IoT, AI, robotics & 5G drive digital health, enable faster connectivity for information exchange

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Digital health, which is a critical enabler for overall transformation of health systems, drives on IoT (Internet of Things ) AI (artificial intelligence), robotics and 5G that empower real-time and faster connectivity for information exchange.

Smartphones and mobile apps, last-mile connectivity, cloud storage, faster processing speeds and cheaper data plans along with recent upgrade from 3G to 5G technology all have buoyed the use of telemedicine solutions, said Dr Rishi Bhatnagar, president, Aeris Communications and technical committee member, NABH.

However, success of telemedicine depends on the level of accuracy of the data that has been collected. This is where technology can be leveraged for timely diagnoses that are accurate, treatments more targeted, and serious conditions that can be detected earlier, he added.

Telemedicine guidelines, at this time of COVID-19 pandemic, provide access to quality care to all. It is also a tool for research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and community. In the existing scenario, telemedicine is possibly the cheapest and fastest way to bridge the rural-urban health divide and manage the pandemic. Health workers can remotely connect patients to doctors for timely consultations, exchange of valid diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries.

The coronavirus has set a new benchmark for the telemedicine industry in India. The future of telehealth will not be limited to distant consulting. It has a variety of applications in patient care, education, research, administration, and public health.

Further technology allows remote patient monitoring and elderly care to deal with mental wellbeing. Conducting remote surgeries has become a reality with advanced technologies. These advancements have reduced overall cost and improved patient recovery time by eliminating extended hospital stays. This has led to extensive use of connected healthcare devices and mHealth tools, not just among the medical fraternity but also pharmacies, insurance patients and caregivers, Dr Bhatnagar pointed out.

By 2025, the Indian telehealth and telemedicine market is expected to reach $5.4 billion with a 31% CAGR. Leading hospitals have started experimenting with contactless patient screening and segregation of critical cases from non-critical ones, using technology. With the success of public and private partnership models in creating telemedicine centres in every state, we would see more telehealth enabling partnerships emerging across the country.

The speed of innovation has not only gathered momentum in business models but also in drug development. India worked hard to slow the spread of the virus and has given hope to the world to work on the drug sooner than later. Based on the workforce, intelligence, and bandwidth for R&D, India is one of the most promising contenders to develop the vaccine, infrastructure, and working models to bridge the gap in the entire healthcare ecosystem. The digitalization of the healthcare industry is essential, just like any other industry. The quicker we embrace technologies, the better it will be for the healthcare system, he said.

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