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In India, the healthcare sector has witnessed significant digital transformation, notably through the growth of telemedicine, which reached a market worth $1.10 billion in 2022 with a projected CAGR of 21.2% to reach $5.15 billion in 2030. However, the next major shift in Indian healthcare digitization is expected to revolve around digital health records. These records involve the electronic storage and management of patients’ medical data, aiming to improve efficiency, accessibility, and quality in healthcare. By creating a more connected and comprehensive healthcare system, digital health records enable quicker diagnosis, better treatment decisions, and enhanced patient safety. Additionally, these records offer valuable data for public health initiatives and medical research. India’s unique advantages include the absence of legacy systems, a large population offering ample innovation opportunities, increasing internet and smartphone penetration, and the successful experience of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) facilitating digital health data sharing. This digitization of healthcare in India is paving the way for a more accessible, efficient, and patient-centric healthcare system, with global implications for better healthcare outcomes.

We are all well aware of the impact that digital technologies in healthcare have created in the past few years, especially through telemedicine. And while telemedicine has managed to transform the sector in India,  creating a market worth $1.10 billion in 2022, with its CAGR growth of 21.2% from 2022 to 2030 estimated to reach $5.15 billion in 2030, there’s more coming. As the next big change in the sector, it is digital health records that’ll define the upcoming phase of healthcare digitisation in India.

Involving electronic storage and management of patients’ medical histories, diagnoses, treatments, and other relevant healthcare information, digital health records aims to expand the ambit of impact created by digital healthcare, making it more efficient, accessible and quality-driven.

Currently, healthcare is episodic and fragmented. However, with digitisation of health records, medical professionals can establish a care continuum by having easy access to medical data, sharing critical information among peers, all of which will lead to quicker diagnosis, better treatment decisions, and improved standards in patient safety. Additionally this also empowers patients to conveniently access their medical history and share it with different healthcare providers, ensuring comprehensive and coordinated care.

Moreover, aggregated and anonymised data from digital health records can drive insights for public health initiatives and medical research. With digital health records at the helm, India is best positioned to lead this change and establish a technologically empowered healthcare system, thanks to the recent government-led initiatives like the Ayushmann Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM).

Such initiatives have created an integrated health ecosystem that supports various healthcare facilities like clinics, diagnostic centres, hospitals, and laboratories.

While several countries have embarked on their digital healthcare journey, India enjoys a unique set of advantages that will enable high adoption of healthcare digitisation in the near future. Here are a few of them:

Lack of legacy systems — One key benefit for India is the absence of  legacy systems that gets  in the way of innovation. India can leverage learnings from the last three decades and experiences from around the world to implement innovative solutions aligned with current healthcare needs, all without the constraints imposed by outdated systems. Building a digital infrastructure from scratch enables swift adaptation and alteration of the healthcare system.

Our population — India recently became the world’s most populous country, with 1.4 billion people. While this comes with its own share of challenges, on the flipside our population is also our strength as it allows health tech companies to focus and innovate effective solutions on a large scale. Even a small segment of India’s population represents a large market, offering Indian health tech firms ample opportunities to innovate, validate solutions, replicate successful models, and scale up their operations.

Internet and smartphone penetration — In 2020, 53% of India’s population accessed the internet through mobile phones. This figure is projected to reach 96% by 2040, indicating a significant rise in mobile internet users. Additionally, smartphone penetration in India reached 76.6% in FY 2022. The widespread availability of smartphones, coupled with accessible internet connectivity and the upcoming 5G network, enables seamless communication between doctors and patients, helping overcome geographical barriers. The proliferation of smart technologies allows India to leapfrog traditional care delivery models and provide innovative, personalized healthcare solutions to its citizens.

UPI experience facilitating UHI execution — India’s FinTech sector has undergone a major transformation, with a shift from low penetration to a predominantly digital transaction landscape within a few years. This transformation was facilitated by the introduction of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), an interoperable infrastructure that enabled low-cost digital transactions. UPI’s success created a vibrant ecosystem of businesses and fostered inclusivity within the financial system. Similar interoperable public infrastructures are now being introduced in healthcare, enabling the capture and sharing of health data with consent. This will drive large-scale adoption of digital technologies and contribute to a more inclusive healthcare system.

Through rapid digitisation, a patient-centric focus, and an integrated approach, India is paving the way for a future where healthcare is accessible, efficient, and effective. By harnessing the power of technology, countries around the globe can learn from India’s journey and embark on their own digital transformation endeavour, ultimately leading to better healthcare outcomes for all.

InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

Author InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

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