Albeit varying from country to country, healthcare systems share a common goal and that is providing quality care for patients and improved experiences for healthcare professionals. However, the challenge is to achieve this in a way that is efficient and effective and here is where the deployment of digital technologies is pivotal.
In the last three decades, digital healthcare technologies have created a paradigm shift in the way patient information is stored, used and disseminated. In India, despite increasing adoption of digital tools, their use has remained fragmented due to inadequate accessibility and concerns about data privacy. We are witnessing the trend changing now as COVID-19 has become an enabler and accelerator of digital health adoption in the country.
As per reports, healthcare professionals who use technologies like telehealth and digital health records experience higher job satisfaction and when patients have access to their own health data, they feel more empowered. From using artificial intelligence (AI) for x-rays to electronic medical records (EMR) that eliminate the use of paper records, India is equipped with remarkable technologies to enhance patient care.
An EMR is a collection of medical history such as diagnosis, medicines, allergies, immunizations and treatment plans of a person that is stored on a computer. The data is accessible by healthcare professionals who are involved in the patient’s treatment and they can use it remotely to make recommendations. Today, as per a 15-country Future Health Index 2019 report by Royal Philips, India is leading in the adoption of digital health records with 76 per cent of healthcare professionals using them in their practice.
The promise of digital tools to healthcare professionals
What if a patient with a history of diabetes and high blood pressure walks into the doctor’s clinic for a regular check-up? The paper files are piled up to the ceiling and it becomes impossible for the doctor to find the patient’s records. Here is where EMR helps in accessing the information instantly and on one click.
As time is critical while treating urgent patient cases, lowering the healthcare professional’s burden through electronic records becomes imperative. EMR aids in digital retention of the data whereas paper records are vulnerable to incidents such as natural disasters like fire or flood and losing them unintentionally. Besides reducing paperwork, digital EMR assist healthcare professionals with generating electronic prescriptions, clinical decision support and digitally managing the operations at the clinic. Such technologies are enabling doctors to provide both in-person and remote consultations using the same digital platform and help to maintain a seamless personal connection with the patient. For instance, patients tend to go back to doctors who have better knowledge and understanding of their medical history.
I have been using HealthPlix EMR extensively in the last couple of years. It became a critical tool for me during this pandemic to provide better outcomes to my patients. Having an EMR in place can easily help the healthcare professional explain the patient what they are talking about through visuals or diagrams. The significance of collecting electronic medical records is manifold as it leads to evidence-based care, and faster and accurate diagnosis. This translates into enhanced treatment and avoids the need to repeat unnecessary investigations.
Additionally, at a time when medical professionals are swamped with COVID-19 cases, it is critical to provide them platforms that give reliable information within seconds. Their job has become even more challenging considering the growth in different disease profiles. For instance, treating a patient with a fungal infection called nasal aspergillosis which was reported in some COVID-19 positive patients and the ones who recovered from it. The infection occurs rarely and not all doctors would know the right treatment plan. This is where digital platforms that have information verified and updated by experienced professionals can be used.
Future of digital healthcare in India
In July 2019, the government of India released NDHB (National Digital Health Blueprint). The policies mentioned in the Blueprint lay emphasis on leveraging digital technologies for enhancing the efficiency of healthcare delivery across the country providing better patient care. Going forward, the Indian digital health market is anticipated to record a massive spike. In fact, the digital healthcare market is expected to increase at a CAGR of 27.41 per cent to US$ 485.43 billion by 2021 and it stood at US$ 116.61 billion in 2018. Therefore, there is a dire need for all healthcare professionals in the country to adopt digital tools such as EMR that will benefit India in addressing many existing challenges simultaneously, delivering quality patient care.