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Through the pandemic, we observed significant adoption of Digital Health in India: 2,000 rural towns accessed teleconsultation, with 80% first-time users and a 200% increase in e-pharmacy orders. Going forward, the ‘Digital Health ECG’ foretells a positive prognosis: 60% of patients from tier-1 cities and 65% of doctors said they will continue using digital platforms for primary care in a post-covid world, as per a BCG FICCI Report. The future looks promising but has challenges and opportunities to address, largely hinging on drawing insights from patient analytics.

Measuring the pulse: Analytics power patient360 

Rohit, a patient in a rural tier-2 town, has begun teleconsultation to address his chronic pulmonary disorder. Today, he volunteers multiple sources of data in an increasing phygital world. Rohit adds genomics, profile and environmental data, diet information and grocery spend, and medical history into his digital application suite. As his condition progresses, his care team assists in adding biomarker (step count, lung capacity, etc.) data and a crystallized view of his insurance plan, while medical spend and income-bracket related information emerges. Through long-term care, Rohit’s in-app behaviour, responsiveness to digital marketing nudges, and larger online consumption footprint contribute towards a complete Patient360 view, enabling closed-care monitoring beyond the consultation. His care team remotely crafts a personalized care plan and schedules visits, while Rohit tracks his progress through simple readings. Going forward, these analytics will be bolstered by wearable IoT technologies, including smart gloves and haptic devices, furthering a larger trend towards the ‘bionic human’.

Moonshots—What does the future look like? 

Powered by this Patient360 data, the future trends towards hyper-personalization. First, robust analytics will accelerate Digital Twin technology for humans, which promises to deliver individualized care. By virtually modelling Rohit’s internal systems to create his digital replica, care providers can create predictive paths to discovery and enhanced treatment. Insurers can pre-empt risk and optimize their insurance plan by analysing similarly-clustered profiles, while their care provider could detect disease predisposition and optimize long-term care to attempt condition-prevention via guidance on diet, meditation and exercise. 

Second, from matching patients with clinical trials and analyzing images in screening programmes to computer vision-aided diagnoses and passive monitoring, advancement in machine learning has shown that AI systems will transform the value chain. According to Clinical Trials Arena research, biotech firms have demonstrated AI’s ability to modify drug discovery, with multiple AI-designed molecules reaching human clinical trials in under 12 months versus the typical discovery cycle of 4.5 years. Key to unlocking AI’s full effects will be the widespread adoption of 5G: GSMA intelligence forecasts 5G connections in India to “reach 6% of the total population by 2025 (72 million) and 93% by 2040". While GSMA predicts this will contribute $4 billion in GDP to the overall healthcare sector between 2025 and 2040, it will also enable the transmission of large amounts of streaming data and unlocking real-time analysis of individual patients to improve diagnoses and cost savings. 

Finally, as in the consumer goods space, hyperlocal capabilities will boost ease of- and frequency of- use. The rise of at-home-care and medical fulfilment, projected to grow by 21.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 2026 as per MordorIntelligence analysis, will drive radial usage and retention.

Challenges 

Stabilizing ECG companies need to accelerate nascent intelligence capabilities around health data. As the affordability, accessibility, and sophistication of IoT devices increase, companies are flooded with rich Edge data, but are only beginning to provide robust analytical insights. For example, Rohit records a wealth of streaming data from his pulse oximeter and BP monitor into Apple Health and GoogleFit, but firms are yet to fully leverage his data to enable practitioners to form predictive diagnoses. In service of this, we will observe consolidation towards a connected ecosystem across the four major plays emerging in India: knowledge dissemination, consultation, e-pharmacies, and digital therapeutics. Firms can expect activity through partnership or acquisition that realizes a one-stop solution offering multiple services. Powered by detailed patient analytics, the lines between payer and provider will blur as the ecosystem merges to focus on long-term care and continued patient retention.

Rajiv Gupta is managing director and senior partner at BCG. (With inputs from Sripradish Kapikad, platinion associate director, and Surya Giri , platinion senior engineer, BCG)

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