HEALTH: Trending on Health Cutting-edge Meditech Solutions

As health-related technology and IT solutions continue to gain doctors’ confidence, new innovations to deliver medical solutions, are opening up diverse areas in the healthcare segment. Industry reports show that private sector accounts for more than 85% of all hospitals in the country, close to 90% of doctors, about 70% of inpatient care and 85% of outpatient care. There is, therefore, a huge demand-supply gap due to lack of adequate number of doctors and paramedical workers, hospital beds and diagnostic services. In such a scenario, predictions are that with the current growth trend, mHealth (mobile health) will have a market worth $0.6 billion in India and $23 billion in the world by end of 2017, and is expected to reach $58.8 billion globally by 2020. Also a PwC report states that India will constitute a major share of the 8% of the total Asia- Pacific opportunity in 2017. Corporate Citizen looks into the changing platforms and knowledge database inferences

Wearable healthcare monitors and fitness apps are no longer awe-striking developments in the digital age— these would have seemed ‘magical’ even a decade ago. But, technology has not stopped at that and integration of various platforms for monitoring as part of patient care seems to be finding new vistas. Whether it was the 2009 launch of GE’s Lullaby baby warmer that provides direct heat in an open cradle to help babies adjust to temperature, or other innovations, in the healthcare sector has been opening up to patient care, simple and complex. In fact, combining AI (Artificial Intelligence) with Machine Learning (ML) has been a boon to the healthcare sector. But, futuristic goals and bridging gaps between costs and accessibility sure pose challenges.

A recent paper titled ‘Indian Healthcare Sector - An overview,’ by ASSOCHAM and RNCOS said: “Growing incidence of lifestyle diseases, rising demand for affordable healthcare delivery systems due to increasing healthcare costs, technological advancements, emergence of telemedicine, rapid health insurance penetration, mergers and acquisitions helping to reach untapped markets and government initiatives like e-health together with tax benefits, incentives and a host of upcoming regulatory policies are driving healthcare market in India”.

The recent buzz worldwide has been on a team within Apple Inc. that is working towards developing a non-invasive detection technology that could treat diabetes. This follows Apple’s Heart Study that aimed to engage cutting edge medical personnel, via the use of cardiac telemetry monitoring to not only discover irregular heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation, but also as a potential warning system for individuals who are unaware that they may be at risk for serious health issues. Also, with mobile technology fast changing the manner in which medicine has been practised all along; some trends are here to stay.

e-healthcare, holistically has been chugging along other forms of medical care but has seen more impetus in recent times. Today, concepts of e-Pharmacy, e-Diagnostics, e-Insurance or e-Referrals, have created an ecosystem that enables patients and service providers alike with access to information 24/7. The database of health records is further expected to be linked to the Aadhar number of citizens and the opportunities thereon are expected to close in on the divide between urban and rural medical care. Patients would then be able to skip the hassles of registration and other formalities by merely identifying themselves through the Aadhaar number. Further, their selection of hospitals and date of appointment could just be an SMS away, even in rural areas and government hospitals!

Telemedicine is perhaps the first understanding that anyone has on how technology-led healthcare was made possible across remote areas. “The effectiveness of digitisation in healthcare, especially for diabetic patients encourages them to monitor and report their blood glucose levels daily, as well as choose a healthy way of life”, said Amitabh Nagpal, founder and CEO, LifeInControl – a diabetic management programme that connects doctors, patients and diabetes coaches to enable patients to manage their blood sugar level and maintain a healthy lifestyle. With current technological advancements, integrating wireless technology with portable healthcare devices has become more than feasible in recent times.

Wearable diagnostics: Apple Inc. is all set to launching the Apple Heart Study, a program that will explore the feasibility of using the Apple Watch to monitor heart rhythm in patients and gauge the reactions and readings to healthcare providers and insurers. The study could save lives and drive demand for its products. In yet another development, Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers who are part of a super-secretive initivie, initially envisioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sug- ar levels to treat diabetes. Many life sciences companies have tried and tested non-invasive methods to track glucose levels accurately without piercing the skin. If it works, then Apple’s breakthrough would be a ‘holy grail’ for life science technology. Google is not far behind in this track as its life sciences team is currently working on a ‘smart’ contact lens to measure blood sugar via the eye.

Drones and logistics: Moving out of sci-fi (science fiction) columns, doctors and engineers are looking at unmanned machines in the skies as a safe route to healthcare. Indian scientists have given themselves a year’s time to develop and launch a prototype drone that can fly up to 250 km and carry at least 40 kg payload. “We are looking at a futuristic possibility but it’s not sci-fi anymore,” said Bengaluru-based National Design and Research Forum director K Ramachandra. “As of now, private organisations have been able to fly about 4 kg of medicines for up to 10 km. Flying longer distances will require heavier drones with powerful engines. “We are working on the prototypes,” he said. “People die because health care services can’t be given to them on time. We are looking at the options in technology to save this. It’s a global problem and many countries including Canada and Norway are working on drones to deliver equipment in places that aren't close to hospitals,” said Dr K Ganapathy, former president of the Telemedicine Society of India.

The effectiveness of digitisation in healthcare, especially for diabetic patients encourages them to monitor and report their blood glucose levels daily

—Amitabh Nagpal

Cloud platforms and analytics: Healthcare too has adapted the cloud platform, almost 90% doctors are now storing all their patient records in digital format and then moving them to the cloud. With this patients and doctors can access their information anytime, anywhere. By using predictive algorithms, doctors can now diagnose their patients precisely. According to a DataQuest report, startups like Inspirata, are looking at big data analytics-based solutions for fast and accurate detection and diagnosis to treat cancer. The company is looking at building a big data repository of cancer data—Cancer Information Data Trust. This, when implemented via telemedicine, can enable patients to get fast and accurate diagnosis from any part of the world. This will also allow physicians to continue to mine a new source of data, together with existing sources, to get a complete view of the disease. By analysing multiple data points related to cancer, cancer specialists can perhaps arrive at a solution to defeat cancer.

By Sangeeta Ghosh Dastidar