By Amit Gupta
Let’s imagine that the world was in the midst of a marathon race. Suddenly, the rules change. The race is now a sprint and we must adapt, whether we like it or not. Ever since the pandemic wave swept through the world, the healthcare sector has been going through the exact same situation.
Across the world, hospitals and healthcare workers have been under tremendous pressure to provide timely care to an overwhelming number of patients. As these numbers rise alarmingly, the healthcare industry is toiling to build more resilient systems and methods of delivering healthcare services to millions. Technology is one of their smartest tools to achieve this goal.
Telemedicine is a fine example for how technology is helping the sector address the unprecedented demand. Though telemedicine or remote care for patients has been around as a concept for quite some time, mainstream adoption remained a challenge. Even in countries like India, where access to healthcare continues to be a barrier, telemedicine had fewer takers.
Enter Covid-19. Shortage of healthcare workers, insufficient infrastructure and risk of infection for front-line workers and citizens have led to large-scale adoption of virtual healthcare and telemedicine in the last few months. For example, digital health platform Practo has reported over 100 percent week-on-week surge in its teleconsultation services since March 2020. Many large hospitals have built dedicated telemedicine services to cater to the growing demand since the lockdown. Telemedicine Practice Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health have provided the much-needed clarity in the Indian healthcare sector.
Experts contend that telemedicine could very well become the ‘new normal’ and will be looked upon as an efficient approach to healthcare in the long run. But, establishing a reliable telemedicine practice is not an easy undertaking for the key stakeholders involved—whether it’s the healthcare providers, governments or tech firms.
Cloud delivers agility and ease-of-use
A report by Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in the US highlights that India has shortage of an estimated 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses. In many ways, telemedicine–though not a cure-all for the accessibility crisis in our country—has been brought to the fore in a timely manner. But, telemedicine systems had to be deployed on the fly. Existing deployments had to be scaled up massively and user adoption was another big hurdle. Cloud-based healthcare platforms have been a great boon for providers at this critical juncture. Responding to the Covid-19 crisis meant that healthcare service providers roll out telemedicine services almost in real-time. Often, budgetary constraints and legacy systems come in the way of agility and innovation.
With Cloud, many healthcare providers have been able to quickly integrate telemedicine to their healthcare delivery systems without worrying about huge upfront cost or scale-up issues. In fact, cloud-based systems can be up and running within a few hours and typically requires no additional software or hardware installations. Cloud also effectively addresses user experience—a factor which is often ignored during an emergency.
Built-in security components and real-time network monitoring capabilities make cloud a highly secure model while dealing with huge volumes of sensitive data.
In India, startups have been at the forefront of providing innovative cloud-based virtual health services, which are quickly becoming the chosen modes of healthcare delivery—both in urban and rural areas. The initial resistance from doctors and established healthcare systems towards telemedicine has almost disappeared.
We have had many spectacular stories about Indian healthtech startups leveraging cloud technology to deliver telemedicine services to meet the extraordinary demands. Cloud-native startups such as Innovaccer, Qure.ai and TruFactor are some of the leading names that have delivered remarkable services, in partnerships with various state governments, during the pandemic.
Practo, which witnessed a 500 percent increase in online consultation since March 2020, runs on AWS platform.
Estimates for the Indian telemedicine industry were already bright, even before the pandemic struck, with numbers predicted to surpass $5 billion by 2025. It’s highly likely that Covid-19 crisis will pave way for innovative and sustainable telemedicine models that will revolutionize the Indian healthcare sector.
(The author is CEO and Founder, Rapyder Cloud Solutions)