Healthcare experts bat for robust digital health ecosystem in India

Dr JA Jayalal said the Government of India needs to adopt new technology, so that, even if there is a third wave, it will allow us to sail through.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

NEW DELHI: Calling COVID-19 pandemic an “eye-opener” in helping the Centre realise the need for a robust digital healthcare framework system in place, experts opined that it is high time India has a proper digital highway to address the growing health needs of its massive population.

They were speaking at the seventh edition of IHW Summit and Awards held on Friday.

Underscoring the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Dr J A Jayalal, president, Indian Medical Association, said the Government of India needs to adopt new technology, so that, even if there is a third wave, it will allow us to sail through.

"Obviously, there will be multi-thronged challenges as long as COVID-19 is around, but there is no need of a lockdown anymore. That will do more harm than any good," he said.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one very important thing - to provide high-quality healthcare, and that too, when physical distancing is a must, you need an around-the-clock digital healthcare system in place. That is why it is need of the hour for the government to put in a place a robust digital framework," Swati Rangachari, vice president and country leader, Public Affairs and Strategic Engagements, United Health Group, Optum said.

The Centre has taken very big steps in building a digital health ecosystem in the country and that is evident through the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), the official noted.

While adopting a digital healthcare system is a must, it comes with its own sets of challenges in a country, according to Vibhav Garg, Director-Health, Economics and Government Affairs, India HUB & ASEAN, Boston Scientific.

"In the existing healthcare system, when a person is hospitalised, he or she understands that they would get reimbursed by the government or a private insurer. On the other hand, when it comes to digital health, do we have a costing, pricing, or reimbursement mechanism in place?

"Hence, before coming up with a digital health framework, we need to see whether we have a proper infrastructure in place," he said.

The 7th edition of the IHW Summit and Awards also saw experts deliberating on India's integrated health and socio-economic impact post-COVID-19.

“One thing is for sure that COVID-19 pandemic has put an additional focus in the public health sector in India. For almost 75 years since India's independence, public health, per se, was never seen as a comprehensive challenge.

"However, the pandemic has pointed that in terms of the inequities that have long existed. Out of a sudden, we realise that public health is for the public at large, and that includes every citizen of India, notwithstanding their economic standing," said Neeraj Jain, Country Director, PATH India.

Stressing the need for an integrated healthcare system in the country in the post-COVID-19 world, Dr Harsh Mahajan, Founder and Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging said the government needs to rope in more private players in the existing healthcare system.

"The new variants of COVID-19 infection have shown to us the urgent need to ramp up testing capacity, in order to avoid something like the second variant caused by the Delta variant," he said.

"In the last two years, while each one of us at IHW Council worked from home, we took on new challenges head on and became a leader in the health awareness and advocacy on many critical health issues that continue to overwhelm us Indians. From stroke, diabetes, cancer, mental health awareness to aiming to make India rabies-free by 2030, we have focused on some of the most critical areas of public health that deserve attention more than ever," said Kamal Narayan, CEO, IHW Council.

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