Dr Satyender Goel, Founder & CEO, India Health Link
Good health and wellness have often been the most sought-after catchwords for everyone. However, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has increased the primacy of not only good health and wellness but also preventive care, thereby repositioning the oft-repeated dictum ‘prevention is better than cure’.
Also, the pandemic has appended the tone for the digitisation of healthcare as never before. The infectious wave of the coronavirus has also spurred demand for digital transformation, particularly in the area of diagnosis and rather a preventive diagnosis.
The pandemic has triggered the WHOs global strategy on digital health 2020-2025. The objective of the global strategy is to improve health for everyone, everywhere by accelerating the development and adoption of appropriate, accessible, affordable, scalable and sustainable person-centric digital health solutions to prevent, detect and respond to epidemics and pandemics, developing infrastructure and applications that enable countries to use health data to promote health and well-being, and to achieve the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and the triple billion targets of WHO’s Thirteenth General Programme of Work, 2019–2023.
Digital technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT), virtual care, remote monitoring, artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, blockchain, smart wearables, tools enabling data exchange and storage, and tools enabling remote data capture and the exchange of data and sharing of relevant information across the health ecosystem creating a continuum of care have proven potential to enhance health outcomes by improving medical diagnosis, data-based treatment decisions, digital therapeutics, self-management of care and person-centred care as well as creating more evidence-based knowledge, skills and competence for professionals to support health care.
Digital health should be an integral part of health priorities and benefit people in a way that is ethical, safe, secure, reliable, equitable, and sustainable. It should be developed with principles of transparency, accessibility, scalability, replicability, interoperability, privacy, security, and confidentiality.
Governments around the world are increasingly promoting the use of preventive healthcare as the first step in a quality healthcare infrastructure. Technology can make preventive healthcare more penetrative and play a major role in helping bring it to the end-user.
Lately, the coming together of two worlds, the ‘physical’ and the ‘digital’ – ‘Phygital’, and their convergence is giving a powerful new boost to innovation. The blending of the physical (mechanical, electrical, biological, and chemical innovations) and digital world (early detection, artificial intelligence, and so on). The phygital model will transform both – the way we manage our health and our healthcare system interactions. Early detection and diagnostics will become part of everyday life; there will be a greater choice of therapy, and digital monitoring and coaching will change chronic care.
Furthermore, the ‘phygital’ model is well-positioned to transform the way healthcare service is delivered as well as revolutionize patients’ treatment journey. The way the ‘phygital’ model is unfolding, gives a transparent picture that how it is going to have a huge impact on the future of delivering a great patient experience.
The ‘phygital’ model has now revitalized the healthcare industry, which was once touted to be a foot-dragger in the adoption of digital technology. Earlier, the lack of access to healthcare refrained millions of patients living in remote rural areas of the country from receiving primary healthcare services, but the innovative ‘phygital’ model has harboured the possibility to reach the ‘so considered’ unreachable at the bottom of the pyramid.
Imagine, how the ‘phygital’ model can further accelerate care in the already revolutionized digital health era and extends its reach beyond speculation post-pandemic! How the adoption of telemedicine has served the people in remote areas! Now patients can consult doctors using their electronic devices and share self-screened vitals without appearing physically before doctors but connecting virtually hassle-free. It will further bridge distance and remoteness by creating equilibrium with physical care.
As preventive health has paramount to achieving holistic wellness. And regular health screenings are important to avoid future health problems or catch them early when they are easier to treat. But the traditional method of screening is cumbersome, costly and inaccessible to the lowest stratum of society. However, the ‘phygital’ module of health vitals screening through a zero assistance portable health kiosk is quite promising towards optimising the reach and accessibility in the remotest of India. It can be deployed in any hard to reach area and solve primary care access problems of 90% of rural India, which in turn can help prioritise the need for 10% of chronically-ill patients. It is scalable to cover all 600k+ villages in record time with a distributed clinical team of a few experts.
Such technology-driven kiosks eliminate wait times, unnecessary travel, and the inconvenience of leaving one’s home. And, in Covid times such technology has come as a boon. With lots of viable user-friendly features, the evolving ‘phygital’ model seems to emerge as a promising bond for preventive healthcare in a country like India.
But the bigger question is how this promising and innovative technological model of healthcare will reach the aam aadmi of Bharat.