoscope. Its gone to the extent that many developers are now making applications that ensure that the doctor is writing on his old prescription. Unless we can get all these issues sorted, it would be a slow and rickety path to the information superhighway.

Dr. Shuchin Bajaj is the Founder Director of Cygnus Hospitals. Dr Bajaj was the recipient of the British Government's 2015 Chevening Fellowship award at King's College London, where he spent considerable time studying the National Health Service and its learnings for India. He is on the board of a number of national prominent NGOs as Advisor-Health Programmes.

 

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