By Dr Rajendra Pratap Gupta
With 5G launched this month, the pace of change in healthcare has become exponential. 5G is a technology, the implications of which in healthcare are beyond comprehension. The adoption of technology is now a foregone conclusion. It was time to discuss how technology disrupts healthcare, so we hosted this global digital health summit.
India has to focus on a few major challenges to address digital adoption. Firstly, we need to look at small healthcare organisations (SHCOs), standalone clinics, and individual doctors, representing about 80 per cent of the healthcare providers in India. For the adoption of technology, they need the proper guidance. In the absence of the correct information and investments, smaller hospitals and practising clinicians are left behind or end up losing on the investments or being taken for a ride by the IT vendors and eventually, their patients will be grabbed by the large HCPs (healthcare providers). The goal of digital health gets defeated when only three or four large hospitals leverage technology to grow. Eventually, these large hospitals will do to smaller clinics or doctors what Amazon and Flipkart have done to standalone retailers! So, it is the right time for smaller hospitals and clinicians to wake up before it’s too late. I will conclude that ‘those who use digital health will replace those who don’t use digital health’.
Patient-centricity is the key: When the adoption of technology is uneven, patients are the biggest losers in the end because patients, when going from one hospital to another hospital have to carry paper files, and this can lead to loss of medical history or maybe wrong/incomplete information passed on to the provider thus resulting in compromised care delivery. We need to bridge this considerable technology gap between small hospitals and individual clinicians to boost the overall digital adoption in healthcare. This will remain the most significant focus of the Global Digital Health Summit, which will be organised in New Delhi this month.
Also, we need to talk with people who have transformed healthcare using digital tools. For this, we need to get all the leaders in one room and address the issue of investments in technology and how it impacts healthcare delivery and outcomes. This is a major focus of this summit. Before, this topic was never addressed; hence the investments in tech by healthcare remained subdued.
Start-ups will disrupt healthcare as more prominent hospitals safeguard their balance sheets and acquire small providers. It is the start-ups that will find solutions to the legacy challenges faced by healthcare. The summit focuses on start-ups, their do’s and don’ts, and issues to address for scale. Five global tech leaders will spend five hours just answering the questions posed by these start-ups at the Masterclass, and this is for the first time that such a one-to-one interaction with these start-ups is being held. Also, three start-ups will launch their disruptive products at this summit.
We also need to address the gender gap in the health-tech industry. Data shows that the starting point numbers are almost equal for both genders enrolling in healthcare courses. But as the hierarchy grows, women continue to be left behind. The Global Health 50/50 study from 2021 states that males hold 70 per cent of senior positions, and women make up a substantial majority of junior researchers and frontline healthcare workers. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, it will take 136 years longer than it did in 2020 to close the gender gap. Gender disparity in the physical world will reflect in the digital world too! We need to provide women with an encouraging ecosystem to take up more senior and leadership roles. The summit will launch a major campaign to focus on ‘Women for Digital Health’.
Lower middle-income countries like India always remain ‘healthcare professionals shortage area’ countries. That said, the only solution for these problems is to adopt digital consultations by leveraging primary health centres and the network of allied health professionals across the country. With 5G now being launched, we can move to digital hospitals for digital consultations.
Last year, the concept of Metaverse emerged, and HCOs are implementing Metaverse in healthcare. A leader in Metaverse implementation is a part of the summit and will share what Metaverse can do for healthcare.
With the efforts of the National Health Authority and e-Sanjeevani, India has taken giant leaps in digital adoption, but the distribution is uneven across states. In this summit, we are announcing the digital health index for states in India to measure digital adoption and maturity.
At the summit, we are launching an exciting initiative- Project concern 2028 wherein we are trying to leverage technology to equip the chemists who operate across the length and breadth of the country to become the neighbourhood primary health centres. We hope that we will be able to double the number of chemists in this decade focusing on healthcare services and their business model as neighbourhood community health hubs.
Digital Health Professionals need a network to learn, share and grow, and the Global Digital Health Professionals Council being launched at the summit will fill this gap.
This is an ideas and action summit. We are talking about ideas that will work and actions that will be needed to change healthcare. With 5G already launched, Health 5.0 has begun, digital health has become the default operating system of healthcare, and everyone in healthcare needs to use it.
Dr Rajendra Pratap Gupta, Co-chair, Global Digital Health Summit, Former Advisor, Health Minister of India
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