The New Normal: Digital Interventions on the Forefront in Healthcare

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Dr. Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, formerly Director General – Indian Council of Medical Research and  Biotechnology Research Professor, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India takes a closer look at how digitalisation is revolutionising health sector, and how we can leverage it

We live in times when a novel virus has not only shifted our perception about healthcare but has also made us realise how important timely access to healthcare is. Five months into the most challenging outbreak of our times, and “social distance” became the ‘new normal’. What also emerged as the new normal during these last few months is the shifting focus on digital healthcare.

From checking if your heart is beating at the right pace to real-time monitoring of healthcare vitals with doctors through telemedicine, the digital world is bridging the gaps within the healthcare community like never before. As India enters the new phase of its public healthcare story with the launch of the Digital Health Mission by PM Modi, it’s time to take a closer look at how digitalisation is revolutionising health sector, and how we can leverage it.

Better patient outcomes with analytics

Today, mobile applications are not only helping us understand the lifestyles we should be leading, they are counting our steps, calories, checking our heart rate and monitoring our progress. These are not just mere numbers on our smartphones, these are data points that are helping the healthcare industry analyze a person’s lifestyle to understand the course of their treatments or flag warning signs. These technologies are improving patient outcomes and how. Data analytics are helping pharma companies understand the root causes of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and more. These systems are helping us achieve best outcomes and significantly improve quality of life.

An initiative towards revolutionising the healthcare sector is a recently conducted study titled ‘Beyond Intervention’. The research uncovers key views from physicians, hospital administrators and patients that showcase the demand for improved communication through analysis of the data. The findings of this report show that using advanced technologies can enable more precise diagnoses and better treatment strategies to ensure the best possible results. It also highlights how can the doctor-patient interface or patient care be improvised by analysing patients’ data for detecting determinants of health such as recording and, positioning of new technology smart applications, remote monitoring and minimally invasive approaches. It also determines better treatment strategies to ensure the best possible cardiovascular patient health.

The digital connect between doctors and patients

There are programmes, specifically designed to bridge the communication gap between doctors and patients. These are programmes that are typically health services that help doctors and patients connect on a common platform. They provide doctors and consumers with services and information to help people achieve better health. Such online platforms not only allow doctors access to the latest knowledge on medical science and patient support services but also create an awareness among consumers by sharing educational health information. Interestingly, these are platforms where patients can even reach out to the doctors privately and securely, and doctors can see a patient’s medical reports. Such remote guidance systems are particularly useful at a time like this when patients are not frequenting the hospitals for regular check-ups. This helps in long-term management of chronic diseases that need continuous monitoring.

Bridging the gap with telemedicine

With the pandemic far from waning, patients are restricted within the confines of their homes. Digital intervention is transforming any ordinary room into a virtual examination room. How? Doctors and patients are now able to connect in real-time and discuss all kinds of symptoms, even in critical cases like chronic diabetics and those suffering from Parkinson’s. We now have apps and tools that are expanding the use of telehealth. From diabetes care to monitoring heartcare, there is a lot one can explore, helping doctors decide on the medicines and dosage to prescribe, even when they can’t see you regularly.

Valuable insights for outcome-based patient care

What’s interesting to see is how pharma will benefit and help patients make optimal use of the digital revolution in healthcare. We are looking at a future where medicines will be part of a digital ecosystem and be given as per the real-time data analytics provided by smarter technological tools. Eventually, patients will be able to constantly monitor their condition in a way that they will also get feedback about their health and treatment they are seeking. This will help them tailoring their drug dosage on their own, in case a doctor is not accessible. Through remote monitoring, health professionals will be able to combine the data about patients as they go about their daily lives and send them real-time alerts for intervention.

Smarter sensors, advanced analytics and the solutions to some of the most complex health problems— digital intervention is changing the way we look at healthcare. Patients are able to monitor their medication better and stay in touch with their doctors in real-time because of the digital platforms that are now available.

Artificial intelligence is also used particularly for lungs and blood vessels to make a diagnosis even before the diagnostics have been conducted. Transmission of the diagnostic test result from remote places when the disease has entered rural India is important. For digital care algorithms as well as modelling are being increasingly used in decision making. Other important health care intervention is treatment of cancer patients and with other serious metabolic diseases. Also, the sequencing data is used to make predictions again to create a real time decision making.

As we step into the ‘new normal’, it would be wise to use digital technologies as the right armour to shield and prepare ourselves for a future with social distancing as the new norm and limited access to our healthcare providers, of course with all necessary controls and checks.

digitalisationDr. Nirmal Kumar GangulyNational Digital Health Missiontelemedicine
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