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India has among the highest adoptions of digital technologies by health and human services organisations: EY-Imperial College London survey

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74 per cent of respondents in India reported that digital technologies and data solutions have increased staff productivity, 75 per cent reported that digital solutions have been effective in delivering better outcomes for patients and service users

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital solutions and India has witnessed one of the highest adoptions of digital technologies by health and human services (HHS) organisations among the countries surveyed, according to a new survey from EY and Imperial College London’s Institute for Global Health Innovation, Embracing Digital: is COVID-19 the catalyst for lasting change?

Based on a survey of more than 2,000 global HHS professionals in six countries (India, Australia, Italy, UAE, the UK and the US), including 359 respondents from India, the findings show that 51 per cent of respondents in India have increased their use of digital technologies and data solutions since the outbreak of the pandemic. While 74 per cent of respondents in India reported that digital technologies and data solutions have increased staff productivity, 75 per cent reported that digital solutions have been effective in delivering better outcomes for patients and service users.

EY professionals worked with YouGov to administer a survey to a subset of their YouGov Plc UK panel of 800,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. Fieldwork was undertaken between September 3-29 last year, with respondents completing the survey online. The total sample size was 2,243 health and social care managers globally, spread across six countries.

The number of respondents in India was 359, including respondents who serve in management-level roles and above, ranging from junior and middle managers to owner or proprietors to chief executives, representing public and private sector, not-for-profit organisations and few others.

Gaurav Taneja, Partner and Leader, Government and Public Sector, EY India, says, “The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that data and technology can make a real difference to the work of health and human services professionals in India, who have worked tirelessly and heroically in the face of this dreadful disease. With adequate government support and incentives, India has truly set an example to the rest of the world that it can lead and pave the way for technology adoption in healthcare. The lessons learned during the pandemic must lead to continued technology investments in the healthcare sector.”

Success story with digital technologies and data solutions

While health organisations have historically often lagged other sectors in terms of adopting digital technologies and data solutions, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a change in priorities. Almost two-thirds of respondents globally (62 per cent) report an increase in the use of data and technology solutions, as the industry adapts to new ways of working under pressure. In terms of specific digital technologies and data solutions, the percentage of respondents using these technologies has more or less doubled across the board since the beginning of the pandemic; and mental health services are more or less equal to physical health and social services in terms of use. The UAE and India appear to be ahead of other countries in our sample, in terms of the percentage of organisations adopting these tools.

According to the survey, phone and video consultations have seen the greatest uptake across all technology solutions, with phone consultations being offered by 81 per cent of HHS organisations (up from 39 per cent before the pandemic) and video consultations available from 71 per cent of organisations (up from 22 per cent before the pandemic). Compared to this, the uptake has been higher in India at 86 per cent for phone consultation (up from 48 per cent before pandemic) and at 83 per cent for video consultations (up from 33 per cent before pandemic). The public sector organisations in India preferred digital tools for self-help (92 per cent organisations) and online self-assessment tools (89 per cent organisations) over phone consultation and video consultation. Also, in India, about three fourth of the respondents reported positive experiences with digital technologies and data solutions, leading to better collaboration and efficiency in the operating model.

Within our survey, rapid development of strategic plan for digital adoption, ability to protect an individual’s identity and personal information and improvement in service users’ proficiency to use the tools were the top enablers for greater adoption of these solutions in India.

Kaivaan Movdawalla, Partner, Healthcare, EY India, says, “The power of data that can be unleashed by digital capabilities is unimaginable, which can be consolidated, analysed and leveraged for sharper intelligence and insights for research and development in the healthcare sector. For example, the Government’s National Digital Health Mission initiative, which endeavours to create a Health ID for every citizen, will bring together the distributed health information that exists across the health continuum and play a key role in advancing healthcare in India. Hence, it is this data which will be the bedrock of the healthcare system that will revolutionise advancement of products, techniques, diagnosis and therapies for providers, med-tech and pharma players and aid any epidemiological planning.”

Key challenges in HHS and barriers to technology adoption

According to the survey, organisations continue to face several challenges such as maintaining safety and wellbeing of staff, maintaining access to care, operating within the budget, and managing workforce capacity while they respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Privacy concerns, ethical concerns about using digital technology and loss of human interaction are some major barriers preventing rapid adoption of technologies in India. Nearly 40 per cent of the respondents from India listed ethics and privacy concerns as one of the most prevalent barriers significantly higher than other countries in our sample, with only 11 per cent of UK respondents and 20 per cent of US respondents, respectively, citing this as a main barrier.

Widespread technology use will continue in the future

75 per cent of respondents from India indicated that they plan to further invest in digital solutions and technologies over the next three years and that the level of investment will be more than 50 per cent as compared to the previous three years.

Regarding the future, mental health services are more likely to report planned investments in AI-powered diagnostic solutions over the next three years in India, at 81 per cent, compared with 77 per cent and 76 per cent for physical health services and social services, respectively.

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