Digital healthcare platforms in India have raised more than $800M in the last 12 months. Despite the overflowing funds, the basic healthcare issues that have haunted the nation for decades remain substandard. The list of healthcare problems that needs to be addressed immediately includes lack of hospitals and usable beds, missing doctors, and ill-equipped healthcare professionals.
In a recent systemic review cumulating in a paper (link: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/4/e025979) by a team consisting of Indian doctors, India was found lagging sorely behind on many critical , clinical, and non-clinical parameters including the qualification and antecedents of doctors, which is the foundation of any healthcare system. The report found the following key concerns:
- 54% of health professionals in India, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and midwives do not have proper qualifications.
- About 20% of the adequately qualified doctors aren’t a part of the workforce.
- Out of the currently engaged workforce, over 25% do not possess the necessary up-to-date qualifications laid down by professional councils.
- Over 80% of doctors and 70% of nurses and midwives prefer to work in private sector.
- Two third of the available medical practitioners and healthcare workforce in India are working in urban areas with only 29% of Indian population. The remaining 71% make do with extreme shortages of medical workforce for even the barest minimum needs.
The last point illustrates that beyond just the statistical numbers, the asymmetry in supply vs. demand in healthcare is one of the crippling factors for effective healthcare delivery. Despite the government’s push with Ayushman Bharat, when one does not have enough doctors for consultations, secondary and tertiary care insurances do not convert to effective care delivery outcomes.
Due to the bottlenecks at primary care delivery, even preventive treatments take a toll. According to an annual report by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, in India, over 70% of cancer cases are detected at or after Stage 3 or stage 4. At this point, treatments are more difficult, more expensive, and less likely to succeed.
Companies across the spectrum are realizing the value of telehealth — not just traditional healthcare providers, but also retail clinics, pharmacies, labs, health plans, digital health companies, and modern, forward-looking businesses. It is a real opportunity to upend and rethink how clinicians deliver and patients receive care. But here’s the problem they face. Healthcare technology, in its current evolution, is an added burden for clinicians and developers. It is too expensive, complex, and inefficient to manage a clinical workforce and build your own medical consult infrastructure required for nationwide care.
Virtual care companies that are running fast to innovate require support and enablement to move faster than their competitors. There are simply too many companies joining the virtual care landscape at light speed to spend time, quite literally, reinventing the wheel every time.
How can technology help:
Most digital platforms today are copycats of the offline model, simply transporting the offline experience of walking up to a receptionist to check in for a slot; and replacing that with a digital scheduling and triaging component, which eventually still must lead to connecting the patient with a doctor; who is also handling another dozen similar apps on his phone, along with his offline engagements. For all the hype about advanced AI in healthcare, most efforts at early diagnosis have failed and, in few cases, have resulted in worsening the situation. With hundreds of the smartest engineers on the globe dedicated to building smart and useful AI models for healthcare, even Google has failed miserably in making any useful contribution to preventive or predictive modeling for healthcare.(https://www.wired.com/2015/10/can-learn-epic-failure-google-flu-trends/).
The simpler alternative is to use the available technology tools to bridge the gap between demand and supply. Given that most doctors and healthcare workers prefer being around urban centers, which affords them higher income and quality of life; a favorable solution is to enable real-time linkage of need with availability across geographic centers.
Another solution to such wasted, repetitive resource allocation on what is an operational problem would be to use standardised APIs that can pull in patient data across platforms and hospitals. This solution can be adapted with the GoI’s HealthID initiative. Beyond this, a single infra-architecture to support practitioner engagement and help platforms direct offline touchpoints to offline centres could have over 40% improvement in care allocation and delivery, over the current trend of everyone building for themselves and spending precious hours and money on trying to “capture” the same set of doctors. With a singular, flexible, modular foundation for delivering virtual healthcare, the product stack thus delivered could become the springboard for rapid innovation. Our simple technology integration connects a marketplace of board-certified clinicians to deliver on-demand, compliant consults without geographic limitations. No other solution currently exists in the marketplace, and companies that try to solve for this on their own are unfortunately going to innovate too slow, or at too high a cost, to be successful.