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Bridging Healthcare Gap Through Telecom, Media and Technology

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Growing at 15 per cent CAGR, the healthcare sector of India was $78.6 billion in 2012 and is expected to touch $158.2 billion by 2017. There have been several policies to improve the healthcare sector like 100 per cent FDI in healthcare sector and green field projects, National Rural Health Mission 2005, National Urban Health Mission 2005 and reduction in import duties.

While the healthcare sector is slowly progressing with the support of above initiatives, there are number of challenges faced by the sector:
  • Burden of infectious and chronic diseases
  • Reproductive and child health and nutrition: Life expectancy in India at birth is 66 against the world average of 72. Mortality rate stands at under 5 per 1000 children 56 against world average of 48
  • Lack of equal access to healthcare facilities: Due to lack of quality infrastructure and specialized doctors, rural population depends on urban hospitals and spends most of their income. Though healthcare facilities in urban India have developed in the past few years, the supply and demand gap has widened, despite increase in the spending capacity.
  • High healthcare costs: Healthcare expenditures exacerbate poverty, with about 39 million people falling into poverty every year as a result of such expenditures.
  • Insufficient healthcare workforce and infrastructure: The statistics clearly shows the lack of infrastructure and manpower to serve the Indian population. 78 per cent of the total healthcare spending is out-of-pocket which is very high in comparison to 14 per cent in Maldivies, 29 per cent in Bhutan and 31 per cent in Thailand.
Solutions From Technology, Media and Telecom

Telecom
India has the second largest telecom subscriber base in the world with over 900 million subscribers. The teledensity (148) is high in urban India while it (40) is increasing steadily in rural India.

m-Health/ e-Health: With this mobile VAS, users can directly connect to the doctors and specialists via mobile phone. The projected m-Health industry in India is INR 30 billion by 2017 which can benefit both the telecom and healthcare sectors. Some successful examples are Mediphone, Ask a Doctor, Doctor-on-call. Rural people who have difficulty accessing medical facilities can get great help. It can also be used to spread knowledge on sensitive subjects such as sexually transmitted diseases to target audience.

Telemedicine: With the current market size of $7.5 million and growth rate at CAGR of 20 per cent, telemedicine is going to be the next alternative for rural and remote people. Telemedicine is able to decrease the costs of expensive doctor visits by enabling remote communication between physicians and patients. As e-Visits are proven and adopted in the developed world, and as the necessary infrastructure is deployed in the developing world, they are likely to offer affordable primary medical and diagnostic care to very large population that do not have access today. e.g. Deloitte predicts that in 2014, there will be 100 million eVisits globally, saving over $5 billion when compared to the cost of in-person visits, and representing growth of 400 per cent from 2012 levels.

Machine To Machine (M2M): According to analysts, Indian M2M healthcare device market is expected to reach $98.38 million by 2016, with a CAGR of 33.81per cent from 2011-2016. e.g. M2M-based heart monitoring device detects heart arrhythmia daily and records it over-time. It then transmits recorded information via mobile network or internet so that care-takers could securely check the status of the person’s cardiac condition, providing 24/7 patient support. Many such M2M based devices are being used worldwide which can be used in India as well.

Real-time location: This kind of service helps in case of disasters where patients and survivors can be located and provided with required healthcare. The patient in emergency can be easily tracked down. Real time location and Global Positioning System (GPS) helps the ambulance to reach the patient quickly and to take the shortest route to hospital. e.g. GPS solutions for tracking Dementia and Alzheimer patients.

Big Data: The predictive analysis can be performed on the health related database generated every day or the Electronic Health Records (EHR) to successfully forecast health issues in near future and to diagnose many diseases remotely. The applications like KGB (Kooda, Gandagi, Badboo) are using the unstructured data of social networking and other sources and analysis of this data helps to address sanitation and hygiene issues.



Media

Media plays major role in India to educate and inform people on health related issues. The health related information can be given to rural and urban India by television, radio, print and the new social media platform.

Radio & Television: As most of the rural and urban population has access to radio or television these can be the efficient medium to reach the masses. The awareness on various health related issues, solutions, vaccinations, etc. can help enormously to improve the healthcare sector. Supported by the Government, Doordarshan has World’s biggest health campaign ‘Swasth Bharat’ (Healthy India) five-days-a-week telecast from 30 stations in 19 Indian languages and 17 Dialects.

Reality Shows: Reality shows and cause based movies can bring about awareness by storytelling. More and more awareness can be spread through these platforms. Satyamev Jayate by Aamir Khan is a great success example. More shows of this kind can help the Indian healthcare sector and can also play a major role in influencing policy implementation of the government.

Technology
IT: It can greatly help in improving the efficiency of the health care sector. The automation of healthcare processes can save significant time and money. EHR is a huge success for collection, storage and retrieving data of patients. e.g. Gujarat, has introduced a ‘Mother & Child’ name based tracking Information management system called “E-Mamta”.

Cloud: By using cloud technology, doctor can store and access data from anywhere, anytime to provide a real-time solution to patient’s problem. Even the patient can get the required check-up data directly from the medical database through internet connectivity.

Wearable Technology: Today Smartphones are like personal health assistants. Also wearable technology like smart watch and add-on gadgets for shoes can track the health parameters of a person and doctors can monitor it remotely. Numerous health sensors and wearables led by Apple and Google, are opening huge opportunities for startups in India and US, which are competing head-on with the IT majors such as TCS, Accenture, etc.

With all the above solutions from Technology, Media and Telecom, the healthcare sector can reach the masses of India easily, efficiently and affordably.

The author is Partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP