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Digital Health Solutions And mHealth To Revolutionize The Indian Healthcare Industry

India is a frontrunner in the adoption of digital health technology with 76% of healthcare professionals in the country already using digital health records (DHRs) in their practices.

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It’s 2020, and it’s no secret that the world has entered the digital era and that the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated this process. The impact of COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for pharmaceutical and healthcare leaders, which are now embracing new and innovative technologies to operate in the post-COVID era 1 and to ensure that they are prepared for similar unforeseen crises in the future. From using data to better understand patient preferences—and delivering a personalized experience based on that data—to securely delivering medical information, mastering digital technologies can help pharmaceutical organizations shape the next generation of healthcare.

According to a report by Royal Philips for the 15-country Future Health Index (FHI) 2019, India is a frontrunner in the adoption of digital health technology with 76% of healthcare professionals in the country already using digital health records (DHRs) in their practices. 2 This shows that India’s healthcare industry is moving toward the digitization of their operations in a bid to improve the patient experience.

Top Digital Technologies

Investments in digital technologies, such as mobile, analytics and cloud, have varied by healthcare sector over the years. The new opportunity lies in preparing for the next wave of disruption. Among the top emerging disruptors are DARQ technologies, which have the potential to improve workforce productivity and patient experiences while also reducing the cost of care.

So, what are DARQ technologies? DARQ stands for distributed ledger technology (D), artificial intelligence (A), extended reality (R) and quantum computing (Q). Just as social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies have created new or enhanced business models, such as mobile e-commerce, DARQ is a set of technologies that, when combined, could create the next wave of consumer experiences and business models in healthcare. 3

Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) - DLT enables large-scale collaboration and transactions among strangers – without middlemen or third parties – as well as self-executing smart contracts. This includes technology like blockchain, which will be crucial for secure patient identity and data management. For example, pharmacists could rely on a single, secure database for more efficient access to patient records. Moreover, by aggregating anonymized patient data, a pharmaceutical company could get a market-wide view of a drug’s efficacy in real-world use.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) - AI automates business functions, captures unprecedented amounts of data and enables the benefits of analytics to be more easily accessed. The FHI 2019 report also indicates India meets the 15-country average when it comes to the usage of AI within healthcare at 46%. It can be used to help streamline analytical processes and increase productivity by automating traditionally manual tasks or learning user preferences to reduce the number of clicks it takes to perform a task. This enables more accurate medical analysis and reduces the chances for human error. AI-powered smartphone apps and digital health tools allow patients to self-serve by providing a personalized experience to augment diagnoses and receive custom care options.

Extended Reality - This creates new, immersive environments and provides on-demand information. Use cases for clinical, research and educational purposes is gaining popularity, but the potential is endless. Organizations may choose to equip pharmaceutical reps with augmented reality applications, create virtual prototypes or simulate interactions between molecules in the lab.

Quantum Computing - This can solve complex data sets that may help with discovering new drugs, materials and transforming cyber security.

Apart from DARQ technologies, other forms of emerging solutions include:

o Temperature Monitoring and Sensing - Temperature monitoring and sensing indicators provide vital data to ensure the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products during storage, transit and shipping. Patients are also provided an added layer of security, knowing that their medications have not been compromised during delivery.

o Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) - Patient care requires flawless fulfillment. Global tracking with mobile barcodes and RFID provides operational, actionable data on the location and condition of vaccines and other perishable drugs. RFID embedded tags locate tagged objects in real time. RFID solutions offer pharmacists visibility into prescription stock without the need for manual data entry and accurate unit-dose level data for all products. This transparency helps with the decommissioning of expired or damaged inventory and reverse decommissioning of uncollected medication.

The Latest in mHealth

The scope for leveraging mHealth as an alternate delivery channel in India is substantial. According to data gathered from Google Trends, a tool which analyzes the relative interest in a particular search  term, India ranks among the top five countries for search terms like ‘mobile health’, ‘health apps’, ‘medical apps’ and ‘mHealth’. This confirms that the Indian population is interested in mHealth 4 .

The digitalization initiatives undertaken by the Indian government, including the digital biometric identification program (Aadhaar), have created a favorable ecosystem for the digital healthcare market and benefit various e-Gov initiatives like the National Health Portal, e-Hospital, and Integrated Health Information Program (IHIP), which further fueled market growth. Moreover, the steady inflow of foreign direct investment has stabilized the digital healthcare market by addressing the concerns of stakeholders. 5

A large segment of the population (65%) resides in rural areas, where the low-income group lacks access to quality healthcare. Hence, the greatest opportunities lie in providing digital healthcare to patients in remote areas or where healthcare access is limited. With mHealth technology, it is now possible to connect patients to healthcare professionals regardless of distance.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

James Woo

APAC Healthcare Practice Lead, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific

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