Can HealthTech take the temperature-off of the Healthcare Worker Shortages?

When a system flourishes on default and not by design, its foundation experiences chaos. It fails to manage & utilize resources, resolve the existing problems and disrupts revenue cycles which is crucial to keep it fueled. Unfortunately, due to its disorganized growth, it faces difficulty while adapting new-age modules; we call these advanced modules ‘the helping hands’!

India’s healthcare system is no different. Carrying the weight of the entire system, care professionals are not just working their fingers to the bone but burning their potential capacity to zero! Now, the only question remains;

DOES INDIA REALLY LACK AN OPTIMUM HEALTHCARE WORKFORCE? 

According to WHO’s 2020 midterm report, the Indian healthcare system needs at least 1.8 million doctors, nurses and midwives to achieve the minimum threshold of 44.5 professional health workers per 10,000 people. 

Number of health professionals/workers per 10,000 persons, 2018

So yes, our healthcare system needs an additional workforce, but this inference shall not excuse the adverse effects of disrupted healthcare structure on healthcare professionals. And first, it is of great importance to understand the impact of relatively old and disorganized healthcare practices in private and public health spheres that are not ideal anymore!

Outdated Management

In all the loud and necessary debates about resolving the staff shortages in India, the conventional care management has been constantly overlooked. Although the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is striving to improve the healthcare sector with several initiatives, policywise; the workflow foundation of the majority of primary healthcare centres (the heart of the system) is too old to sustain the load. Outdated management exhibits tragically slower workflows, reduced care efficiencies and pressurizes the care professionals to share the responsibility. A load which can be perfectly handled by practice management software.

Simply put, healthtech solutions for practice management can efficiently assist every healthcare stakeholder, especially doctors, nurses and administrative personnel. Such solutions not only eliminate the redundant and manual processes but also build standard protocols for care procedures for anyone and everyone to follow. Thereby reducing re-work or any last-minute extra shifts.

Fragmented Care Delivery and Manual Processes 

While talking about tiring manual care modules, this discussion must take the responsibility to address the strain of fragmented care delivery on healthcare professionals. Our healthcare system is an unbalanced rather ‘broken structure’ at the grassroots level that lacks an integral value chain. It restricts care professionals to coordinate smoothly during patient care while burdening care facilities during referrals, record maintenance and designing treatment protocols.  

HealthTech platforms in such scenarios will not just streamline patient care delivery, but will eliminate the cumbersome and unnecessary processes. As a result, facility staff will always have more than enough time for patient care without worrying about tedious and redundant administrative work. 

Lack of Data Interoperability and Lack of Data Protection

A doctor spends around 35% of their time documenting patient data. What if managing patient data becomes as easy as tapping a few times on your phone while sharing it with a swipe?

You probably do not believe this but the funds, time and workforce required to maintain paper-based healthcare records are noticeably high. In fact, the expensive paper-record maintenance should be enough for medicos to consider switching to healthTech platforms. Yet, the vicious cycle of filling up MRD rooms and dedicating valuable staff working hours every month has become more of a healthcare ‘habit’ than a practice.

Paper based medical records slow down the data exchange process between its stakeholders, which means treatment delays and disruptions in care professionals’ schedules. Moreover, paper medical records are prone to tampering, stealing and are even hard to retrieve.

A modern EMR can come with cloud-based storage that guarantees maximum data security and the convenience of retrieving the medical records at their fingertips. Not only are these records encrypted and password-protected with correct authorization, care practitioners can exchange data and compile it all under a single patient ID within a few minutes. The Governement of India, has even started working on something on similar lines, with the visionary Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, ABDM, where they have envisioned a central EMR storage for citizens of India. 

Automated and faster processes may not be a long term solution for staff shortages in healthcare but it will have a significant impact on care practices and workplace conditions. Hence, it is justified to say that since the healthcare system is ‘stuck in time’, integrating healthtech platforms from ground zero (primary care facilities) should be our first call. And there by, improving physician response times, increasing efficiency and transforming team communications.

The Impact of Skilled and unskilled care professionals in Healthcare

To resolve the shortage of healthcare workers in India, it is also important to analyze the number of skilled and non-skilled professionals in the domain. According to a report published in the journal BMJ Open, India does not meet the minimum threshold of 22.8 skilled workers per 10,000 people as recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization). However, the study revealed an alarmingly large number of low qualified health professionals and low performing workers. These care professionals usually come under the first point of contact in low economic and rural parts of the country. 

When distribution and qualification of health professionals is serious problem, healthTech platforms will not only keep standard care processes in place, but will enhance overall productivity in care facilities. The SOPs designed by these platforms will eventually reduce any illegal practice, medical data breach and errors while delivering care.

HArbor Says

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Healthcare industry is the constant shortage of skilled workers. The increasing demand for qualified medical professionals has led to the creation of thousands of new jobs, but the industry can’t seem to find enough qualified workers to fill them. This has prompted many to ask if technology could solve this problem. Only technology can be used to “create efficiencies, automate tasks, and address staffing gaps through technology.”

Undoubtedly, India needs to invest in Human Resource for Health, HRH for increasing the number of active health workers but also needs to integrate healthTech platforms to improve the skill-mix and overall care practices. 

Facing Systemic Exclusion, can the LGBTQ+ community receive better care Accessibility via HealthTech?

Healthcare is a fundamental necessity of life, but its accessibility and quality differ for different communities in India, especially for the LGBTQIA. For them, it is a privilege to get basic healthcare needs satisfied due to the deep-rooted stigma in the society. This often leads to creating gaps in essentials and basic healthcare needs. Plunged in ‘the swirl of social biases’, it is critical to address the medical needs of this community by leveraging modern healthtech platforms.

From waiting outside a clinic to booking consultations for yearly health checkups at diagnostic centers, the healthcare journey differs for each one of us. We all have our share of concerns while reaching out to a medical professional, but what if a social stigma around a human’s “partner choice” becomes the first barrier while seeking medical help?

It is generally the first thought for nearly 8% of LGBTQ+ people living in India while going for a medical visit.  

For the LGBTQIA community, discrimination and fear of non acceptance leads to care disparities. As a result, they are more prone to chronic diseases and mental health issues that may often be left unattended, degrading their quality of life. 

As a thumb rule for any thriving society, access to quality and continued care should be a basic and fundamental right and healthcare systems and the approach should be equal for all its beneficiaries irrespective of their biological gender or choice of partner.

Since, the patient experience for this special case, varies to a dipping point in India, we need to look at ways of restructuring care delivery right from its foundation. Primary care should and must evolve to be inclusive of all humans from all communities. 

The Current state of Primary care for LGBTQIA community in India

Indian LGBTQ+ comprises 104 million people, and their exclusion is relatively tied to socioeconomic status, identity and community. Moreover, poverty and distance to care centers have exacerbated the lives of LGBTQ+ communities. In a recent study by NCBI, LGBTQ+ youth are more prone to substance use, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), cancers, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, bullying, isolation, rejection, anxiety, depression, and suicide as compared to the general population.

“When medical help comes with societal barriers, they choose to suffer in silence.” 

On the flip side, the situations are different while yielding an inclusive care system with better health outcomes for anyone & everyone via TECHNOLOGY. On this side, Healthtech platforms facilitate medicos to build comfort and trust for the LGBTQIA community, to help patients get the best care possible at their fingertips.

Let us explain!

Telehealth can change the preconceived notions or experiences of the community members by connecting them with healthcare practitioners who can take care of their unique physical needs in a more confined and confidential way. While, going to a clinic might be inconvenient for most of the patients, humans from LGBTQIA community face those extra and not required “societal looks” while in the waiting area. Though this problem should not exist in the 21st century, it can be easily overcome with telemedicine. 

In the future perspective, the wave of online consultations, homecare regimes via Virtual Care modules, DIY Kits and many other care delivery mechanisms this lines will assist LGBTQIA community to connect to Mental health groups, specialists, certified hormone replacement therapy (HRT) experts, and HIV specialists while giving the patients a chance at periodic monitoring and stigma-free treatment. Assisted telemedicine kiosks will successfully help in delivery care in trans member localities and government organizations for LGBTQ+, where these standalone kiosk modules will deliver public awareness and permanent health camps.

Empowered with Rapid Test Kits and battery operated pathological machines, these freestanding care delivery modules can even provide diagnostic capabilities with privacy  to LGBTQIA community members and help in eradicating several communicable and noncommunicable diseases, right from the deepest levels. 

Wouldn’t that be a befitting and cost-effective initiative for the Health authorities and society in General? 

The surge in telemedicine in the LGBTQIA community is necessary to concurrently streamline and tailor the services for these under-served individuals.

Building Inclusive Clinical Trials

Clinical trials help the world population towards a healthier and better quality of life. However, generally speaking, members of the LGBTQIA+ community are often left out of these clinical trials. The lack of such diversity in clinical trials has significantly affected the LGBTQIA population while restricting them to only generic medications. 

Such a diversity lacking study data fails to collect the drug effects on genetic levels of these marginalized sections of the society, especially the transgender communities. And, being uncertain of the risk factors of the medications, a medical practitioner will be indecisive to write  the prescription. 

Had it been for an inclusive clinical trial which was being run on a technology platform which does not discriminate, a patient’s clinical trial participation would have been strategically recorded in EMRs to assist care professionals in the longer schema of things. 

HArbor Says

Social stigma in India has been forcing the healthcare system to be viewed under the lens of heteronormativity, sidelining the  LGBTQIA community’s needs. As a result, this has led to the negligence of their health, driving the situation to a point of concern for the entire community.

Assisted Telemedicine can significantly assist private and public care practitioners to address the community-specific health issues while spreading awareness among LGBTQIA.

Let’s Rethink, Redesign & Rebuild a healthcare system which is inclusive and caters to the medical needs of every community!

Freestanding Care Delivery Modules: Changing Dynamics of the Future Healthcare  

to reduce overall care costs while building easy-to-use care systems. 

Source: Google Images

‘Money’ is typically a mindset while delivering or accessing healthcare services. Today, this has affected care delivery systems beyond its stakeholders control while turning healthcare ‘necessities’ into a luxury that only a few can afford – the urban and higher economic population. With the existing high out-of-the-pocket expense modules, this is a standard situation where patients either drop out in the middle of the treatments or are too scared to get diagnosed in the first place. 

Having said that, even the tech advancements in the care delivery system are not widely adapted as anticipated by the healthcare leaders. Covering just an additional few who are ‘technologically literate’ after the rise of healthtech. And, the problem remains unsolved, leaving state governments & private healthcare organisations on a dead-end where Availability, Accessibility and Affordability of medical care is in chaos!

For instance, Telemedicine has become a prominent mode of emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, In India, telemedicine ‘cherry picked’ the patients while excluding a vast population suffering from tech illiteracy, if not the disease. A CSE Report mentioned that rural districts in India have accounted for every second COVID death in the last year. This number is actually higher than expected as rural areas cover more than 70% of the country. A reason being – inadequate care access coupled with less healthtech literacy in the rural areas. 

In such scenarios healthtech needs to be backed with expert assistance. This implies that for the rising healthtech accessibility challenges in India, assisted care modules are a must. And, an opportunity to unleash the true potential of care practitioners for everyone and anyone to benefit. Furthermore opening the doors to a better end-to-end assisted virtual care delivery experience while sharing the burden of overall care expenses. 

To understand this issue, healthcare stakeholders must recognize the importance of ‘site of service’, which calls for the establishment of 

Freestanding Care Delivery module in Rural India. 

The site of care service plays a crucial role in medical care prices across the country. Wherein, adjusting the site of care delivery can yield savings, without compromising the care quality. This is where the assisted virtual care modules come in, to allow care professionals to run permanent health camps with nearly half of the investment they annually make. Meanwhile, reaching patients from the comfort of their office. 

With enhanced primary care availability and extended service reach, isn’t it a win-win situation for everyone?

Yes, it is! 

Currently, the Indian Public Rural Healthcare System is managing 160713 PHC centres across the country. This includes annual infrastructure maintenance, workforce & diagnostics management and numerous other expenses. Making it a system requiring maximum investments while its beneficiaries constantly dwelling on other options and spending heavily from out of their pockets. 

This issue can be conveniently addressed by a freestanding care delivery setup with integrated assisted telemedicine and diagnostics. The setup requires minimal management investment, thereby significantly reducing the cost burden. Moreover, these easy-to-setup modules can render regular vital check-ups and rapid tests for several diseases on the site of service. Keeping the OPD & diagnostic costs to a minimum for the stakeholders involved.

From the convenience to provide virtual care, engaging their patients in the comfort of their home and personalising the treatment; the freestanding care delivery module is everything that any care practitioner needs to extend their care services with a one-time investment. Furthermore, making patient monitoring a lot easier than ever before. 

Talking about the need for patient monitoring, rural(Gramin) healthcare systems often get exhausted due to a lack of workforce at levels, geographical diversities and negligence of patients towards their own care. These standalone care management units can efficiently deliver care keeping the specialists, patients, and diagnostic centres in a loop. Building a foundation for palliative care in India

An incredibly crucial issue that palliative care faces is the awareness of the diseases, on which the state government invests a huge percentage of its budget every year. This care delivery module can successfully organise and structure the healthcare system for early detection of chronic diseases, strengthen the process of patient-physician communication and aid the long-term care requirement. Eventually, improving the quality of life of patients. 

To put it simply –

“It will keep people out of the ER and close to care – a cost effective strategy”

Giving a hand to the pillars of Rural Healthcare System

ASHA workers are at the heart of the Indian Rural Healthcare System. These professionals proactively manage immunisation, pre-Natal check-ups (ANC), Post Natal check-ups, supplementary nutrition, sanitation and other assistance provided by the government. Although these caregivers were amazingly guarding rural care since ages, the system developed defects that can only be overcome with technology. 

A freestanding care delivery module will potentially enhance the efficiency of public healthcare professionals while conducting follow-ups, medical surveys and care emergencies. Moreover, now ASHA workers will be able to track and manage the care delivery while keeping other care stakeholders informed. Resulting in diligently building up a more managed system, while fixing the existing gaps and creating positive ripples towards a healthier tomorrow. 

Indeed, freestanding care delivery modules are holding the key to the future of rural care. An easy-to-use, one-time investment to provide health coverage to millions, without disturbing the already existing practices. 

HArbor Says:

It’s ultra-important for the healthcare sector to advance in order to meet the needs of its beneficiaries. And, this article highlights an urgency to adapt healthcare modules with respect to availability, accessibility and affordability of care while realistically quantifying the potential cost savings. From here forwards let’s focus on reducing infrastructure costs, care facility management costs and care accessibility & delivery costs in rural India. 

It’s time to step towards cost-effective and up-to-the-minute healthcare! 

Health Camps – A too good to be true ‘Picture-Perfect’ strategy!

Public healthcare in India is free & AVAILABLE for every resident which encompasses 18% of total outpatient care and 44% of total inpatient care. Unfortunately, this care is not as ACCESSIBLE as its reputation precedes on paper. However, the emergence of healthcare camps has provided a dynamic opportunity to fulfil the underserved healthcare needs and today, this widely adopted strategy has become an integral part of the Indian healthcare system. Irrespective of its promises, one must ask,  

Is it an effective strategy or just a ‘picture perfect’ scam? 

Every year, swasthya shivirs/health camps are organised by private and government healthcare organisations. These are even highly welcomed by the lower economic sections of the societies, in a hope of subsidised or free medical care. Sadly, it is estimated that the conventional health camp modules hit ground zero soon after the first phase of initiation; because of the following limitations: 

  1. Lack of continued care for patients. 
  2. Increased care costs – after attending the camp patients are expected to take follow-ups or further treatment at a hospital which maybe far off. 
  3. Travel fatigue 

With the rapid adoption of Health camps, medical practitioners have successfully addressed the medical needs in remote communities. Still, the drawbacks of this conventional care delivery module have outgrown its benefits. Furthermore, with this ‘one-time care affair’, the patients are forced to choose between out-of-pocket expenses or discontinuing their treatment.

According to an NCBI report, India contributes to 2/3rd of the total deaths in the South-East Asia Region due to non-communicable diseases. Although the government pays handsomely to establish optimum care modules, major benefactors include the middle and upper-class rather than the lower economic population. 

In such a scenario, healthcare camps can efficiently ensure primary care to the rural population; but, expecting the optimum results from a ‘one-time treatment’ module is too good to be true! 

Is it navigating patient engagement and trust? 

A health camp strives to bring awareness and screen underprivileged population to enhance patient access to healthcare services. Sometimes,  organisers even get estimated results after distributing basic medication but, thinking from a patient’s perspective – this doesn’t seem enough!

For example – For a patient diagnosed with chronic conditions, one-time screening without follow-ups imbalances the act of care delivery. Moreover, it leaves a negative outlook toward the practitioner in the minds of the patients after being diagnosed with the condition. This will result in a decline in overall health camp participations and thereby, decrease patient engagement and trust. 

Hence, medical camps must facilitate end-to-end care on an easily accessible platform to enhance patient care and maintain patient stickiness in the long run. And, this comprehensive care demand can only be fulfilled with an assisted virtual care delivery system

A system that is driven by care professionals and backed with technology!

The Solution – Health camps with assisted virtual care support!

Imagine being able to deliver care in remote locations around the year without a need to be physically present at the location. 

Yes, it’s possible!

2019-2021 has given quite a boost to the Virtual Based Care (VBC) modules.  Utilizing a similar approach to treat the patient in health camps will enable doctors to deliver comprehensive care and may ensure long-term patient engagement.  However, while providing care for a technologically-illiterate population, a kiosk-based assisted telemedicine module is an ideal solution.

Advantages of a kiosk-based assisted telemedicine module: 

  1. Consult patients at any time and from anywhere
  2. Easily render homecare services along with a regular vital check-up for comprehensive patient monitoring.
  3. Organise a medical camp and continue the treatment, as per the patient’s medical needs. 
  4. Maximum patient engagement and minimum travelling costs.
  5. Provide rapid diagnostic kits via the assisted telemedicine route.

HArborSays

Medical health checkup camp is an effective way of delivering primary health care; typically in the unreached area to achieve optimum health coverage. However, the conventional health camps come with their own demerits and it’s about time to resolve those issues. Assisted virtual healthcare platform is one of the best possible ways to ensure healthcare access for all. 

We believe – “If it cannot sustain the care requirements, it shall be replaced or at least advanced.” And, it’s time to deliver the best possible outcomes from health camps.

ALERT: Is our current healthcare delivery system just a ‘fix it’ module? 

2021 has been a year of change for medical professionals. Be it Doctors or behind the scene IT professionals working for these medicos, 2021 had everyone on their toes. We saw old age consultation practices being challenged with urgent requirements to change to modern “video” based consultations, we also saw doctors performing complex surgeries remotely using robotics and what not! However, as we move ahead and delve into 2022, let’s look at these changes or transitions happening in the industry. Let’s ask ourselves, WILL THEY LAST in the current form or evolve to serve the greater good?

The current healthcare system in India is entangled into ignored issues and a few of the most significant points are – 

Fragmented care delivery:  

The Indian healthcare system is focused on niche areas while advancing various elements of care delivery in silos of growth. Although these silos of advancements are happening they are not adequately appreciating their relation to the whole ecosystem.

Hence, this unbalanced rather ‘broken structure’ at the grassroots level has built up a more obvious health crisis of unsustainable costs, poor quality and low patient engagement. 

In order to resolve these underlying issues, several healthtech companies have tried to take the medical practices online with hundreds of thousands of healthcare providers around the world. This worked fine, until care providers realized the harsh realities of listing businesses. The majority of these trends, like listing the practices online, an unnecessary competition has now popped up between the care providers where none is needed. Given the fact that we are a country where the care delivery system is already suffering due to a lack of doctors and skilled hospital staff, a race to win more patients proves detrimental to the status quo. 

Did you know? The doctor to population ratio in India is 1:1456 against WHO recommendations of 1:1000 only for Urban areas. This number skews up to more than 10000:1 if you add the rural population in the mix. 

To resolve the above-mentioned problem, yet another patchwork was introduced by the big corporations trying to leverage patient data. They insisted medicos & practitioners have their own listing which fragmented the patient flows. Further not to mention the increased cost of domains and web maintenance which the medicos had the bear, with little to no knowledge on the subject. 

For a healthcare professional, every new technology which pops up on the corner brings the promise of better practice, but when you look closely, you’ll find nothing but the temporary fixes to grassroot problems, creating more hindrances in the longer run than easing the operations for our beloved doctors.

Maintaining healthcare records: 

It’s not a hidden fact that every year a hefty sum of money is invested into maintaining MRD rooms and the introduction of Electronic Medical Records was nothing but a blessing for healthcare stakeholders. However, EMR software came with its own set of drawbacks. For instance, Imagine being a healthcare provider with years of practice in writing paper prescriptions and patient reports and being asked to invest money and time in EMR software. Difficult right? 

Let’s elaborate!

Today, Electronic Medical Record systems have become the core component in a hospital’s IT ecosystem, where patients book appointments, receptionists manage schedules, and physicians access patient charts. In addition to that, the care facility can even compile prescriptions and send them to pharmacies, receive lab results, prepare insurance claims, and so on.

But, in a  country like ours, where the average time for a doctor to see a patient is less than 2 minutes, the process of filling out EMR sheets is excruciatingly time-consuming & cumbersome, especially for the doctors.

Later, in order to tackle this challenge, smartpens were introduced. Although, this new ‘fix’ has solved the problems of the prior EMR system, but added an extra expense to the care practitioners pocket.

Every time while adding new patches to the care delivery system, software companies somehow forget or choose to ignore that the technology is just a means to deliver care & for a close to perfect adoption of technology, it is required to be simple, minimally time-consuming and cost-friendly. 

Half-cooked Video Consultation upgrades: 

In the last 2 years, we have seen advancements in virtual health gaining momentum, which has facilitated patient monitoring through computer and phone technology. This enables care practitioners to verify prescriptions or supervise drug oversight. However, in India where the maximum population resides in rural areas with a low digital literacy rate, just a basic telemedicine tool won’t work. 

The way these video consultations are happening currently, they seem to take away the human connection from the whole medical care delivery. For instance, a patient taking consultation from a general practitioner online for a frozen shoulder has no way of connecting back to the same doctor for continued care. 

Expanding further, the majority of the Indian population basically needs these video consultations with doctors in remote areas because they do not have accessibility to the medical services near their homes nor a digital payment option available for them which blocks their entry into the care ecosystem. 

Such technological advancements prove to be helping only the privileged thus further widening the gap between India & Bharat. 

Let’s look at the possible ways for solving these nerve-wracking problems deep-rooted into the ecosystem for generations with simple yet effective solutions. 

“The future of Indian healthcare will be defined by collaboration and not competition.”

For years, manual processes have been in place to create paper records for the patients which were personalized. So when EMRs were introduced, each practice needed its own customization. These customizations proved to be expensive for the technology providers and thus the EMRs were never adopted to the scale they were intended to!

A simple artificial intelligence, AI which can hear what their doctors are saying and convert the speech into machine-readable language can not only push the adoption of digital records but also replace the age-old medical transcriptionist which is still prevalent in 2021. Such AIs will prove to be an amazing assistant to medicos which will reduce work pressure on them.

While Telemedicine has taken a centre stage in healthcare delivery, it needs to be equipped with a personal assisted care provider while being integrated into diagnostics & pharmacies, thus completing the entire ecosystem. It is safe to say that these integrations will not only help the healthcare stakeholders to a great extent but improve clinical outcomes.

Technology is supposed to be maximizing value. While redefining healthcare delivery, it is a must that we step away from the fragmented healthcare systems that lack coordination, which is only possible with an integrated healthcare platform. 

HArbor Says, It’s time that we discard the fix-it modules from care practices and establish a strong foundation that will serve the real stakeholders of the care! 

Why Referral System in India Needs Optimizing? 

Can you guess the number of doctor consultation visits a patient would need during the treatment? Now, multiply it to the number of visits for report consultations and most importantly for referrals. Tiresome right? 

A healthcare system is strengthened by healthcare professionals/facilities/diagnostic centres, along with an efficient referral system is at its heart. The Indian healthcare system is one such system. However, the referral system in India constitutes several challenges. As a result, it is hung precariously between the care providers and patients today.

These challenges need immediate attention so as attain a smoothly running healthcare system. For a better understanding, let’s move ahead with care referral system scenarios and their impact on the care practitioners, diagnostic technicians and patients. 

Scenario 1: Typically, the healthcare system is pyramidal, wherein primary healthcare centres (PHC) constitute the base, which is large in numbers. Less number of secondary centres are in the middle, and a fewer number of tertiary care centres are at the top. This means whenever a primary care physician (PCP) refer patients to a secondary or tertiary care facility, this poses a burden on the existing healthcare setting in the cities. Such practices interfere with the already aligned patient appointments and surgery schedules. 

More so, for a healthcare professional this scenario comes with a high patient influx while increasing the patient waiting time disrupting the care facility flow. 

Scenario 2: Often due to the lack of resources at the primary healthcare level (PHC), PHC doctors are compelled to refer patients to another healthcare facility. Now, imagine all these patients with minor illnesses flock around the OPDs of secondary or tertiary care facilities! Ideally, these patients can be easily tacked at the lower level health facility. 

Moreover, according to a study more than 50% of morbidity can easily be treated at the PHC level.

But unfortunately, due to the lack of advanced equipment and skilled healthcare staff patients suffer. Leading to long treatment duration and multiple hospital trips. 

For example: If a rural patient visits his nearest secondary/tertiary healthcare facility in India, the person would’ve to travel at least 50-90KM for better healthcare facilities. Making a consultation to be time-consuming and considerably costly. Eventually leading to poor patient engagement. 

Also, these patients consume resources of a higher-level health facility, which can be effectively utilized for emergency cases.

Scenario 3: The government of India provides health benefits to its armed force professionals along with several other government employees. However, to attain these facilities from a private hospital, the beneficiary needs to have a referral letter from the regional ECHS/CGHS polyclinic. Also, the patient needs to travel to regional polyclinics to demand a referral letter. 

Furthermore, during treatment, the patient is required to apply for a new referral letter for every procedure. Which is basically every time the beneficiary moves from one stage of the treatment to the other. 

This condition may seem easy to process, however, it extends the pace of the treatment. For patients, even if their treatment cost is reimbursed fully, the multiple visits to the polyclinic and then to the assigned hospital, impair the care experience. Meanwhile, the healthcare practitioners are forced to reschedule according to the issued dates of the referral letters. 

In such a system, although the patient is treated under a specialist, somehow the convenience of caregiving and care receiving remains conventional and slow. 

So, why not introduce referral module into the healthcare platforms to optimize and advance the referral system in India?

But before that, we need to know the characteristics of an ideal referral system.

  • Adequate coordination and meaningful communication between doctors, patients and referrers. 
  • Reduce the multiple visits to the hospital for documents 
  • Optimal utilization of primary health care services without burdening the secondary and tertiary care units. 
  • Provide optimal care to the patients at the right level, right time and right cost.
  • Cost-efficient utilization of health care systems to provide easy and legit access to referrals. 

In healthcare, the integration of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Telemedicine, modules have taken centre stage in healthcare delivery. It is safe to say that these integrations have assisted healthcare stakeholders to a great extent while improving clinical outcomes. 

Due to healthTech platforms at the OP level, the user interface is so easy that the data can be entered by desktop computers, iPad, or even a phone with user access. Similarly, the integration of the referral module on the same platform will assist care providers with an innovative approach to check on patients’ diagnostics reports & follow-up consultations via video calls. Moreover, such platforms readily update patients’ medical records. 

The introduction of such a platform may prove to be a road ahead for stress-free healthcare practices. 

HArbor Says: It’s true that to strengthen primary care, adhering to strict regulations are necessary for existing referral systems in India. However, from the above discussion, it is quite evident that healthcare stakeholders need more than just that for an efficient referral module. Moreso, a referral module integrated healthcare platform is a way forward towards building an ideal referral system in India. 

What do you think?

The focus of Change isn’t Changing Care Practices but Advancing Healthcare Delivery.

India is home to a population of 136.64 crore seeking medical services with a limited health workforce. In such a case, a good healthcare system is not just imperative to create better care giving practices but also, to enhance patient care.  

Yet, how often do we see healthcare professionals adapting to healthtech systems? 

Rarely! Right?

Did you know? A recent WHO report mentions that India needs at least 1.8 million doctors, nurses, and midwives to achieve the minimum threshold of 44.5 health workers per 10,000 population by 2030.

A reality check! 

Often, healthcare professionals in India choose to gain customer traction while facing the drawbacks of listing businesses. However, these listing platforms procure patients while inflicting unnecessary competition within the medical practitioners. Moreover, certain practitioners even claim degraded ratings on the website once the subscription was delayed/canceled. (source – TOI report). Such commoditization of medical practice is not only unethical but also demeaning to practitioners. 

Hence, while choosing a healthtech system for their care facilities, medicos are skeptical. Let us further dwell on understanding why technologies fail to penetrate the health care system?

Technologies fail to address the ‘Real’ practice problems

Technology is worth nothing if it’s not goal-oriented. The designed applications must provide solutions for existing issues. This includes long waiting hours for appointments, billings, and test results. Multiple visits for a single consultation, lack of home care monitoring, and more. 

Healthcare professionals require tech modules that would help them perform everyday administrative work, while they can fully focus on the care practice, efficiently. And at the same time, maintain adhesion with patients even when they are in their home. 

For example — Physicians generally love a module that truly helps patients in managing their diet, exercise, and stress levels while assisting them in monitoring patient vitals on a single healthcare platform, automatically. Thus reducing the extra workload on the medicos to give that special attention that their patient in pain demands.  

Investing in complex healthTech platforms doesn’t seem to be a good idea. 

Tech adoption in healthcare is difficult, even if it enhances care-giving as it requires care providers and patients to understand the technology in a price-sensitive industry. In a country like India where 70% of the total population lives in rural areas, application usability must be considered a primary feature for any healthcare platform!

Today, doctors need a healthcare platform that facilitates assisted healthcare services to their patients. Such platforms would assist in bridging patients and healthcare providers without changing their care practices, yet simply leveraging technology for advancing care delivery.

Complex and expensive apps/healthtech systems usually face an uphill battle for adoption.

The tech systems entangle the existing functions in a care facility.  

According to everyday consultation practices in India, a majority of medicos prefer manual filing of patient’s symptoms, diagnosis, and medications. Which is often difficult to retrieve from the stack of numerous patient records. At times, patients even make multiple visits for a single consultation which consumes time and reduces patient experience.  

Can healthTech platforms rewire these time-consuming processes? 

A healthTech platform works extremely well while securely storing patient data. Such platforms also assist medicos in creating EMR (Electronic Medical Record) using a template-based format, speech dictation with AI, or even via photographing handwritten RX. This enables doctors to keep their practice the way it has been while giving the extra ability to retrieve medical data of any patient anytime on a mobile-based application. 

Also, healthcare needs such a platform that integrates healthcare stakeholders on a single stage to enhance inter & intra departmental interoperability. This will benefit healthcare professionals in the easy exchange of patient data and even enable video consultations in their fullest & truest form unlike the current form of telemedicine which lacks systematic implementation of standardized care practices.

The everyday challenges for healthcare professionals are changing as per the needs of consumers and now more than ever we need systems that won’t change the healthcare practices but advance care delivery by filling up the age-old gaps in healthcare. 

HArborSays: Today, healthcare requires a system that caters to both patients and healthcare professionals, which can only happen while adapting healthcare platforms. Platforms that are driven by digital transformation while enabled by radically interoperable data and security are the future.

Let’s take steps towards building such healthcare platforms that revolve around sustaining well-being rather than just responding to illness. 

Fixing healthcare gaps step-by-step with Technology in India

COVID Pandemic has held back the best of humankind and their businesses. Especially, the healthcare facilities across the world, who were seen struggling to contain the devastation brought on by a sharp increase in the infected cases. Despite all the hard work of medical professionals, the healthcare systems currently in place couldn’t manage the sheer number of patients visiting the already cramped medical facilities resulting in uneven care and even further reduced healthcare accessibility for urban as well as rural populations. Though healthcare leaders & policymakers have tried incremental fixes to the current systems, the final goal of creating better healthcare technology for the ‘patients’ is still a far fetched dream for India.

All of these problems in addition to the lack of literacy to use technology products in India led to bad patient care experiences. Moreover, the existing healthcare technology systems aren’t serving in medicos interests for reducing their load and it’s high time that it should be fixed!

Reasons For Gaps In Healthcare System

Healthcare systems are created for maximizing value. When we are redefining healthcare, it is a must that we step away from the fragmented healthcare systems that lack coordination. These un-synced care facilities create unnecessary stress – followed by lengthy treatment procedures, health risks to the patients and unsatisfied care experience. More so, it adversely impacts quality, cost, and outcomes.

Wouldn’t an integrated care delivery system(IDS) resolve the problem of inefficient allocation of resources to improve care quality & optimize operations?

Yes, it most definitely can. When a patient visits an OPD, the majority of the treatment is performed at different care units, not necessarily to be under one hospital. These care units include diagnostic centers, pharmacies and the doctor’s chamber. Integrated care delivery platform collects all of the fragmented data in a single EMR report, irrespective of the care unit. Furthermore, an IDS will coordinate and collaborate with health care professionals to achieve clinical outcomes & improving patient care, while easing up care delivery for medicos. However, talking about creating a healthcare system providing a complete EMR, delivering care in rural areas when patients are dependent on quacks or spin doctors for allopathic care is difficult.

Did you know, according to a WHO report, nearly 57% of doctors in India are quacks.’

However, the rise of telemedicine in India facilitated patients from remote corners to connect with the ‘real doctors for actual consultations’. Bringing virtual healthcare systems to rural communities has shown a 300% increase in online consultations in 2020. Furthermore, it reduces patient dependencies on quacks and unburdens them of the unnecessary expenses via online treatment.

As for the already existing quacks in the healthcare system – the Indian population requires an assisted telemedicine modules which can be successfully managed under their supervision. This way assisted telemedicine will be able to enhance and assist in transforming rural healthcare while regularizing and creating job opportunities for an unregulated sector.

In a healthcare system, every stakeholder plays a crucial role in patient treatment. Even after virtually connecting a patient with a certified care provider, the unavailability of tools for assessing health is still a major gap that needs fixing. The establishment of health assessment facilities i.e diagnostic centers in rural areas has special challenges of its own like limited funding and lack of skill set in medical staff other than doctors.

Technological innovations such as POC (point of care) tools and Rapid test kits could help address part of the problem. As yet also hospital ground staff/nurses & even quacks with access to healthcare platforms that can easily interpret the diagnostic data while facilitating continued care in rural/remote locations. This is probably the best possible way for creating & delivering complete patient care, even in remote areas.

Data is the new oil for the world but in healthcare, it has always been the crucial element.’

A complete medical record serves the interest of the medicos and their patients equally, especially when a patient consults multiple doctors and switches one healthcare facility to the other.

Independent, un-connected care facilities create multiple files for the same treatment resulting in unmanageable, untraceable disease origins. More so, when the need for a second opinion arises, the patient’s losing the physical files can never be ruled out in Bharat. This gloomy context of Indian medical record management can easily be fixed with technology. By incorporating EMR integrated healthcare platforms, the healthcare providers can easily manage patient data while sharing it amongst them, obviously with the patient’s consent. With detailed health data, providers can deliver better care & avoid any medical error which was unavoidable in unstructured records.

In an ideal healthcare world, if a perfect interoperable EMR exists then the care will be structured and independent of the patients input to provide treatment data while switching between the care facility”

HArborSays: The traditional health system appears to be coming apart at the seams, and this will likely worsen with time. Hence, now is the time to act and restructure healthcare by fixing the gaps while creating ripples for a positive change in healthcare.

Is a basic Telemedicine tool enough to expand access to essential health?

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the healthcare system infecting around 31,726,507 people and more than 425,228 deaths in India. In response to the pandemic, technology adaptation in the healthcare sector has elevated, especially for telemedicine. Inclined to enhance patient engagement & to reach patients in remote locations, healthcare professionals are now expecting more than just a video calling solution.

Basic telemedicine applications have limitations of their own. Furthermore, in the long haul, even if the care is delivered virtually, the results of just an online consultation may not be satisfactory enough!

An OPD consultation involves diagnosing patients while compiling their visit data recorded on paper or digitally. The patient’s medical record may as well include radiology or laboratory reports, doctor’s personal notes and prescription details. During a video consultation, doctors must have an access to health records at their fingertips without waiting around for the clinic secretary to dig through mounds of paper files. Therefore, installing an EMR & Telemedicine integrated platform will enable medicos to retrieve patient data within seconds, thereby speeding up the virtual medical consultations.

The Rise of Telemedicine 2020 report suggested that the pandemic has seen a decline in In-person appointments by 32%, treating home restricted patients virtually to soften the blow of the outbreak. However, the rise in COVID -19 infection rates has force triggered care facility priorities to COVID patients.

But are the COVID cases, our only health crisis?

Raising concerns for the non- patients with chronic, neonatal & psychiatric issues, the COVID caseload has restricted other patients to rely on the prescriptions from their previous follow-ups!

Having said that, a robust telemedicine solution along with an integrated home-care module will promise, optimum health monitoring for continued patient care. These systems can remotely collect, transmit and store information about a patient’s physiological parameters, while enhancing patient care experience and amplifying their connectivity to doctors in multi-folds.

Telemedicine is not just a “Technology” but an advanced medical approach capable of solving time-old issues.

But, with technology, there comes a question of its ability to penetrate deeply and acutely, especially for those living in rural or remote locations. Rural area residents are still struggling to adapt to technology and solve network barriers. As a result, they travel for treatment, risking their health.

By integrating doctors, patients, diagnostics and other healthcare stakeholders on a single platform while operating on a basic network, healthcare practitioners can treat the huge rural population efficiently. Contributing to better future care practices!

For healthcare professionals, it’s difficult to escape the significant care coordination gaps existing due to the lack of data interoperability within the care facility departments. Integrated ecosystems can de-clutter these complex healthcare scenarios bringing a one-stop solution while managing ops from anywhere.

An EMR, Diagnostics, Home-care and Telemedicine integrated healthTech platform can reduce multiple OPD visits. A built-in doctor-centric telemedicine feature will be a cherry on top of such an integrated ecosystem & will help successfully set up virtual waiting rooms while assisting medicos with the ability to pre-book telemedicine appointments.

So, it’s time for medicos to update their Telemedicine services!

HArbor Says: It’s mid-2021, and millions of Indians—now restricted to their homes are still dependent on the services of half-cooked telemedicine tools with minimum care satisfaction. In a pandemic, that’s a public health crisis! Having said that, an integrated healthcare platform is the best fit for the age-old healthcare system issues.

Digital Receptions – A step forward in healthcare delivery

Over the years, while digital care platforms have largely come up with innovate solutions to ease out operations for doctors & patients, the most crowded corner of any hospital remains to be a reception desk, still operating under heaps of paperwork and manual processes.

Manual reception desks do not only consume valuable human time but also exposes medical staff to unnecessary exposure especially during these pandemic times. A study was done at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey, USA revealed that hospital support staff is generally hit harder than doctors. This trend was later confirmed and observed during the second wave of pandemic in India too. The primary reason for such a trend was mainly associated with lesser awareness and an extremely large number of footfalls happening on the reception desk of any hospital.

The largest crowd gathering in any medical setting is always at the reception desk, where queues of patients can always be seen waiting to get themselves registered, make bill payments or even simply inquire repeatedly about their turn to see the doctors. In a country with population to doctor ratio of more than 6000:1, these problems will always be congruous with overcrowded reception desks.

How do we solve this issue in a country like India where 80% of doctors are concentrated in urban settings & 313 Million people are still illiterate?

The answer is simple – Automate the receptions, remove the humans in urban setups, remove redundancies & create infrastructure in rural India, namely Bharat. WOW! That seems quite a task but that’s the most relevant solution to the Indian healthcare industry’s underlying volcano waiting to burst out.

A digital front door with a capacity to do everything a medical staff can do while manning a reception desk is necessarily one-stop answer to all of India’s healthcare delivery problems, at least related to processes. The redundant activities of a reception desk can be easily automated to provide self-checkouts & appointment systems to the patients. Information should be displayed in a form legible to patients & all relevant stakeholders in Audio-Video formats only. Such a system would also be of particular interest to the majority of pharmaceuticals which can then use these front doors to create mass awareness amongst patients about the latest innovations in the drug world.

So these automated kiosks would result in loss of Jobs for receptionists?
Absolutely, NO!
The hospital trained medical staff can be relocated to smaller towns & villages where such kiosk would prove as single points of touch for telemedicine and registrations creating a bridge for a population with a lesser amount of literacy levels. Diagnostics, local language support, video camera and integrated network should be an essential part of such terminals, least in remote areas.

HArbor Says: In the era, where the healthcare domain is desperate for cost-effective ways to automate setups & extend care in remote locations, a digital reception will be our golden chance! A digital front door for a the clinic will provide continued care with improving patient experience to a level beyond imagination.