India a leading user of digital health technology: Report

As per the Philips Future Health Index (FHI) 2019 report, insufficient data sharing happens currently, despite the fact that more people are open to sharing their data with their healthcare professionals.

India is among the leading countries to have embraced digital technology in healthcare, as per a 15-country Future Health Index (FHI) 2019 report released by Royal Philips, a health technology company. India, along with China and Saudi Arabia are countries where respondents are more likely to take action related to their health as a result of tracking their health indicators using digital technology, cementing how digital technology is increasingly paying an active role in enhancing healthcare. Emerging countries are also more likely to track health indicators using digital health technology and via mobile health apps, take action and contact their healthcare professionals based on the same.

According to the report, the usage of technology and two sharing of data is essential not only for delivering the right care in time, but also to enhance the patient-clinician experience. Healthcare professionals are, however, not prepared enough to use digital technology and data while they are training for clinical practice.

Proactive usage of technology

In India, 88 percent of healthcare professionals in the country use digital health technology or mobile health apps - a much higher figure than the global average of 78 percent. At 46 percent, India also meets the 15 country average when it comes to usage of adaptive intelligence (AI), as well. Individuals in India are also less likely to be worried that AI will substitute human aspects of their healthcare experience - 19 percent of respondents in India associate AI with less human interaction, while the 15 country average is 31 percent.

The report further adds that 80 percent of healthcare professionals in India have shared patient information with other professionals, within their health facility, while 87 percent of of Indians who have access to their Digital Health Records (DHRs) wanted their healthcare professionals to have access as well.

The report has revealed that telehealth adoption is higher in countries where there is a lower density of physicians. In India, which has a physician density per 1000 population of 0.8, there is 67 percent telehealth adoption in India. Further, 26 percent of individuals in India also were more likely to say that they would prefer to meet with their doctor remotely via a digital medium, for non-urgent care.

The report also found that when healthcare professionals in India are supported by digital technology, their experience improves. Ninety percent healthcare professionals in the country who use DHRs, have stated that it has led to a positive impact on quality of care, while 89 percent have quoted healthcare professional satisfaction. The 15 country average is 69 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

However, with nearly half (49 percent) of the surveyed Indians stating that they did not know anything about the benefits of digital health technology or mobile health apps, providing information and knowledge about the same would be vital in revolutionising healthcare.

Government’s approach to digital healthcare

Through implementation of telemedicine, India can deliver healthcare to the vast majority of the population that lives in remote areas. A report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), released earlier this year had estimated that India could save USD 4 - USD 5 billion through the implementation of telemedicine technology. This could also replace half of the in-person outpatient consultations in the country.

The Indian Government has been trying to incorporate technology into healthcare for long. The Government has put up the National Digital Health Blueprint report for public comments. The blueprint aims at augmenting quality of care, providing universal health coverage and better access through the use of technology. The Ministry of Health has also said that it is looking to implement artificial intelligence (AI) in an effective and safe way in healthcare.

As per Union Minister of Health, Harsh Vardhan, an imaging biobank for cancer, in which the NITI Aayog will be working with the Department of Bio-Technology to build a database of cancer-related radiology and pathology images from the profiles of more than 20,000 cancer patients, and using AI for early detection of diabetic retinopathy, are some of the ways in which the Government is looking to use AI for healthcare.

The Indian Government has also drafted the Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA), which is aimed at ensuring the confidentiality and security of electronic health data, and at regulating storage and exchange of digital health records.