The healthcare sector has transitioned and evolved significantly over the last few decades. Rapid technological development has helped address key challenges in the sector, thereby transforming the sector into a sustainable one and redefining the doctor-patient relationship. There has been an adoption of digital solutions to avail healthcare services, increase capacity, efficiency and aid better clinical outcomes for patients. While technology has aided in the advancement of the healthcare sector over time, certain new-age technological trends have gained prominence, especially given the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it is the development and distribution of vaccines, screening of patients at scale, teleconsultation, or even online medicine delivery, technology in healthcare has been at the forefront to benefit medical professionals as well as patients during these challenging times. The “digital front door" is now seen as creating the first impression on potential patients when it comes to the healthcare system. We have witnessed a digital approach opted by the patients in terms of availing services in such a short period. This has increased the capacity and efficiency of medical professionals. Even for patients, this approach has been a faster, cost-effective, and efficient solution for seeking treatment. For example, teleconsultation has emerged as a major trend that enables patients to seek medical consultation without visiting the hospitals and has also helped in mitigating the spread of this fatal Covid-19 virus. As a result, hospitals along with other health systems launched and expanded telehealth programs in a very short period post the onset of the pandemic to meet patient needs.
Challenges amidst a worldwide crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize that we need to step up in our healthcare infrastructure to meet the increasing demand, especially in India where a large majority of the population is rural, having the highest disease burden. The changing pattern of the virus has majorly affected our rural population which has further burdened the healthcare sector. The virus does not differentiate between urban and rural and there is a need for a sustained strategy to uplift and provide essential healthcare services in the remotest parts of the country. An approach focused on widespread education, strong surveillance and the required investment can help in preventing the spread of diseases. The pandemic can be used as an opportunity to strengthen the primary healthcare system in rural India.
Technology can also play a significant role in the upliftment of rural healthcare. One such example is the remote monitoring technology which enables medical professionals and patients alike. This technology enables the healthcare team to constantly monitor and be updated about the patient’s health so that whenever a potential problem arises it can either be resolved automatically or escalated and addressed remotely. Teleconsultation technology when combined with remote monitoring can boost the healthcare sector, expanding access to medical care across the remotest areas of our country.
Technology enabling patients
Amidst the pandemic, we also realized the urgent need for the rapidly increasing demand for critical care during emergencies. We understood that there is a vast gap in quality healthcare expertise between rural and urban areas. To tackle this problem, we increased the use of the-ICU technology to ensure efficacy and cost-effectiveness. This technology has the potential to link all semi-urban/urban hospitals to tertiary care ICUs and improve the ICU services of hospitals located in remote areas ensuring better care and services to our patients. The government’s “Make in India” initiative has encouraged us to come forward with innovations to help patients avail the most advanced services at a lower price. With the support of the government, GE Healthcare was able to enhance Tele-ICU solutions enabling healthcare professionals to increase their capability to treat and consult more patients.
Wipro GE Healthcare’s Remote Monitoring Solution, Tele-ICU, along with the Centricity High Acuity Critical Care Solution (CHA-CC) is tailor-made to connect Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in different locations or within the same building to central sites. The technology has so far connected 800 beds across several hospitals in India to the hub hospital, where highly skilled healthcare professionals can remotely provide advanced consultation and care to their critically ill patients.
Amidst the pandemic, screening and monitoring the health of a large number of susceptible or infected people has become a challenging task. To tackle the situation, we are using several other technologies like cloud computing (CC), and artificial intelligence (AI) that are creating new dimensions for healthcare innovations. (AI) is a genius technique of making decisions using deep learning methodology with the cloud dataset. Cloud advanced technology, storage capability, and database when combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning tools are not only benefitting healthcare professionals to increase their output but also patients in availing services.
However, there are certain challenges that we need to address. The rapidly increasing demand for advanced healthcare services has overburdened these services. Apart from that, many remote monitoring and cloud techniques can also alleviate the problem of continuous and non-invasive monitoring. In the current situation, datasets for training such models are one of the biggest limitations. Since most of these techniques rely on images or videos, the chance of obtaining complete accuracy remains to be a challenge that needs to be resolved over time.
(Mr. Amit Mohan is the Business Head – LCS & LCS Digital, Wipro GE Healthcare. Views are personal)