Whenever we talk about disruption in any industry, the existing gaps or snags within the space are the driving force behind it, especially when the gaps have reached a point of deficit. It is only at this stage of extreme deprivation that we see truly innovative solutions emerge. And there are plenty of examples to corroborate this fact. Be it the telecom revolution in India that took place in the late 90’s, led by the then newly formed private telecom sector in the country, or the more recent and still growing “Uber” led disruption for the public transport system in India or even the world. Most industries that have seen transformation at any point have benefited from the lacuna that existed before that particular industry was set on a path of resurrection.
If there is one industry in India today that is on the brink of such a disruption it is the healthcare industry. The healthcare sector, which stood at $73.92 billion in 2011, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16 per cent to $280 billion in 2020 as per industry reports. This growth cannot happen without the right policy framework in place and infrastructure to support its growth. India currently spends 4.2 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, with just 1 per cent being contributed by the government, amongst the lowest globally.
So, yes, the government does have its work cut out as far as reform work and larger public spending participation is concerned. However, with the right balance of public-private partnerships the sector could benefit greatly from delivering technology-based solutions that increase health awareness and ultimately drive deeper engagement.
Startups changing the tide for healthcare
Healthcare companies today have the opportunity to change the playing field, especially as more startups begin to mushroom in this high growth space, and deploy solutions that have never been applied to the healthcare industry before. Working independently or even in tandem with the government’s agenda and/or with the larger ecosystem, these companies can help India move beyond just being a manufacturer of generic drugs to emerge as a true innovation hub that can provide access to affordable health and furthermore, even to help maintain good health. These new-age companies have already helped increase penetration of health insurance products and solved some of the problems of distribution for the insurance industry. Others are evolving as platforms to provide quality and economical access to doctor consultations and diagnostics across the country through effective use of technology and network based models. From a wellness perspective too, there are many startups that are creating apps that encourage good health through various engagement tools. One also sees the emergence of companies that are focused on reducing the urban-rural divide by providing better access to healthcare, irrespective of the location. What is evident from all these examples is the distinct shift that is taking place in the healthcare industry. More and more companies are moving away from a cure-based approach and are now aligning their business models to encourage and provide better health solutions. And the underlying catalyst for this shift is technology.
Driven by the rise of new technologies, healthcare is moving from hospitals and clinics to homes and communities
Symbiosis of Technology and Health
We have already seen technology work wonders in bringing health services and solutions closer to the end user during much of last year. The transition for the healthcare industry to this extent has already kicked off. However, that’s just hitting the proverbial iceberg.
The complexity of the medical field combined with the challenge of the changing human behaviour has left us exposed to a host of new and chronic lifestyle diseases. And like in other industries in the past, here in healthcare too, technology can be the only answer to India’s rapidly growing health conundrum.
Driven by the rise of new technologies, healthcare is moving from hospitals and clinics to homes and communities. From smartphones to social media to sensors, new tools have started empowering consumers with more information and control over their healthcare decisions and this power is only likely to grow in the years to come. Some of the technology driven trends that can be expected include:
On the consumer side, India is still a young health-tech industry, however its growth largely depends on its ability to capitalise the burgeoning phone market and increasing internet penetration. Today, more people in India own a smartphone than health insurance. Technology will be that one key factor in making healthcare available to every individual, from the rural field worker with no access to a clinic to the urban professional with no time to visit a clinic. The convenience of electronic devices powered with technology solutions that help operational efficiently within the healthcare industry can give the power of choice to the consumer when it comes to his healthcare decisions like never before.
The author is CEO of HealthAssure.