Over the next 5 years, the planet earth will have almost 8 billion inhabitants, and the life expectancy of these people will be increasing, while birth rates will be declining. By 2020, the over-65 population is projected to increase globally by 82%, to more than 690 million. Healthcare cannot but become a focus point for all human advancement. Rapid strides in biotechnology, research and every other kind of healthcare planning will help, but no dramatic improvement will be seen without the magic touch of ICT in the vertical.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare India released a new National Health Policy on 30th December 2014, which iterated this urgent need- of placing high emphasis on the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve the existing health care systems.
Despite the myriad benefits that come with it, healthcare has not been the top priority for IT investments in the country, even though the healthcare segment is seeing a growth of 1.5 times the growth rate of the GDP of the country. Till about 2008, Indian Healthcare industry set aside less than 2% of its budget for ICT deployments, which was way below the average of 8% across other industries. For the hospital industry in India, expected to grow to USD 280 billion, ICT has not yet been utilised fully and could play a huge role in making the operations more efficient and leaner, helping patients and doctors alike.
Over the last two years the scenario is changing, according to an IDC Health Insights study in 2013, USD 413.4 million was spent on ICT by the healthcare sector in India, and the number is expected to grow to US$539.4 million by 2018. Forecasts tell us that the Indian medical technology industry in total is expected to grow from US$2.7 billion in 2008 to US$14 billion in 2020, this growth is being steered by innovation, and as money flows in, by private corporate entities. With increasing line of business participation, there is a steady rise in key stakeholders, further driving excellence and innovation in the field. What we need are innovative technologies that are simple to use, cost-effective, mobility friendly and power-independent just what the doctor ordered!!
Among the foremost players in this area is IBM. Abhraneel Sarkar, Healthcare and Life-Sciences Industry Leader – IBM GBS Global Delivery India feels there are multiple factors driving this transformation in the healthcare industry – both on the technology front and on the societal front. “We are witnessing dramatic advances in technology – from basic digitization of health information that had been historically recorded on paper to data exchange between multiple stakeholders using multiple digital channels, availability of health applications on mobile devices and advancements in wearable healthcare. Affordability of these technologies for a large part of the population will also drive adoption.”
Of course, he maintains that there have been several changes on the societal front too. Citizens are becoming increasingly aware, often encouraged by the medical professionals and the proliferation of the Internet. “The entire healthcare ecosystem comprising multiple stakeholders (Patient, Provider and Prescriber, Payer, Government, Drug manufacturers) is increasingly focusing on win-win models of preventive healthcare and care management (chronic diseases, mental health and ageing patients are key areas); where technology is expected to play a key role. Adoption of IC technologies will play a key role in transforming the future of healthcare across the globe,”he adds.
Up until now the role of Information technology in Healthcare industry has predominantly been limited to in-patient and out-patient management in the purview of the hospital. Puneet Gupta, Entrepreneur in Residence, Product Owner – SAP Health Central, SAP Labs India feels that Healthcare is still largely an unorganized sector, with minimal coordination and collaboration between care providers. With latest advancements in technology, like big data, cloud, analytics, Internet of Things, Mobile technologies, this is bound to change and a connected network of healthcare providers and patient is the need of the hour. “Beyond technology advancements, the major factors that will drive this evolution include, standardization of healthcare data and protocols for interoperable healthcare system, adoption of wearable devices, increased awareness around preventive care due to access to online resources, social networks and information sharing between people facing common health issues among others,” he says.
L Ashok of Futurenet Technologies( India) Pvt Ltd, channel partner for IT products in healthcare industry products feels that the main reasons that will drive increasing usage of ICT in this vertical are that hep hospitals and healthcare organisations be competitive, provide improvements in efficiency that help cut costs and finally, provide that gold standard that all diagnostics should swear by – accuracy.