- Rapid growth of telecommunications has given rise to a tech savvy generation in India. This has led to the availability of a vast pool of digital data.
- Newly enacted policies have placed the patient, who is the ultimate owner of the data, as the focal point of data acquisition.
- The three broad areas of development in India are eHealth initiatives: B2C initiatives, Software as a diagnostic, and patient monitoring tools in eHealth.
Digital health has taken a firm root in public health services due to rapid growth of telecommunications, increased awareness of health initiatives, shift towards preventive medicine, and increasing investment and entrepreneurship in digital health, etc. The ubiquity of cellphones and smartphones in India has given rise to a tech savvy generation, aware of healthcare challenges, and willing to research and explore all possible health provider outcomes. A vast pool of digital data is now available, and data mining is the new gold rush.
However, data mining can yield mixed results at best. A reliable data interpretation process has to be established for a problem area. It is important to identify potential issues, opportunities and to analyze the startup landscape to devise strategies enabling success. For this, a focus group comprising experts from varied fields including entrepreneurs, policy experts, healthcare providers and thought leaders was convened. The group provided meaningful insights –
The data conundrum
The focus group stressed that patient engagement is the “billion dollar drug”. Newly enacted policies have placed the patient, who is the ultimate owner of the data, as the focal point of data acquisition. A Health Stack linking public data collection systems (data flows into this when an individual accesses these for benefits, banking, insurance and payments) is well underway and is expected to be operational by 2020. The Health Stack is expected to facilitate health records, analytics and insurance claims, which could, in turn, pave the way for many innovations. The focus group identified the following potential growth sectors.
- Easy-to-deploy and relevant technologies that can drive low cost innovations that serve populations in the developing world, instead of importing technologies.
- eHealth adoption (particularly for medical devices): This removes the hurdle of data acquisition since the patient is the data generator and reporter, and gives the patient greater autonomy over his treatment, making him a partner rather than a recipient of healthcare.
- Health coverage: In India, insurance is segmented between government health schemes, private insurance, and for the vast majority that has no insurance, funded out-of-pocket. Current insurance schemes focus on procedural costs, which may not guarantee patient wellness. There is a strong need for financial care that focuses on outcomes and not procedures.
- The Focus group experts note that startups find it problematic to monetise from providers, especially for insurance products, unless they can specifically link the patient’s payment with service provided through the technology/product. Indirect methods of impact are unlikely to be accepted. Products dealing with insurance are best targeted at major payers who then pass on the benefits to patients, which makes it a B2B2C model.
The Key Takeaways
For these reasons, the focus group meeting at swissnex with industry experts has highlighted three broad areas of development in eHealth initiatives: B2C initiatives, Software as a diagnostic, and patient monitoring tools in eHealth. All three have different scales and have the potential to impact healthcare at the macro and micro levels of patient care. These are the next sunrise sectors, with growth and market capture potential.
The detailed report on the outcomes from the focus group discussion can be found here