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Digitalization in Healthcare

Authored by Agniva Mandal, Student at NUJS

Introduction

The perpetuation of human life depends on the availability of healthcare facilities. Healthcare is the “maintenance of an individual’s health by prevention, treatment, diagnosis, etc., from illness, diseases, physical and mental disorders.”[1] In the last few decades, healthcare facilities across the globe have improved a lot. The mortality rate across the world has come down due to the advancement in medical science. This improvement in the healthcare facility is getting accredited to technological advancements. The healthcare professionals, doctors, and nurses are now equipped with better instruments and tools for an accurate diagnosis and prognosis of diseases.

The focus in this article is how digitalization of healthcare in the contemporary world has helped humanity to prosper, also on the negative effects of digitalizing healthcare, and how digitalization of healthcare can help the third world countries inculcate better functioning of medical sciences and also predicts what is the future of digital instruments and devices to be used in healthcare.

Positive Impacts of Digitalization of Healthcare

Medical science is in practice for centuries, but the most development can be witnessed in the last century. New tools and technologies have brought a revolution in medical sciences and transformed our perspective towards healthcare.

Some of those developments made are:

  1. Improvement in Disease Diagnosis

The powerful computing tools have made it easier to organize the health records of the patients.  Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) devices such as Buoy Health or BERG Health helps in the treatment of neurological diseases. It, therefore, has improved the speed and accuracy of diagnosis. For example, detection of cancer cells or tumors with computers has been valuable for radiologists to quickly and accurately analyze the disease’s patterns and location.[2]

  1. Convenient Means of Health Check-up

Various smartphone health applications and wearable technologies have transformed healthcare delivery due to their ease of use. Smartphones have specialized attachments and applications, making the diagnosis of infectious diseases possible directly at home. These smartphones even have an adapter with electrocardiogram electrodes, which keeps the user updated with their heart condition. There are other remote applications to measure body temperature, blood pressure, etc.[3]

  1. Personalized Care

With the increase in data accumulation, testing capabilities and technologies, we have now entered a golden era of personalized healthcare. By better understanding a patient’s genetic profile, doctors can now perceive new ways in the treatment. Genetic treatment has also become possible now due to CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). CRISPR helps in alteration of DNA sequences and modifying genetic functions that modifies congenital disabilities and even prevent the intermediate risks associated with heart attack.[4]

  1. Clinical Developments and Improvement in the Drug Delivery

Diverse information is being collected with the help of advanced computers, so, the medical history of the patients is easy to find and leads to better treatment. Treatments of various complicated surgeries have been made easy with the help of advanced technologies. Some of these technologies are Video-Assisted Thorascopic Surgery (VATS) which are used in surgery of the lungs, and Robotic Gallbladder Surgery (RGS), used in the surgery of the gallbladder.[5]  

In the past 20 years, there has been a lot of improvement in the drug industry.[6] Technological advancement helped the virtual screening of many compounds. It potentially increased the production of pharmaceuticals, reviving the lost value of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (R&D). The use of technology can even reduce the time and resources required to bring medicine into the market.[7]        

Negative Impacts of Digitalising Healthcare

Although the digitalization of healthcare has brought a lot of positive impacts. It also has negative consequences stated as follows:

  • Hospitals create healthcare e-wastes such as broken computer components, resistors, printers, lab analyzers, ECG monitors, and imaging equipment like X-ray, CT scanners, and MRI. Most of these are non-biodegradable and harmful, as a result, it poses a threat to the environment.[8]
  • Digitalization of healthcare could affect the employment of lab analytics, hospital registrars, data updaters, etc. Therefore, a huge number of people would lose their jobs which would result in the degradation of the economy.[9]
  • Most of these digital methods are in their nascent stage, hence, the lack of widespread testing might lead to major long-term bad effects on the health of the people.[10]
  • Digital healthcare facilities are comparatively expensive, making them less accessible.[11]

Digitalization of Healthcare in India

Third-world countries are economically weak countries. Most of these countries are from Africa and South-East Asia. These countries do not have proper sanitization or healthcare. Digitalising healthcare will prove to be a remarkable improvement in such countries.

In India, the highest percentage of medical graduates in the world pass out every year, doctors still face trouble such as fear and trauma due to a lack of proper infrastructure, social accountability, and training. As a result, digitalizing healthcare will help in the betterment of the medical sector in India as doctors would be able to manage their work in a more quick, convenient, and efficient way with the use of these new technologically advanced digital methods in diagnosis and treatment.[12]

The field of medicine in India lacks in the Research & Development sector as no specific budget or investment was set for it. The countries like the USA, China made innumerable discoveries after investing in this sector, whereas India started investing in the year 2000 and increased the investment every year.[13]

In the year 2017-18, India’s per capita R&D expenditure increased to PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) $ 47.2, which was nearly double the amount that in 2007-08.[14] India spent 0.7% of its GDP in this sector in 2017-18.[15] According to Global Innovation Index 2019, India has now moved to the 52nd rank.[16] After the outbreak of the COVID-19, due to these extensive investments in R&D sector, two Indian vaccines namely Covishield and Covaxin are developed by the Bharat Biotech and now these vaccines have been transported all over the world to help other countries.[17]

To boost it even further, the Indian government should set a budget to buy modern digital instruments in India for healthcare and provide treatments by using them in Government Hospitals at a nominal fee. This will boost the digitalization of healthcare in India and will bring a lot of benefits to the country.[18]

Impact of Digitalising Healthcare on the Economy

The rise in the use of digital devices in healthcare has led to a longer life expectancy, low mortality rates, a rise in drug manufacturing industries, etc. According to a US-based organization named Detollite, the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on healthcare and the economy is enormous. These impacts are as follows:

  • A total of €170.9 to 212.4 Billion including the visiting costs of healthcare professionals could be saved annually, for the human population if AI devices are used. When people will use AI devices, diagnosis of the body will be done easily and there will be no need to go to see the doctor for normal check-ups.[19]
  • Yearly 380,000 to 403,000 lives can possibly be saved by wearable with AI applications/devices. Improvement in medical science decreased the mortality rate as a result a lot of people are available for work. This poses a huge boost to the economy as many working professionals would be available in the working sectors.[20]
  • With a large number of manufacturing companies involved due to digitalising healthcare, a lot of medicines and drugs will be sold which will boost the economy of a country as a lot of tax will be exempted from this.[21]

Conclusion

Innovations and discoveries have their own benefit or loss because of which these innovative activities are needed to be more productive and helpful than their negative points. Therefore, the digitalization of healthcare needs to be implemented throughout the world as it will not only improve the health conditions of the people but also reduce the burden on doctors should be reduced. With technological improvements such as the invention of wearable AI’s, people are easily able to keep track of their health and treat minor health problems on their own without going to the doctor.

In India, with the investments made in the healthcare sectors, a large population will get access to proper treatment. The high price affects the use of new technologies and will decrease with time after efficient innovations are made. So, healthcare would be accessible by most to the people in India, in the next few years. One such positive factor of digitalizing healthcare would help in prospering the underdeveloped nations.

Digitalising healthcare helped in making the lives of people better, the impact it had on the economy, and also helped in eliminating many dreadful diseases. It will also help in decreasing the work for the medical professionals and make them easier and more convenient.

Therefore, the need of the hour to fully change the current system of healthcare to better versions of itself.

References

[1] What is healthcare? Merriam Webstar, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/health%20care.

[2] Charles Auffrey, Rudy Balling & Laszlo Bencze, Making sense of big data in Health Research (June 10, 2016)ResearchGate,https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305073029_Making_sense_of_big_data_in_health_research_Towards_an_EU_action_plan.

[3] Simone Edelmann, 7 ways Digitalization will shape the future of Healthcare (Sept. 30, 2019) Healthcare Transformers, https://healthcaretransformers.com/healthcare-business/digitization-future-of-healthcare/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Robotic Surgery: Types, Benefits, and Risks, Narayana Health, https://www.narayanahealth.org/robotic-surgery/.

[6] Shaukat Ali, Robert Dream &, Rodolfo J. Romanach, A 20 Year Retrospective: The Pharmaceutical Industry Then and Now (Oct. 15, 2018) American Pharmaceutical Review, https://www.americanpharmaceuticalreview.com/Featured-Articles/354573-A-20-Year-Retrospective-The-Pharmaceutical-Industry-Then-and-Now/.

[7] Francesco Gentile, Vibuth Agrawal & Michael Hsing, Deep Docking: A Deep Learning Platform for Augmentation of Structure-Based Drug Discovery (May. 19, 2020) ACS Publications, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acscentsci.0c00229.

[8]Andreas, Medical Waste: Causes, Effects, and Solutions (June. 5, 2019) Environmental Conscience, https://environmental-conscience.com/causes-effects-solutions-for-medical-waste/.

[9] The Socio-economic Impact of AI in Healthcare (Oct. 08, 2020) Med Tech Europe, https://www.medtecheurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/mte-ai_impact-in-healthcare_oct2020_report.pdf.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Charles Auffrey, Rudy Balling & Laszlo Bencze, Making sense of big data in Health Research (June 10, 2016)ResearchGate,https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305073029_Making_sense_of_big_data_in_health_research_Towards_an_EU_action_plan.

[12] Docmode, The Challenges faced by Indian Medical Education System (May. 5, 2020) https://docmode.org/the-challenges-faced-by-indian-medical-education-system/.

[13] Samrat Sharma, India Spending More on Healthcare now, but yet not as much as others; here’s how mmuch US and China spend (Apr, 08, 2020) Financial Express, https://www.financialexpress.com/economy/india-spending-more-on-healthcare-now-but-yet-not-as-much-as-others-heres-how-much-us-china-spend/1922253/

[14] India’s R&D Expenditure & Scientific Publication on the Rise (May 01, 2020) Ministry of Science and Technology.

[15] Nijhum Rudra & Deepsikha Shukla, The growth R&D in India (Feb. 21, 2021) Electronics B To B, https://www.electronicsb2b.com/eb-specials/industry-report/the-growth-of-rd-in-india/.

[16] Global Innovation Index of 2019 (Sep 30, 2020) World Intellectual Property Organisation, https://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2019/article_0008.html.

[17] Vinson Kurian, Amid Pandemic: It’s a brain grain for India’s R&D Sector (Feb. 09, 2021) The Hindu Business Line.

[18] International Bank For Reconstruction and Development, South Asian Economies Bounce Back But Face Fragile Recovery (Mar. 31, 2021), The World Bank, https://www.worldbank.org/en/home.

[19] Kumar Chebrolu, Dan Ressler & Hemnabh Varia, Smart Use of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare (Oct. 22, 2020) Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/health-care/artificial-intelligence-in-health-care.html.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

Edited By: Kirti Tapadiya

*Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended to provide a piece of general information. The views are expressed by the Author solely and BFTLR may or may not subscribe to the views of the Author.

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