It is time we addressed the real issues in healthcare delivery. Every country is struggling with issues like shortage of doctors, decreasing mortality rates from undiagnosed infections, ensuring right emergency medical attention to rural population, etc. We have seen that the ‘I-will-do-it- all’ model doesn't work. Only technology can solve these issues by bringing in multi-disciplinary convergence.
Let’s agree – the healthcare ecosystem is complex. The umbrella of healthcare delivery covers diagnosis, treatment, and everything in between. Each element has a critical role to play, and the unison is what decides the success of outcome. So, what sets the ball rolling? Undoubtedly, diagnosis. If you get this first step right, there are lesser chances of mistakes in what follows.
A recent survey predicts the Indian diagnostic industry to grow at a CAGR of 15-20% to reach 32 billion USD by 20221. Driven by factors like high healthcare spending, penetration of medical insurance, prevalence of chronic diseases and increased incidences of lifestyle diseases, the consumer segment in India is ready for sophisticated and precise healthcare delivery models. Unfortunately, the consumer experience is highly inconsistent as a result of varied standards and practices followed in the market.
Challenges within healthcare at the grass-root level are no different than any other industry in India. The dispersal mechanisms tend to favor the urban crowd for obvious reasons, though we have 70 per cent of our population in rural areas2. Needless to say, with lower reach in small towns and villages, the lab (read as pathologist) to people ratio is beyond logical comprehension.
The rise and rise of technology
Let’s be fair – technology is not the answer for every problem in the healthcare industry. For instance, technology cannot replace all the medical experts. But it can certainly diminish the lack of accessibility to medical expertise. I am talking about smart pathology. Well, digital pathology is a word that has created a lot of buzz globally, in recent times. It encompasses a gamut of interesting aspects like robotic control of the microscopes, digitisation of data and images and implementation of cloud storage and data accessibility. So, what makes digital pathology smart? The ability to leverage artificial intelligence for medical data inference and informed decision making. Not as easy as it sounded, isn’t it? But this is what it takes to standardise the existing systems and make quality diagnosis accessible to everyone.
Shaking up the diagnostic ecosystem at one go is almost impossible. Siloed systems, lack of technical knowledge of the fraternity, poor infrastructure, internet connectivity/bandwidth issues etc. further add to the gravity of complexity. So where do we start? Technology augmentation is the easier route, again, depending on the scalability of existing systems.
A steep climb. But it’s totally worth it!
Disrupting an industry hallmarked for its conservative approach and outlook does sound like a herculean task. It is easy to lose track in the nitty-gritties of implementation and regulatory challenges.
But the bigger picture is what matters.
We are scouting for a solution that can circumvent the shortage of doctors, decrease mortality rates from undiagnosed infections and ensure right emergency medical services to our rural population. Also, a solution that is cost-effective and scalable. The answer is technology!
Global healthcare industry is already witnessing a paradigm shift in its delivery models. We have seen that the ‘I-will-do-it- all’ model doesn't work in healthcare, so, the emergence of a successful model demands multi-disciplinary convergence. It’s about time the tech innovators and entrepreneurs start focusing more on developing cutting-edge solutions in collaboration with the medical fraternity to make healthcare affordable and accessible to the masses.