In normal circumstances, meeting a doctor would merely require you to make an appointment and visit the clinic. These are not, though, normal circumstances and in fact, the brick and mortar of clinic visits look outdated now. As social-distancing becomes the new normal, the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the transition to a new model of remotely delivered health care that embraces the benefits of digital and data technologies.
There is no denying the fact that pandemic has brought the world on its knees. India’s healthcare structure which was in the I.C.U is now on a ventilator. Doctors across the world have been running clinical trials in the hope of getting a vaccine to counter the deadly respiratory virus. But, success has remained elusive. As medical agencies and scientists look to tackle the crisis, it is evident that the current situation demands a completely different model. Health experts and scientists are looking at major changes that will become a part of the new healthcare structure.
The digitalization of healthcare is inevitable
Health workers at the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 have adopted self-triaging mobile apps to assist the population in identifying the symptoms. The remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by telecommunications have enabled healthcare workers to screen a large number of patients from their respective places of work.
The rising interest in telemedicine and the use of geolocation to track the movement is becoming the new norm.
Telemedicine has experienced a huge surge in adoption over the past few months, during the coronavirus pandemic. And, it will remain a major form of interaction in the future too as it eliminates the process of physical visits. A strong broadband network should make its adoption smooth and easy.
The doctor to patient ratio has been an issue in India for long. Although we have touched the WHO norm of a 1:1000 doctor to population ratio, the unequal distribution does not provide assurity regarding the health system in rural areas. The lack of access to good doctors in rural areas could see some progress through telemedicine and the country could see a paradigm shift in the healthcare industry. It would be a legacy in combating the coronavirus.
Digital transformation, the use of medical technological devices, and the application of Artificial Intelligence in the care of people are becoming common. Artificial intelligence that has changed banking and e-commerce business, is helping the healthcare sector as well. AI can help mine patient information and break it down, guarantee early recognition, discover designs, encourage right conclusion, plan the correct treatment, direct research, help make medications and molecules quicker, help settle on faster choices – all life-saving applications with regards to healthcare, particularly in the present time of Coronavirus. The technology is enabling health researchers to better understand how the virus is spreading, who it’s affecting, and how to potentially prevent it from affecting more individuals.
As per Frost & Sullivan survey, non-contact patient monitoring technologies are gravitating toward the use of video, sound analysis, and mobile-based platforms incorporating advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.
It predicts a shift away from wearable technology, which it says can be uncomfortable, expensive, and have limited usage, in favor of non-contact technology which has the advantages of being multi-use and affordable.
Pandemic, an opportunity
The pandemic has proved to be an opportunity for new start-ups to increase their reach in non-metro cities. “Quickobook”, the health tech startup, has already connected 2.3 lakh patients in Assam’s Barak Valley and Tripura with doctors. From facilitating a doctor’s appointment to live-tracking it and finally, buying medicines, one can do all these on this mobile app. There are many like Quickobook that are modernizing the health care services and helping people to reach out to doctors and services remotely.
Government driving technology adoption to fight Covid
The Indian government has launched Aarogya Setu, a mobile application, which helps users identify Covid hotspots. The app crossed a 10 crore mark within 41 days of its launch.
Telangana Police has rolled out the AI-based solution that helps it track, through CCTV cameras and facial recognition technology, those not wearing masks. They have achieved significant success in tracing the defaulters.
NASSCOM Covid-19 technology task force has developed a coronavirus tracking platform, which is being adopted by the government of Karnataka. Earlier, it had launched a dashboard for Tamil Nadu too.
Telemedicine has helped decongest AIIMS, which moved its out-patient department services online from April 8 to enable patients to access treatment and care during the lockdown.
The way ahead
There is an urgency to adapt to new-age technologies so that the second wave of the virus does not sweep across the country. WHO has warned that it’s possible that the new coronavirus is here to stay, so the social and medical practices that are developing in response to COVID-19 will remain in place when the crisis eventually subsides.
Health technologies will be key to providing faster treatments, finding the cure to such diseases, and improving the quality of life.
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