- The three big challenges in healthcare are the increased burden of chronic diseases, low per capita doctor availability and low accessibility to health infrastructure.
- An ambitious initiative called Ayushman Bharat by the Indian government aims to bring 500 million people under the ambit of healthcare through accessibility and insurance.
- With a quarter of the Indian population accessing mobile internet, forms of digital health tools like m-Health (mobile health) and telemedicine have emerged as the most viable platforms.
With the constant pressure of having the second largest population in the world, India has to focus on many facets at once. Healthcare is a large part of this focus. The country is at the cusp of transformation with a strong willingness to adopt change. The three big challenges in healthcare are the increased burden of chronic diseases, low per capita doctor availability and low accessibility to health infrastructure. Adding to these challenges is the fact that nearly 75% of the healthcare infrastructure in India is located in urban areas, while 75% of the population resides in rural areas.
India has been making a concentrated effort to improve the quality and efficacy of its healthcare delivery system by focusing on patient-centred care delivery. At the World Health Assembly, India led deliberations for digital health and patients’ data sovereignty, fair pricing of drugs and making the entire healthcare system pro-patient. To achieve these goals, an ambitious initiative called Ayushman Bharat has been launched by the Indian government. It’s aim is to bring 500 million people under the ambit of healthcare through accessibility and insurance.
The Indian government’s efforts largely rely on an effective digital health infrastructure that not only covers government projects but also extends to patients, doctors, hospitals and insurance in the private sector. India is trying to combine digital tools and physical services to provide healthcare accessibility to a large population in remote areas and to increase coverage at the primary care level.
With a quarter of the Indian population accessing mobile internet, forms of digital health tools like m-Health (mobile health) and telemedicine have emerged as the most viable platforms. These platforms have been improving access to quality healthcare in an affordable manner. The government and private-run hospitals are using m-health for better outcomes. The study “Emerging mhealth” finds that India ranks second among developing countries studied on maturity for m-Health adoption. This shows that the market is favourable for m-health and that there is potential for India to be a leader in m-health.
Here are some prominent examples of m-Health innovations in India –
TimBre – Screening of infectious diseases
Tuberculosis is responsible for 2⁄3rds of the deaths occurring each minute in India as per the WHO. Early screening of the disease helps identify infected patients and contain it. Docturnal’s TimBre is an app that leverages deep learning and spectral analysis with clinical, socio- economic and demographic details to distinguish between non-pathogenic and pathogenic cough. The user has to input parameters and record a few coughs. If found pathogenic, patients are urged to run proper diagnostics.
CEO: Rahul Pathri
Orbuculum – Early detection of chronic diseases
Diabetes is India’s biggest challenge with 8.7% diabetics in the 20-70 age group. Orbuculum uses AI on genome data to predict chronic diseases like diabetes with the idea that if the patient is found pre-diabetic, the patient could be put on preventive or postponing treatment regimes.
Founders : Pranav Gangwal, Faiz Ahmed
Epocare – Monitoring
To monitor a wounded patient being treated by a nurse in a primary health centre, it becomes important to monitor the healing of the wound to see if a referral to a specialist at a secondary health centre is required. Epocare’s handheld portable device does exactly this by analysing microvascular blood flow and oxygen saturation at the wound site. The analysis can be read by the specialist located remotely so they can make interventional decisions.
Founder: Deepak Kumar
Doxper – Bridging the physical and digital divide
It is not easy to use digital tools in the outpatient department (referred to as EMR/EHR) systems without changing clinical behaviour or existing workflows. Doctors need to establish personal trust with their patients during a clinical exam, something that becomes difficult when they have to ask pre-formatted questions or focus on a computer screen instead. Doxper uses the pen as a digitisation tool, captures information and integrates this into existing EMR/EHR systems. This gives doctors the flexibility to focus on the patient and not on the screen, as Doxper takes care of recording the data.
Founder: Shailesh Prithani, Randeep Singh, Pawan Jain
Scidogma & Comofi – Digital pathology
There a need to develop cost-effective diagnosis and automation in medical technology to serve low resource settings. Optical-less CNC microscope to enable digital pathology coupled with AI developed by Scidogma and Comofi aims to do just this.
Scidogma Founder: Satya Tapas
Comofi founder: Satish Kalme
These startup interventions are a step in the right direction in setting up a digital framework that will transform healthcare services from curative to preventive and hospital to home.
With m-health providing the backbone for India’s healthcare infrastructure, many of the challenges the country is faced with at present are likely to be resolved quickly and effectively. The Indian healthcare market is primed for growth and keen on collaborations with international healthcare innovators.