Home / Opinion / Columns /  The limitless possibilities of digital healthcare

The covid-19 pandemic has presented a watershed moment, bringing the world’s healthcare systems to a halt, forcing us to rethink existing healthcare delivery models and embrace the digital transformation of the sector. However, a lot more needs to be done to ensure a conducive environment for digital healthcare to flourish, so health benefits can reach the last mile. By realizing the potential of tech-led solutions, outcomes can be improved across vital care pathways, from virtual care services and remote patient monitoring to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in medtech devices for diagnosis, actionable insights, and therapy. This can help clinicians make smarter and more informed decisions, enabling personalized diagnosis and treatment, and for bringing us closer to precision health.

Holistic digital environment: The future

Building a robust environment to support effective digital health adoption and delivery is key. Several factors contribute to its success. Digital health is a collective process and must be guided by a well-designed policy framework that supports local research and innovation in this vein. With an enabling policy ecosystem, data can be effectively utilized across all tenets of healthcare. This can support the adoption of integrated, patient-centred data forming the foundation of a thriving digital system. A favourable policy environment is imperative, with adequate training, skilling, and information sharing, making digital tools easy to use for healthcare practitioners.

There is an evident need for clear data sets and uniform governance frameworks, in addition to mass adoption of powerful and versatile platform solutions that integrate, aggregate, and analyse data and convert these into actionable insights. Underpinning this must also be effective data privacy and security safeguards, including care taken to restrict access to digital health records beyond the care provider and patient, to avoid security breaches. The techade will also have 5G disrupting the patient care continuum, transforming diagnosis, therapy and prognosis.

Accelerated investment in research and development needs prioritization to ensure advanced solutions that work in the local context. Further, considering the scale of India’s healthcare challenges, collaboration between public and private sectors, industry, and academia is fundamental to scale digital health.

Harnessing data-driven care

Today, the number of technology-based offerings in healthcare is constantly expanding, with their potential use cases and benefits being virtually limitless. Fundamental to the tech are cloud-based unified platforms that make processes more efficient, improve clinical workflows and offer practitioners a holistic view of a patient’s history. Data stored on the cloud can offer intelligent insights using AI tools and are driving a tectonic shift in early diagnosis and treatment.

In the case of lung cancer, only 18.5 % of patients survive five or more years once diagnosed. These are threats that data-led technology will help address. With easily available clinical, imaging, and genomic data that can be effectively analysed, the scope of oncology care is expanding. This can help assess the likelihood of malignancy and quickly identify at-risk patients, enabling improved patient outcomes.

Another area where precision analytics will be of use is cardiovascular disease (CVD). Given that CVDs take root from lifestyles, genetics, and family history, a predictive model to assess patient risk will improve patient outcomes. We are already leveraging AI to predict heart failure and other serious cardiac events in asymptomatic individuals. We should be able to use AI to discover complex relationships in a person’s lifestyle, genomics and more, to discover multiple factors which lead to CVDs.

Advantage Digital

To actualize long-term goals of augmenting India’s healthcare system, it is imperative to cohesively adopt and implement a healthcare framework with digital technology at its core. Maximizing the healthcare system’s potential would require building on key areas such as supportive infrastructure, upskilled talent, robust data aggregation platforms, adoption of analysis tools, including AI, and collaboration.

With an enabling ecosystem, supported by effective policies for digital healthcare and increased innovation, the promise of digital solutions in healthcare is immense. It’s not long before precision healthcare becomes central to the health and well-being of every citizen.

Shravan Subramanyam is the managing director of Wipro GE Healthcare.

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