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Garima Tripathi

Garima Tripathi is Co-Founder at Care24.

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Future of Health-Tech Industry: India In 2050

Despite the progress in the industry, India continues to struggle with critical issues and gaps in its healthcare system. India's current hospital and welfare services are insufficient for the strain they will face as the pace of population ageing increases.

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India is sitting on a population time bomb, and time is running out! Our geriatric population (aged over 60+) currently at over 100+ million is expected to grow to approx. 325 million by 2050. This essentially means that the median age of the world will rise from 27 years in year 2000 to 37 years in 2050. The current generation will form the over-60 age bracket by 2050, and grow to 16% of the world population. That’s twice as many aged people with twice as many health related dilemmas to face!

The burden of chronic diseases is increasing rapidly amidst aging population, sedentary lifestyles, diet changes, and rising obesity levels. It is estimated that lifestyle diseases will account for a whopping 74% of total deaths by 2030 (compared with 56% in 2008) with Cardiovascular, Cancer and Diabetes accounting for a majority of the disease burden. With increasing urbanization and increasing women participation in workforce, people are hard pressed to give the necessary time and attention to their aging parents. Home-based healthcare is an initiative to reach to such households beyond the boundaries of traditional hospital infrastructure.

Current Scenario

Despite the progress in the industry, India continues to struggle with critical issues and gaps in its healthcare system. India's current hospital and welfare services are insufficient for the strain they will face as the pace of population ageing increases. Healthcare is underserved and under-consumed. Health insurance covers less than a quarter of the population, and out-of-pocket spending is high. Hard infrastructure and talent are both in short supply, and there are significant regional variations in healthcare delivery. Investments in primary care and public health have long been inadequate.

Broad social trends in India are likely to increase the burden on India’s health system, ultimately threatening its sustainability. Non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer are spreading rapidly, mostly due to increased urbanization. More and more people are demanding greater access to quality care, but cost increases make it difficult for uninsured citizens to afford care and public healthcare spending is among the lowest in the world.

Now is an opportune time for home healthcare to transform the healthcare ecosystem in the country by leveraging the use of technology.

Transformative Technologies

Disruptive technologies could transform delivery of public health services in the next three decades, extending care through remote health services (delivering expert consultations via the mobile Internet), digital tools that enable healthcare workers with modest skills to carry out basic protocols, and low-cost diagnostic devices that work with smartphones.The focus of medicine will have completely shifted from treating our diseases to keeping us healthy and enhancing the quality of our life. We can already imagine the round-the-clock sensors measuring how our hearts are doing while we jog. Can't we also imagine tiny molecules running around our arteries making sure our blood is in its most optimal condition for exercise? Some key transformations that can be expected in 2050 include:

  • New Care Delivery models: Hospitals in their current form will be extinct much before 2050. Today, the hospitals are optimized for doctors than for patients. The care delivery model in India will shift focus from hospitals, clinics and a doctor-centric approach to independent delivery models with self-diagnostics, self-monitoring, and self-medication taking center stage for majority of Indian cities and urban population.The specialists will find it worthwhile to depend on telemedicine, and staff trained to carry out highly specific tasks will act as their surrogates right next to the patient's own bed. The rural parts of India will also be well connected digitally and point of service will be available within home premises for primary and secondary healthcare services.
  • Personalized medicine: Over the last decade, medical researchers have taken into account the heterogeneity of data in their work, where the genetics of subjects have been studied as a function of epistasis, and family history and personal life events have been used to predict clinical evolution. Big data technology should expand this fascinating field of multivariate approach research and overcome the inability of existing approaches to effectively create personalized medication for individuals.
  • New Health Challenges: Whether the cure for cancer will be found by 2050 is still debatable, but there will be plenty of new health challenges that medical practitioners will need to combat as new microorganisms will continue to find weaknesses in our bodies. Over the next 30 years, the ageing mind will probably become a bigger obstacle to quality of life, than an ageing body, forcing health professionals to deepen their understanding of degenerative neurological conditions.
  • Rise of caregiving: The focus on quality of life will also transform caregiving into a much more recognized profession. As drivers get replaced by automatic locomotion, and delivery personnel by drones, caregiving will be one of the few tasks that humans will continue to prefer to do themselves. The standards of caregiving will continue to rise till it becomes a valid career choice in its own right.

The Way Forward

While disruption driven by technology is already making inroads into the health sector, our approach is limited to current socio-economic factors, which are harder to predict for the next 30 years. How businesses and healthcare professionals prepare themselves for 2050 will also depend on cost challenges, presence of universal healthcare, social support and living arrangements of the elderly, income security and more. India will benefit from gathering high-quality data on population aging and using it to inform policies that will work towards creating and expanding income support and health insurance programs for older Indians.

Technological innovations across healthcare organizations will go beyond the already used mobile technology, mobile devices, wearable technology, remote monitoring, telemedicine and information sharing platforms. One can be very optimistic about newer ways of healthcare delivery by way of drones, robots and artificial intelligence performed by humans, to reduce variability, cost and error whilst providing ‘quality’ healthcare system.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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