Despite significant economic progress, India’s health indicators are nothing to boast of. With one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the world, 39 per 1000 live births; 0.7 doctors per 1000 population, below the recommended average of 1 per 1000 people, 74 percent of doctors catering to a third of the urban population; Indian primary health centers in the rural areas short of 27,421 doctors; major shortage of hospital beds, 0.9 beds per 1000 people compared to the WHO recommended 1.9 beds; an amount of Rs.3350 crore required to enroll all BPL families in health-insurance programs, the list is endless.
Yet sustained effort by the powers that be is visible. The Tenth Common Review Mission Report released recently reveals that there is an appreciable increase in the number of people utilizing public healthcare facilities, and the new schemes launched for making drugs and diagnostics free for all those in need as well as the push to improve last-mile services has shown better than expected results.
It is obvious that we can no longer afford half measures. Technology leapfrogging is no longer a choice; it is perhaps the only option and the Indian government must play an active role in supporting technological interventions. Digital adoption will need to be the significant contributor. The future of healthcare is shaping up in front of our eyes through digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, VR/AR, 3-D printing, robotics, and nanotechnology. We must use our rapidly developing digital infrastructure and bring better healthcare to our huge population, both in the ever-growing mega-cities and in rural areas where millions of people still reside.
Digital technology will help transform unsustainable healthcare systems into sustainable ones, equalize the relationship between medical professionals and patients, provide cheaper, faster, and more effective solutions for diseases – technologies could win the battle against cancer, AIDS, or Ebola – and simply lead to healthier individuals living in healthier communities. The evolution of the sector will need involvement of all stakeholders and the use of innovation to bridge intent and execution. Will we rise to this challenge?