The decade of 2020s can turn out to be an era that reshapes our healthcare system by innovating and accepting digital technology at its heart. The outbreak and continuous surge of COVID-19 have driven many developments in the healthcare space, the way people seek medical assistance, doctor-patient interaction, at-home delivery models and so much more.
The pandemic has taught us how to survive in situations of home isolation, social distancing, and nationwide lockdowns. Hospitals, clinics, and medical institutions stopped the OPD services for non-COVID patients due to limited resources and fear of spreading infection. Thus, access to primary healthcare and regular treatments mounted stress on those who needed and still need medical consultation other than COVID. The problems are there and so are the solutions. One such powerful catalyst that manifests silver lining to the entire healthcare industry is the use of technology in delivering healthcare services.
People shifted to virtual healthcare for COVID-19 assistance, gradually even for general treatment on ongoing health conditions. Reports have stated an upsurge in healthcare teleconsultation in India, which majorly was used by first-time users. Other than COVID-19 symptoms, people have started to use online consultations through phone or video for chronic conditions, mental health issues, and even day-to-day conditions like back pain, eye infections, gynecology-related issues, and so on. This led to a rapid supply of digital healthcare and a huge surge in the demand for virtual medical assistance by the public. Government authorities, healthcare providers, corporates, and social organisations have realised the winds of time and all in their capacities started to engage to ensure delivery of care at home through telemedicine and virtual consultation. With the COVID-19 outbreak, it has proven to be a catalyst to telemedicine being opted for by a lot more physicians, doctors, and even patients. Especially individuals with comorbidities and chronic illnesses who need regular check-ups have benefitted from telemedicine because they have avoided hospitals completely to not expose to COVID-19 infections.Digital healthcare: Here to stay post-pandemic?
The impact of digital healthcare has been tremendous on the end-users as well as healthcare providers. Acceptability amongst the masses for telemedicine has increased due to the pandemic which opens avenues for healthcare providers to set up telehealth as one of the offerings to keep the end-users attracted.
Digital health presents a significant opportunity to provide affordable, high-quality primary care access to the masses if given the same importance post-pandemic. This shift can introduce one-stop-shop platforms to provide preventive care which is often missing due to access issues and even to address chronic and complex diseases which can be treated with digital solutions. Moreover, digital healthcare has great potential to deliver home care beyond just telemedicine. With help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), development and innovation in medicine, diagnostics, drugs, and personalized care can be done.
The mindsets of people have changed towards telemedicine and the overall digital healthcare ecosystem. While telemedicine has emerged as an important component of our healthcare system, it is also essential to understand that telemedicine alone is not the answer. Much medical care requires in-person visits and diagnostics, and the involvement of doctors face to face. Therefore, a successful healthcare ecosystem will be the one that co-exists the physical and online healthcare delivery with each being leveraged for their best use and application to improve the population health by addressing access to quality care at affordable prices.
By Anurag Khosla is CEO of Aetna India
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly)