How COVID-19 Acted As A Catalyst For Increased Adoption Of Technology In Healthcare
Amidst this chaos, technology turned to be the saviour for India’s medical fraternity and took some burden off their shoulders to alleviate the stress on the system.
The COVID-19 crisis and its debilitating effects have made a catastrophic impact on the Indian healthcare system, which was already grappling with inadequate infrastructure, an abysmally low doctor-to-patient ratio and an acute shortage of trained manpower. One of the major challenges that healthcare providers had to face at the outset of the pandemic was handling the number of COVID-infected patients that were coming in every day, leading to long queues outside hospitals and testing clinics. It was difficult to provide a dedicated person to every patient and maintaining social distance guidelines was another concern area. The delay in treatment delivery also resulted in disorderly behaviour from the patients’ families, adding to the woes of doctors and nurses. Amidst this chaos, technology turned to be the saviour for India’s medical fraternity and took some burden off their shoulders to alleviate the stress on the system.
Accelerated adoption of telehealth platforms
The advent of telehealth technologies predates the pandemic, but the imposition of a nationwide lockdown followed by the complete shutdown of the public transportation system accelerated its adoption by years, if not decades. While hospitals initially struggled to deploy teleconsultation services, healthtech companies soon came to their rescue by providing them with advanced telehealth platforms that enabled efficient delivery of remote medical care. With features such as live chats, audio and video-enabled calls, remote booking and scheduling of appointments and cloud-based electronic storage of patient data, healthcare professionals could offer seamless consultations and monitor patients’ progress.
Deployment of appointment booking software
Indian hospitals are extremely short-staffed and the pandemic left them overburdened with a sudden influx of COVID-19 patients. This left them with no time for handling customer queries, managing appointments and other administrative tasks. The implementation of appointment booking software helped them automate these areas and focus on delivering the best care to patients. Besides providing relief to overburdened healthcare professionals from such repetitive, time-consuming tasks, AI-based appointment scheduling also eliminated any scope for human errors which would have led to the overlapping of appointments and overcrowding.
Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)
An EMR, which essentially is the digital version of a patient’s chart, contains both the medical and treatment history of a patient. During the pandemic, healthcare institutes felt the insistent and urgent need for shifting from a paper-based record-keeping process to a digital one to have centralized access to patient data and deliver improved hyper-coordinated care. The main advantage of EMR systems is that they allow multiple healthcare professionals to access data at the same time, which facilitates greater ease of sharing and exchanging information. Further, these software applications help in improving both the safety and quality of care by enabling one-click access to patients’ data, which can be life-saving at the time of an emergency.
Increasing shift from traditional legacy systems to cloud-based applications
The pandemic witnessed a heightened adoption of cloud-native technologies, with an increasing number of hospitals (both large and small) moving their IT operations from legacy systems to the cloud. The rising cognizance of cloud computing and the agility, scalability and cost-optimization benefits it offers, drove the wide scale implementation of SaaS-based healthcare solutions across India. SaaS solutions not only brought higher operational efficiency and streamlined patient management flow but also helped in minimizing human errors. More importantly, SaaS solution providers freed the healthcare professionals from the cumbersome yet critical task of managing and upkeeping the IT system, thereby enabling them to solely direct their time and focus towards delivering the best care possible.
Pre-integrated solution with single data lake
SaaS-based healthcare startups empowered healthcare providers with access to a unified data lake through a pre-integrated solution. This allowed hospitals to store and seamlessly manage all their clinical, patient and pharmaceutical data within a single data ecosystem. The interoperable nature of the data lake has been critical in facilitating more customized care to patients as it offers the flexibility to consolidate large volumes of data from multiple touchpoints and then turn them into actionable insights. The mobile-first approach taken by these SaaS solution providers has also proven to be a great value addition for healthcare professionals, especially those working from remote areas with low-internet bandwidth and weak signals. The device-agnostic feature, for example, has allowed hospitals to extend their reach to the far-flung corners of the country, making healthcare delivery in villages efficient, accessible and affordable.
If the first wave of the pandemic exposed the gaps in healthcare delivery, the massive resurgence of coronavirus cases in the April-June period exacerbated the situation further. The last couple of months were especially taxing for doctors and healthcare professionals, with news of unavailability of hospital beds, oxygen shortage and hospitals turning away critical patients due to space constraints hitting the headlines. As speculation of another wave hitting India towards the end of August arises, government bodies, policymakers and private healthcare institutions must work in sync to avoid the same pandemonium and ensure patients get easy access to quality healthcare. A harmonious collaboration is the need of the hour, and technological interventions such as cloud technology, AI and Big Data will play a key role in achieving this.