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The road to recovery starts with a sustainable healthcare infrastructure

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Vinay K Mayer, Director-Market Research & Consulting, Asia Research Partners highlights the ways that hospitals can mobilise when disasters strike and possibly prevent outbreaks from becoming major events and possibly saving thousands and thousands of lives in the process

In recent history, the global healthcare system faced a unique crisis. While we know that we’ve received some very valuable lessons from this particular incident, we also need to be ready for more acute and widespread attacks in the future and to be vigilant against those who may seek to capitalize on the vulnerabilities of our system. It is hoped that hospitals and their caregivers will rise above these obstacles and be better prepared to face challenges that arise as new pandemics emerge.

India has a population of approximately 1.38 billion people and is the fifth largest economy in the world. The country’s healthcare systems have been rapidly evolving in recent years, too, which makes it a great time to revolutionize India’s healthcare system–for example, by making sure that every patient has excellent access to data and advice on vaccines, flu shots, and other preventative measures.

  • The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare estimates that Rs 574,000 crore will be needed to strengthen the existing healthcare infrastructure. Of which, most (Rs 513,000 crore) will go toward primary care.
  • As part of its efforts to bolster its healthcare infrastructure, the Indian government has also introduced a Credit Incentive Program worth Rs 500 billion ($6.8 billion) for health organizations to develop infrastructure related to COVID-19 in small towns and rural areas so they have access to better medical supplies and equipment..

Building a smart hospital ecosystem

It doesn’t matter how you define a “smart hospital,” but most people would agree that a smart hospital is one that uses technology to improve the lives of its patients. Some of those hospitals are extremely high tech, with big investments in new equipment and cutting-edge software. Others are a lot simpler, but the goal is the same: to make healthcare easier, more convenient and more affordable. They’re often called “accountable care organizations” or “freestanding ambulatory surgery centers,” and the services they provide are extremely valuable to patients.

Globally, the smart hospital market is valued at over $22.2 billion and is projected to exceed $83.1 billion by 2026, according to a recent report.

With the widespread of diseases like COVID and Dengue, the use of smart and connected processes in hospitals can help to maintain social distance between infected patients and non-infected patients, which will allow us to prevent the disease further. Smart hospitals are outfitted with cutting-edge technology such as stress detection and alleviation systems, laboratory information management systems, electronic medical records, and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for personnel, materials, and supply chain management. Some of these technologies can help hospitals detect disease at an early stage, saving some lifetime earnings and, more importantly, saving lives when the disease is life-threatening.

Various digital platforms such as Arogya Setu app, telemedicine portals, patient mapping, teleconsultations, online clinical support, among others, have highlighted the significance of digital healthcare, especially in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. The intent of smart hospitals is to securely store patient records in the cloud, allowing them to be accessed by authorized clinicians. Doctors and nurses have a better grasp on a patient’s history, allergies, diagnostic findings and medications when the information is quickly at their fingertips.

In this regard, Ayushmann Bharat Digital Mission, launched by the Indian government, promotes digital health by building an ecosystem with digital consultation, patient consent for medical practitioners to access their records, etc. This scheme will ensure that no older medical records will go missing since every record will be preserved digitally. By doing this, the hospital staff will be able to better handle the long lines in the hospital resulting in the patients visiting the hospital less often, which in turn will make the hospital more efficient.

Transforming healthcare with sustainable technology

The hospitals are prone to generating large amounts of waste. It is therefore very difficult for hospitals to reduce the amount of waste they produce. In a recent study, it was revealed that about 75% of the waste produced in healthcare poses a threat to health and the environment.

Following are a few steps that hospitals can take to reduce their ecological footprint and reduce waste:

  • The principles of environmental sustainability can be applied to healthcare systems in several ways, including the reduction of paper waste through the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and electronic medical records (EMRs). The system must empower the workforce to play an active role above all by educating them on the issues at hand. Also, it is critical that they are able to communicate their needs and desires as well as implement any changes that may occur.
  • Solidifying medical waste can prove to be an energy intensive process, having the potential to release noxious fumes that cause fatalities upon inhalation. Healthcare providers must consider moving towards greener ways of disposing of their solidified medical waste, such as autoclaving, chemical treatment, and microwaving.
  • Saving energy can be difficult in some cases when hospitals, for example, try to reprogram their heating and cooling plants. On the other hand, re-engineering air handling systems and upgrading lighting systems may seem like an impossible task at first, until you start with small steps like conserving water or making sure that lights are turned off by finding innovative ways to bring about positive change in the world around us!

However, the question of how smart hospitals can be adopted remains a concern. While some healthcare infrastructure requirements do indeed call for government support, this is particularly pronounced in rural regions, which need larger infrastructural investments than they would otherwise need to gain access to medical facilities and specialists. Problems such as COVID and dengue fever require hospital providers around the country to adopt sustainable infrastructure in order to overcome these challenges, but the ROI and break-even point still remain questionable and poorly examined.

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