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Changing healthcare landscape: The role of digital tools

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Dr Prashant Kumar Dash, Director-Medical Services, Medlife.com, states how digital technology, Internet access and innovation is transforming the health sector, making it more accessible and improving the quality of healthcare

The life-expectancy of human beings has increased all over the world. At the same time, we are also witnessing a rapid increase in the burden of various health conditions, especially non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Each year, millions of people die of these diseases and tens of billions of dollars are lost. The limitations in the capability and coverage of the conventional healthcare system further aggravates the situation. However, in recent years, thanks to rapid advancement of digital technology, internet access and the emphasis on innovation, we are also witnessing a potential transformation in the health sector, more so in countries like India, where majority of the public is deprived of easy and timely access to quality healthcare.

There is a realisation among healthcare providers, public and private authorities and diagnostic service providers alike that they must enhance their service offerings to meet this burgeoning demand for quality healthcare. Another change that has come about is with regards to an increased awareness about diseases and various treatment procedures among the common public. Patients today are not only seeking quality and effective care but are also aware of the latest practices and medicines. There is a growing preference for hassle-free digital interaction with medical service providers.

In a recent survey, about 80 per cent of the doctors indicated that new age patients are digital savvy and informed about their disease. The survey also found that about 31 per cent of patients use digital tools to search and schedule and another 27 per cent use online booking for diagnostic services. These numbers are expected to go up to 50 per cent in the next five years.1 For healthcare providers, the adoption of digital technology is no longer about having a website in place or importing advanced diagnostic devices. They also need to provide high-quality, impactful, easily available and economical services by integrating various digital tools.

Digital tools in healthcare sector

Digital healthcare tools are rapidly making an impact in the healthcare industry by seamlessly integrating functions, making front-end management and diagnostic services easier and more economical, and improving customer experience. Some of their benefits include the following:

Access

Digital tools have democratised the access to healthcare. Be it smart remote monitoring, wearable gadgets, or internet-enabled diagnostic devices, these tools are making quality healthcare more accessible.

Convenience

Digital technology has taken over front-end operations at most healthcare facilities all over the world. Self-service tools powered by internet and mobile apps take care of various services like appointment booking, report generation, telemedicine and online discussions with doctors and diagnostic experts.

Economy

Digital healthcare tools are mass-service devices with a much-reduced human resources’ consumption. Hence, they enable providers to offer more efficient, expedited and economical services to their patients.

Accuracy

Digital technology-based tools offer a superior level of personalisation and accuracy of services compared to conventional processes. Whether it be fixing appointments through an AI-based platform or making payments online, digital tools are not only more accurate but also make way for seamless customer experience.

Capacity enhancement

While a front-desk executive would be able to manage one customer call or query at a given time, digital tools can simultaneously cater to a large number of people. For instance, a booking engine at a diagnostic lab would be able to provide personalised and seamless experience to over 1000 people at the same time and with absolute accuracy.

Digital tools are rapidly expanding their footprint in the Indian healthcare market. There are various high-impact and affordable services like online diagnostic test bookings, home delivery of medicine, online doctor consultations and health-tech enabled home healthcare which are becoming increasingly popular. Innovations have made diagnostic and monitoring tools less intrusive and cumbersome. Given the current rate of innovation and improvement, the day is not far when digital tools will potentially and positively alter the healthcare landscape around the world.

Reference:

1.A Bain Capital-Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) ‘India Doctor Survey’

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