(December 29, 2021)
The ferocity of the pandemic has forced innovation in health, education, and several other domains. It fast-tracked change that was considered radical not so long ago.
by Santanu Mishra
COVID-19 was a black swan event that had far-reaching ramifications across sectors. No sphere of human activity has been left untouched by the impact of the pandemic. But, in its truest sense, the outbreak of COVID-19 was a healthcare crisis. It shocked global healthcare systems, exerting unprecedented pressure on them. Make no mistake, our healthcare systems have emerged from the biggest health emergency of this generation. The ferocity of the pandemic has forced innovation in health, education, and several other domains. It fast-tracked change that was considered radical not so long ago.
A case in point is the way the pandemic shifted administrators’ attention to healthcare, an area that has traditionally not been the highest concern. It also forced innovation in healthcare administration and delivery. The result is the emergence of virtual health or e-health services . The e-health services market in India is expected to reach USD 10.6 billion by 2025.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, a 2019 McKinsey survey of health system leaders revealed that the adoption of virtual health services was highly concentrated in synchronous telemedicine, with limited investment in the full suite of available virtual healthcare technologies. Virtual healthcare adoption was low among communities from the lower and middle-income groups due to factors of cost and access. With the harsh progression of the pandemic, virtual delivery of healthcare services proved its worth to the society and the nation at large.
We are of the firm belief that India’s critical developmental problems can be solved by an influx of entrepreneurial energy, intentional capital, and resources through public-private partnerships – channeled into the social sector.
A combination of factors like technological integration, convergence of corporate and development sector stakeholders, and the emergence of a new crop of Social Enterprises is helping India achieve its sustainable development goals faster.
India is witnessing technological innovation which is solving societal problems with speed across various sectors. One such example lies in the healthcare space, where technology is helping drive access and is improving the quality of services rendered. The pandemic has shown that having a strong digital layer is a prerequisite for providing access to quality healthcare across the country. The only way to make healthcare delivery successful is to combine technology with the skill available on the ground.
For a large and diverse country like India, it is crucial to expand healthcare service delivery through the online medium. According to reports, the telemedicine market holds the most potential in the e-health segment in India and is expected to touch USD5.4 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31%. With artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive modelling, virtual delivery of healthcare services is well on its way to grow and democratize healthcare in India. Increasing adoption of virtual delivery of healthcare services augurs well for India and will help our country prepare for future health crises by improving resilience of the healthcare sector.
There is a need for all stakeholders to work collaboratively to increase the accessibility of quality healthcare services to all. The government, civil society organizations, and businesses will need to collaborate to innovate in the e-health services domain and innovate for social good to address the needs of people at the grassroots. The Ministry of Science and Technology recently announced the launch of a special incentive scheme to support several startups in telemedicine, digital health and artificial intelligence.
The healthcare sector is evolving at great speed in the post-pandemic era to grow and contribute to the Indian economy. According to data from Invest India, the Indian healthcare industry is projected to reach USD 372 billion by 2022 while the digital healthcare market alone is estimated to reach. USD 6.5 billion by 2024.
Expanding the virtual delivery of healthcare services will be critical in helping India achieve universal health coverage. The pandemic has taught us that a strong healthcare system is an absolute necessity for India and the world. Strengthening healthcare services with telemedicine and virtual healthcare to provide universal health coverage require policy intervention as well as increased cooperation among all stakeholders.
Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder and Trustee, Smile Foundation