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How The Indian Health Care Sector Can Be Made More Tech-Savvy

The healthcare sector in India is growing at a tremendous pace, with the industry poised to touch $280 billion by the end of 2020. Health care is one of India’s largest sectors and has contributed to the nation’s revenue through proliferating doctors, hospitals, clinics, labs, medical tourism, and employment opportunities.

Technology can fundamentally shift the manner in which health care is delivered and accessed in India by making it more convenient, efficient and affordable for the masses. No wonder, multiple stakeholders are eager to embrace strategies that can reshape the healthcare landscape in India.

However, the road to technology adoption in the Indian healthcare sector is not devoid of hurdles, with the majority of hospitals planning less than 10% of their annual budget for IT initiatives. This needs to change.

Here are five ways to change the face of the Indian healthcare sector to make it more tech-savvy and offer improved medical facilities to every citizen of this country.

1. Increase Public Sector Funding In Research Programs To Support Technology

Though the Indian healthcare sector is brimming with opportunities, the Indian government spends merely 30% of its total health care budget on primary health care. The health care system in India comprises of the public sector and the private sector, with the latter largely responsible for driving the adoption of new technology in the country.

Quite a few government health insurance and care programs exist, yet a dearth of these initiatives for rural and below-poverty-line citizens leads to inefficient and expensive medical facilities for these strata.

Technology can help make health care cheaper. The Indian government can open dialogues with and engage private sector stakeholders in overcoming the common challenges faced by health care consumers.

Moreover, the public health care policies and projects introduced by the regulatory authorities can be made more efficient and cheaper if digital technologies are applied to them.

2. Encourage Technology Adoption By Doctors

Tech-savvy doctors can change the healthcare sector as they are the trendsetters in this segment. Patients and caregivers trust their opinions for the best care and advice. Moreover, pharmaceuticals, medical devices companies, and other healthcare professionals customise their products, services and marketing strategies to suit the doctors’ requirements.

Indian doctors must use technology and stay up-to-date with the latest trends, mobile applications, and gadgets to improve patients’ overall healthcare experience.

Managing a vast patient data system can be made easy using electronic health record (EHR) that gives doctors access to their patients’ medical history.

Over 60% of the Indian population lives in villages with limited access to hospitals, qualified doctors, and healthcare facilities. Telemedicine can offer long-distance and quality health education and real-time consultation at a reasonable cost to people in different regions.

With increasing smartphone penetration in India, WhatsApp, text messages, apps, and emails can be used by physicians and patients for consultation. Online bank transfer or mobile wallets can be employed to pay for availing the various health care services.

Medical gadgets like infrared thermometers and digital stethoscopes can accurately determine the health of the patient within a few seconds.

Healthcare mobile applications like Practo help doctors grow their digital presence, connect with patients and manage their schedule effectively. PEPID offers continuing medical education to doctors and keeps them updated on the various disease conditions and their management.

Once doctors are convinced about going the digital way, the entire industry will follow suit. When they mentor healthcare start-ups, they learn how technology can help them offer the best care to their patients. In return, health care start-ups get insights related to the field and can innovate to offer better tech-savvy healthcare solutions.

3. Healthcare Start-Ups Should Build Trust Amongst Users

Healthcare is an incredibly personal affair, and hence, doctors and patients do not want to compromise on their privacy. Trust is the most important factor that influences technology adoption in the healthcare sector. Start-ups introducing products, applications, and software must guarantee their customers that their personal information will be secure.

Start-ups should work in close collaboration with doctors, involve them in their marketing campaigns, and modify their products and services to meet customer requirements. Physicians help validate the relevance of any technology to the healthcare segment, leading to an increased use of such digital applications and services.

4. Educate Patients About The Benefits Of Going Digital

Patients trust their doctors’ opinions when it comes to using health-tech products or services. Being new to the latest healthcare technology, patients can be apprehensive about using the application, confidentiality of their data, and technical failures. These factors can prove to be significant barriers to the large-scale adoption of new healthcare technology. Therefore, efforts must be made to ease their anxieties and to enable them to adjust to this change.

Patients should be educated on how technology can make their lives easier and reduce their overall health care costs. For instance, a patient with diabetes can benefit from a mobile application that offers round-the-clock monitoring of their glucose levels, is easy-to-carry, and offers accurate and quick results.

Similarly, a patient suffering from early stages of dementia will benefit from a device/mobile application that reminds their to take the prescribed medications on time and schedule timely doctor appointments.

5. Involve Pharmaceutical And Health Care Companies To Promote Technology To The Masses

Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies inform and educate doctors about the latest research and advances in the fields of medicine and health. To drive the tech-savvy trend in the healthcare sector, these organisations must dump old ways of promoting their products and use technology to address larger issues like medication non-adherence and create awareness of diseases.

Pharmaceutical firms can embrace digital health tools in combination with the medications they market to offer better healthcare solutions to the common man. For instance, a host of medical devices like insertable heart monitor, pacemakers and defibrillators can make life comfortable for a patient with cardiovascular disease.

Novartis is working on developing a digital device-drug combination for patients with angina. The device will monitor the patients’ condition and offer early intervention by administrating the heart-failure medication to avoid anxiety and increased emergency-care expenses.

The ways mentioned above to make the Indian healthcare sector more tech-savvy can not only change the way healthcare is delivered, but also make health care convenient and affordable for everyone. Embracing technological advances in this field will offer innovative solutions for current and future healthcare issues.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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