This is the number of research papers on covid-19 that have been published in reputed medical journals till now. A majority of India’s main covid warriors, its doctors, have not been able to read even a tiny fraction of these as they are busy fighting the virus. But the reality is that continuous medical education (CME) had taken a backseat long ago, say experts. “India has some 12.5 lakh allopathic doctors, and around 4.5 lakh non-MBS doctors. except for the 1520 percent in metros and tier-1 cities, most are unable to stay up to date with innovations in their field,” says Bhagwat Dhingra, former CEO of Unichem laboratories and an industry veteran. Doctors usually update themselves through CME programmes organised by pharmaceutical companies and annual meetings of their associations. Another source is interactions with medical representatives. “If I remember correctly, using the Reliance cyber cafes, Apollo Hospitals telecast a live surgery connecting specialists in 60 centres. That was one of the first digital CME programmes in India,” says Dhingra. That was 10-12 years ago. Things did not change for years after that.
CME is not the only area where India’s healthcare sector is lagging. A total of 6,000-7,000 hospitals across the world are performing robotic surgeries compared to less than 100 in India. When it comes to data, most non-corporate hospitals keep hard copies of files in dusty storerooms. Lack of digitisation also plagues drug distribution and delivery.
However, all this is set to change with technology, whether in research and development or healthcare delivery, with the adoption of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics. These and other cutting-edge digital technologies are steadily revolutionising the way doctors learn, perform surgeries and assess patients. Even drug companies are digitising their sales operations. The digital healthcare market in India, valued at ₹11,611 crore in 2018, is estimated to reach ₹48,543 crore by 2024, expanding at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.41 per cent, says a Research and Markets report.
Bhagwat Dhingra, along with Abhishek Ghosh, runs MediSage, an e-learning CME content platform. The two-year-old MediSage publishes global experts’ evidence-based advice in video and podcast format and also enables live interactions with national and international experts. Additionally, it brings updated news feed from globally reputed journals and runs multiple discussion forums. “We have a reach of over 430,000 doctors, and had over one million views this year,” says Ghosh. The content is sponsored by over 25 top pharmaceutical firms. Medi-Sage has partnered with universities, medical associations and experts. Its target is to earn ₹700-800 crore in revenues in five years from last year’s ₹70-80 crore and become the knowledge partner of over one million healthcare professionals. It is also planning to launch courses in collaboration with leading global universities. Similar platforms include Gurugram-based Curofy and US-based UpToDate and PEPID.
A large number of people are embracing digital health with the help of thousands of health apps and wearable devices. In order to tap into the trend, several companies — Practo, Lybrate, DocsApp, 1mg, DOCASAP, Welcome Cure and Zoylo, to name a few — have started working in the field of patient-doctor interactions. The rollout of the National Digital Health Mission is attracting even global digital health management players. “The biggest issue for patients in India is getting in touch with the best doctor and services. Our operations in India will try to address such issues,” Sigal Atzmon, Founder & CEO of Medix Global, told Business Today in a recent interaction. London-based Medix, which operates in 90 countries with 40 lakh clients, plans to start with seven cities, employ 1,000-2,000 people and lay the pan-India digital infrastructure for telemedicine and offline medical solutions.
The path forward is to build a connected health ecosystem that can harness data, provide insights to improve health outcomes, reduce the cost of care and enable healthier lives”
Rajiv Sodhi, Chief Operating Officer, Microsoft Corporation (India)
Cure Goes Digital
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