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!

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!