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2020 to be the year for digital health transformations: Experts

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The 4th Digital India Health Summit emphasised on the need to create a strong legal framework for digital health in India and initiated the Health Parliament and Digital Health Academy

“Every healthcare strategy will need to include digitisation in the future”, experts present at the 4th Digital India Health Summit and Wolters Kluwer Innovation Awards unanimously said. The summit was held in Mumbai with more than 100 healthcare tech leaders, market influencers and healthcare providers attending the event. The idea was to bring together the changemakers of the healthcare industry and exchange ideas and innovations that can enable the sector to achieve their digital goals and transform healthcare delivery.

The summit was graced by some renowned personalities from and India and abroad such as Dr Devi Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Hospitals; Dr Priit Tohver, Advisor to the Government of Estonia; Richard Alvarez, Former President of Canada Health Infoway; Dr Zoha Rahman, Research and Policy experts, Access to Information Program, ICT Ministry, Govt of Bangladesh; Prof Rajendra Pratap Gupta, Chairman, Digital Health India; Jeyaseelan Jeyaraj, Senior Director, Health Science, Asia Pacific, Oracle Corporation and President, HIMSS India and more. Experts present at the summit declared the year 2020 to be the ‘the year of continuous digital transformations in healthcare’. They shared the stage to deliberate on future challenges, opportunities and find pathways to build a digitally advanced healthcare system for India. They also emphasised on the need to create a strong legal framework for digital health in India and promised to come together to initiate this intervention.

Prof Rajendra Pratap Gupta’s in his opening remark stated, “If a tech company like Apple is claiming to make the biggest impact to mankind through health, then health companies should commit themselves to making the biggest impact to health through technology.” He went on to launch two Global Health Initiatives-Health Parliament and Digital Health Academy, as part of this pledge to transform Digital Health in India.

According to Prof Gupta these endeavours will be working primarily to initiate effecting policy interventions, research, gathering evidence for furthering innovations and mentoring leadership within the health technology space. The idea is to build a platform where key leaders from the healthcare sector can mentor young leaders. The initiative also encourages women leadership in this space. In a brief conversation, Prof Gupta mentioned that there is a need to involve more women in the health tech space. Presently, very few women are attracted to the tech space, while he personally believes that women can be great tech leaders in healthcare. He also mentioned that this year around 21 per cent of the digital health summit was attended by women. He would like to increase this number to atleast 40 per cent by next year.

Dr Shetty in his address spoke about how digitalisation will not be a choice but a necessity in the future. He also focussed on the implications of developing EMR technologies for hospitals to increase the efficiency for patient care. He explained how Narayana health has created a healthcare platform with a view to become a hub for both health and healthcare in the future. “In future, the world’s largest healthcare provider with not be a hospital. It will be a software”, stated Dr Shetty.

Likewise, Dr Tohver spoke about the implementation of a Digital Public Healthcare System and how well Estonia had adapted to it. Following this, Alvarez shed light on how technology is going to transform healthcare and stated,” We are in a new healthcare economy where you adapt and win or compromise with business.”

The summit was divided into five sessions. The first session focussed on the Role of artificial intelligence, machine learning, Big data and block chain. With Jeyaseelan Jeyaraj as the Chairperson of the session, the panellists Dr Zoha Rahman , Dr Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, Chairman, IET (IoT Panel India) and Abhitabh Gupta, CEO, Good Health Insurance TPA discussed the expanding horizons at length. The following session was based on Digital health across the continuum of care. Kamal Sharma, Chairperson of the panel, Head of Channel and SAARC Business in Samsung Healthcare; Dr Mohammed Idris Shariff (Academy of Family Physicians of India), Shashank ND (CEO, Practo), Dr Narendranath V (Chief Administrator of MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital) and Prakash Bachani (Scientist F and Head (Medical Equipment and Hospital Planning Dept), Bureau of Indian Standards) highlighted the need for making e-prescription mandatory in India.

This was followed by the third session which was a comparison between Investment vs Return on investment. The Chairperson of the session was Nikhil Taneja (Managing Director – India, SAARC and Middle East, Radware India and Dr Sheila John, Consultant and Head of Department, Tele ophthalmology and E-learning, Sankara Nethralaya India) emphasised on the need to look at investment on digitalisation as insurance. Dr John coined the term “Relief on Investment” as she felt relieved that her investments met its purpose. The other panellists Krishna Singh (CMD of Global Space Technologie), BS Ganesh Babu (Aravind Eye Care System) and Sunil Hazaray (Head of Global Commercial Operations and Marketing, Philips Digital and Computaional Pathology, Northbrook Illinois) explained the importance of analysing ROI with medical outcomes.

Session four was entirely dedicated to the Connected Health – Connecting with the new-Age patients. Panellists , Rajesh Kumar Singh, VP, Wolters Kluwer) Dr Ravi P Singh, Secretary General, Quality Council of India), Prof Pankaj Chaturvedi, Deputy Director, Tata Memorial Centre), Prof Prabhat Chand, Professor of Psychiatry, NIMHANS and Officer-In-Charge, NIMHANS Digital Academy and AG Prasad, Vice President and Cluster Head, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals spoke about leveraging the potential of wearables.

Lastly, Dr Neena Pahuja, Former Director General, ERNET India, Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY), MC&IT, Govt of India) being the Chairperson of the session, provided insights about the wearable tech that has been developed around the world and how we need to focus on creating such technology within our nation.

Digital Health Summit also hosted the Wolters Kluwer Innovation Awards. The awards winners are mentioned in Table 1.

Key highlights

  • While devising a digital health strategy, look for a triple aim approach- better health, better value and better care
  • The EMR systems world over, are still not intuitive
  • India needs to create a strong legal framework for digital healthcare
  • Make e-prescription mandatory in India
  • Investing in cyber security is like investing in insurance

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