Urban Healthcare: Responsibility to Reach Beyond the Cities for Care Delivery

The healthcare stakeholders seem to be enjoying the healthTech wave in India. A recent report also proved that the HealthTech industry in India is expected to flourish with a total economic value of US $50 billion by 2033 (Source – RBSA).

Yet still, why have these healthtech innovations not been able to penetrate the remote areas, especially villages to facilitate optimum medical care. The article explores the following points to elaborate further on the topic:

  • Issues with penetration of healthTech in villages.
  • The solution for the existing healthTech issues. 
  • Impact of these solutions on Bharat economy.

Let’s get started!

Challenges faced by urban medicos while delivering care 

Over the last few years, the Indian healthcare system has undergone dramatic changes with the introduction of technology. Yet, there is a huge gap in care delivery mainly resulting because of the urban to rural doctor density ratio of 3.8:1. 

This is why every year – 86% of all the medical visits in India are made by Ruralites, still traveling more than 100 km to avail health care facilities. Out of which 48% of them are emergency overnight trips (source: NCBI). 

Logically thinking, the easiest solution for these problems would be building healthcare facilities in the village itself. But would that be economically feasible? 

NO!

Here are some of the factors, that a medical practitioner would consider before building a healthcare facility: 

  • The total cost of building a healthcare facility in a village.
  • Availability of the paying population.
  • Availability of other healthcare stakeholders like pharmacies & diagnostic centers.
  • Trained medical staff to provide effective patient care.

Keeping these basic points in mind, the majority of doctors or healthcare facilities are generally reluctant to build such infrastructures. 

This problem has somewhat been addressed in urban & suburban places with the introduction of Telemedicine. According to a recent study, during the COVID pandemic – India has seen a 500% rise in healthcare teleconsultation, out of which 80% were first-time users. 

Yet, why hasn’t this incredible healthTech boom reached the villages? 

A rural patient may be equipped with a smartphone but lacks the complicated nature of the healthcare ecosystem thus leaving them more frustrated with virtual care than providing relief. Other basic functions like bill payment and checking the patient queue considered essential from the doctor’s perspective are not possible, due to low literacy rate & unavailability of transactional modes.

Ordering medicines from a pharmacy application or booking a telemedicine appointment may seem like just a few taps on urban patient’s smartphones, although it is much more difficult for a rural patient. 

This implies that the current form of Telemedicine can never be the means of interacting with village patients for a virtual consultation! 

The solutions for creating healthtech inclusive of Indian villagers.

Even though the urban population has taken basic advantage of HealthTech, the rural healthcare systems are facing pre-existing healthcare issues along with the newly emerged tech troubles. 

So shall we resolve them? 

Yes!

Upgrade from the practices of creating brick and mortar care centers & create lightweight movable assets for quick setups and complete care. These healthcare Kiosks should provide assisted telemedicine care, enabling the village/rural/remote patients to access care efficiently.  

Now, will assisted care prove to be better than just telemedicine application?

Firstly, the kiosk centers should be administered by doctor assistants to provide round-the-clock medical care. More so, when the patient will be interacting with the doctor in-charge on a video consultation, the assistant will help the patient to state all the symptoms, which will enhance patient care along with reducing any possibilities of error. 

Furthermore, these doctor-trained assistants should be equipped with basic diagnostic kits, vaccines, and medicines to provide primary care, if necessary. More so, the assistants placed can be a local care practitioner or even a quack – interacting with the patients in their regional language. 

This futuristic & effective digital care model for evaluating, diagnosing & treating patients without the patients needing to visit facilities, may help us achieve the best care possible for the rural population in India!

Also, wouldn’t this care delivery module have a small, yet significant impact on the Indian economy? 

Yes, definitely!

These light-weighted movable assets can be easily established in multiple villages while providing essential medical care to the patients. These simple yet effective care units can also be used to provide emergency care to the patients while connecting with specialists living in any part of the world!

And now that patients no longer have to travel to the cities for primary care, the cost of care can be reduced without any additional expenditure.

HArbor Says: It’s time that we start thinking about taking healthTech beyond the cities when India’s maximum population lives in the villages! Let’s rethink healthcare from the eyes of a villager.  

Post Pandemic Boom: Is our industry retail ready?

COVID pandemic has shown, that even the mightiest of the care facilities needed to evolve in order to keep the “business” going and yet the majority of them are struggling to keep it sustainable.

We need to evolve as an industry and keep a broader perspective towards rebuilding healthcare around retail space. We need to marginalize caregiving to an extent where profits are not driven by the number of beds a hospital can keep occupied but by improving the efficiency of processes adopted in the retail space with lesser infrastructure.

With an ever-growing population, we can never build enough beds simply because of the overhead cost attached to it. But if we are able to optimize caregiving in the retail, Out Patient space, the requirement of more & more beds would be simply diminished. Yes, we would still need tertiary care units, but the majority of the population would be reluctant to visit a #medico sitting in a large building surrounded by diseases of various origins.

Instead of building bigger and grandeur hospital buildings, let us build a futuristic system focused on Retail healthcare and enabling full care protocols for patients unwilling to come to hospitals. Let us evolve OPD, to an extent where, we not only be able to give our patients teleconsultation but also the entire care package right from their homes by integrating diagnostic, pharmacies, nurses & even the receptionists on the same eCare platform. Homecare for mild and moderate diseases must be a norm and should be an extended arm of retail caregiving.

For centers and cases where physical visits are unavoidable, we should be able to build contact less interactions and flows for the patients and they should physically meet only the doctor in his chamber. Automated Digital Reception Desks, should be a must-have addition and one of the few tangible infrastructure investments the medical industry should look at.

HarborSays, the Post pandemic boom is coming and our industry must gear up to take the most advantage of it. The future of caregiving is retail.