Just a few years back, India’s healthcare sector was under-penetrated in terms technology adoption and was lagging behind other industry verticals. However, the scenario is changing gradually. The fact is corroborated by the research firm Gartner, which says that healthcare providers in India are expected to spend $1.2 bn on IT products and services in 2015, an increase of 7% over 2014.
The key reason of increased IT investment is that the sector is viewing technology as an antidote to address a number of its issues. To assess major healthcare challenges facing the country, let’s look at some report findings:
There is only one doctor per 1,700 citizens in India; the World Health Organization stipulates a minimum ratio of 1:1,000. Further, the Union Health Ministry figures claim that there are about 6-6.5 lakh doctors available currently in the country and India would need about 4 lakh more by 2020.
Apart from low doctor-to-patient ratio, there are several other issues being faced by the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector that limit quality healthcare from reaching the citizens, especially in the rural communities. Inaccessibility of healthcare information to citizens and patients is one of the major challenges—patients typically have no visibility into availability of beds, blood, drugs, and equipment.
Absence of an effective and transparent grievance redressal system further creates gaps in the Indian healthcare scenario. Further, lack of proper facility management and basic infrastructure leads to delay in delivery of drugs and/or vaccines, downtime of equipment, etc.
Another issue of traditional healthcare is posed by paper-based record keeping system—delay in access to records leads to delay in diagnosis, impacting the quality of healthcare services provided to patients. Moreover, absence of an effective referral mechanisms result in extended waiting intervals and ill-managed queues at every stage (registration, OPD, IPD, lab, radiology, OT, billing, discharge) at most hospitals.
By streamlining processes and addressing traditional challenges, technology is bringing a sea change across sectors. And healthcare is no different. From using tablets and iPads to access patients’ records to using telemedicine to expand reach to rural communities, technology is making inroads into every aspect of healthcare and addressing major challenges.
“Technology has extensively and intensely impacted healthcare today and is already shaping how it will look in the future,” asserts Shibasish Pramanik, Associate Director- Healthcare, PwC India. “Creating awareness and developing incentives for the use of technology is key to ensuring the investment in technology yields higher returns,” he adds.