In order to understand the pre-covid digital health scenario, Healthcare Federation of India (NATHEALTH) recently conducted a survey which revealed that even before Covid-19 hit India, the move towards digital health was significant and the pandemic has played a pivotal role in accelerating the pace and also made digital health usage non-negotiable in the present times. The survey also focuses on major challenges related to strengthening digital health footprint and identifying areas where interventions are needed.
Key findings of the survey highlight that prior to Covid-19, 61% of the patients were scheduling appointments through mobile apps and 70% were using digital technology methods to monitor their health at home. It also mentions that services like e-pharmacy and telehealth have played a pivotal role in making digital health a growing phenomenon in India and the government has also worked in pushing and enabling digital health.
It was also observed that, not only there was a significant increase in usage of digital health by the patients, but physicians also saw a significant jump in use of digital tools to deliver patient care. The survey also claimed that Government’s Swasth app was being used prominently by the public and private players, and the patients.
Preetha Reddy, President, NATHEALTH and Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals, said: “The digital health survey results show that it’s paramount to put thrust on adoption and effective implementation of digital health programme in the country. We know that digital health has a special priority place in the Ayushman Bharat roadmap of the government.”
“Digital health is globally successful phenomenon and India can adopt some of the best practices. For example, British Columbia, Canada, Estonia, Australia (esp. Queensland state), have achieved great levels of digital health and have found ways for the public and private sectors to work together and arrive at a win-win situation for digital healthcare delivery,” Reddy said, adding that country need to formulate a concise, precise, practical and futuristic digital health agenda together.
The survey also outlines top priorities to translate National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) into opportunities for the industry. It suggested that the focus should be put on increasing awareness about digital health platforms; strengthening regulatory framework, adoption and investment in digital health by building certain programmes, creating a coherent digital pathway, which can be useful for both public and private players , mandating doctors (both public and private practitioners) to provide teleconsultation, incentivise the providers using digital medium, boost digi-tech infrastructure, support digital health startups, ensure data ownership to avoid cyber security issues in maintaining health data, and work in tandem with the private players to grow the digital health footprint across the country.
In addition, the survey recommended that capacity building is required from both the regulatory and the industry side to take any level of work on digital health ahead and there is a need to bring together relevant stakeholders for this to be achieved. It also emphasised on the need for a strong dialogue among states to float digital health into their systems. Hospitals and healthcare providers need to realise that technology will only make them more effective and efficient, rather than being a hindrance or a cost addition.