“Preventive healthcare can only be successful with the support of digital technology interventions as this is the era of digital tracking for healthy behaviors, wearables, apps to monitor various chronic diseases,” says Preventive Cardiologist, Dr. Pratiksha Gandhi in a short Q&A with team HCITExpert. Read on to know more about Dr. Gandhi’s ideas and opinions about digital health applications in this post.
Weighing the pros and cons of digital health technologies and the need to frame policies to protect patient data, Preventive Cardiologist, Dr. Pratiksha Gandhi*, in a short email interaction with Anusha Ashwin, Consulting Editor, HCITExpert Blog, expresses her views in response to a few questions.
Excerpts of the interaction:
Anusha Ashwin: Noncommunicable diseases in India is a huge burden and are detrimental to the country’s growth. Can you share the latest facts/analysis/reports on the rise in the incidence of NCDs in India?
Dr Gandhi: Non communicable diseases (NCDs) contribute to around 5.87 million (60%) of all deaths in India. Four NCDs mainly responsible for the total NCD mortality and morbidity are cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disease, cancers, and diabetes, contributing to about 82% of all NCD deaths (World Health Organization – WHO, 2014).
India’s burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is escalating. NCDs typically present in individuals aged 55 years or older in many developed countries, but their onset occurs in India a decade earlier (≥45 years of age).
A study by David Bloom and Elizabeth Cafiero, both of Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, indicates that these diseases will cost India 126 trillion rupees (roughly 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars) from now through 2030 — an amount that is 1.5 times India’s annual aggregate income and almost 35 times India’s total annual health spending.
Anusha Ashwin: You are a great believer of preventive healthcare and are a mentor of that too. What are your learnings regarding this and how do you see the knowledge of preventive healthcare reaching common people as vital to the country?
Dr Gandhi: The goal of WHO has always been placing people’s health in people’s hands. Hence it is very vital that every citizen of our country has access to healthcare and participates in his or her own well-being. In our country primary healthcare centers are the bedrock of free public health services in India.
These centers need to be strengthened, and the role of village health guides and Anganwadi workers employed in these centers become very vital in spreading the knowledge of preventive healthcare to common people. Digital technology can help bridge lot of barriers and can make access to healthcare easier and faster.
Anusha Ashwin: Post the onset of the pandemic, it is clear that digital applications, telemedicine, new-age technologies, and several other virtual programs have aided in healthcare delivery. What is your comment on this?
Dr Gandhi: We have been talking of telemedicine over the past two decades, however, adoption by doctors and patients has always been a challenge as in-person visits superseded any virtual experience. However, this pandemic made something amazing to happen, which has revolutionized healthcare permanently. Due to forced adoption people have become open to digital technology and virtual programs and doc visits have started becoming successful.
Preventive healthcare can only be successful with the support of digital technology interventions as this is the era of digital tracking for healthy behaviors, wearables, apps to monitor various chronic diseases. Even the Arogya Setu app was a brilliant innovation in the pandemic as a public health tool.
Only pitfall is that our people have to take their health seriously and use the technologies. Another challenge for doctors is monetization as many people are used to paying cash when they meet the doctor in-person. The concept of paying online is slowly setting in among the common people. Despite the challenges, this pandemic is leading us all in a new direction where digital technology has become an integral aspect of healthcare.
Anusha Ashwin: India is known for its complex healthcare delivery model with semi-urban, rural and remote parts of India having no basic healthcare facilities. How do you see this changing in the years to come and how must the government act to ensure optimal healthcare access?
Dr Gandhi: India has made rapid advancements in improving public healthcare facilities in the last five years. I am glad to see that we now have a health portal, which was non-existent before. Most of the remote areas may not still have water or electricity 24 hours, however, telecommunication network is growing very strong in India. Through public private partnerships the government can deliver healthcare to remote areas and with digital technology tools and telemedicine everything about healthcare is possible.
Anusha Ashwin: Do you think digital technologies will help bring down costs of healthcare and improve patient care? Please justify.
Dr Gandhi: The cost of healthcare in India is very low as it is compared to western world. Digital technologies reduce the cost of healthcare to the patient possibly by less travel and saving of resources. Online pharmacies have revolutionized and disrupted local chemists as patients are relying more on discounts from online portals.
However, there are again several challenges in the system. There should be regulations in place to ensure quality of services as in lowering the cost. We cannot compromise on patient wellbeing, which is a possible threat (as the digital companies funded by VCs are mostly under pressure to make quick profits).
I totally agree digital technologies improve patient care however there has to be an optimum balance as patients are human beings and emotional aspect of bonding is also very critical in a doctor-patient relationship. Any use of technology should keep the patient empathy factor in mind.
Anusha Ashwin: Overlooking a doctor’s convenience, a patient’s convenience is always given more importance. How can digital technology balance both the caregiver as well as the receiver’s convenience?
Dr Gandhi: Yes, digital technology can help bridge this gap. However, I feel Indian doctors are brilliant and best in the world as they work so hard compared to the remuneration that they get than their western world counterparts with same qualifications and expertise.
Unfortunately, our society has to learn to reward the doctors well to avoid brain drain form the country. I feel keeping a balance of both the parties is important to prevent burn out in doctors due to excessive stress on care givers and technology is being largely used to destress the doctors these days.
Anusha Ashwin: What are the learnings from this COVID-19 pandemic and how do you see the healthcare industry reacting to future pandemic attacks?
Dr Gandhi: We will be much more prepared and ready for the future with the lessons learnt. All over the world records have been broken of the past in developing the kits for detection and in vaccine production. This pandemic has brought out the best of the medical fraternity, like our ability to respond to the sudden crisis situation induced by the pandemic.
There have been worst things too yet it just reflects the various aspects of human behavior. There are heroes and villains in every story which got beautifully showcased during the course of this pandemic.
Anusha Ashwin: Patient data is now as valuable as gold or oil. What is your opinion on recording patient data using new-age technologies and why is digital transformation a necessity for today’s small or big hospitals?
Dr Gandhi: Truly, patient data is as valuable as gold or oil and that is why all digital companies are getting their valuation from out of proportion than what services they offer. Collecting data of doctors and patients, offering free platforms for making connections is in trend. As long as the privacy and sanctity are maintained, which I doubt, as the biggest problem in India is its weak judiciary system, and people feel powerless as there is no belief that a common man’s right would be completely protected.
Digital transformation is a necessity for today’s small or big hospitals for better patient care but there is a lot of work to be done to frame rules and regulations to protect the interests of all parties involved.
*Dr Pratiksha Gandhi – Preventive Healthcare Expert, Investor, Business Mentor, Parallel Entrepreneur
Pratiksha Gandhi, MD is a Global Healthcare Leader, Serial Entrepreneur, World renowned Preventive Cardiologist, Author, Speaker, Researcher, with a mission to eradicate cardiovascular disease by preventing heart attacks & reversing heart disease using non–invasive cost-effective treatments.
She is India’s First Woman Preventive Cardiologist & founder of IPC (Institute of Preventive Cardiology), founded in 1999, in Mumbai. She pioneered the concept of Preventive & Non-Invasive Cardiology for which her work was applauded by late President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. She was awarded by Finance Minister as the Best Woman Entrepreneur in 2006, making her India’s First Woman Doctor to have received this honor.
IPC is India’s pioneering evidence-based chain of Preventive Cardiac Care & she is also the founder member of EECP expert committee in India in association with International EECP registry at Pittsburgh, USA. Under her leadership, IPC centers have treated over 100,000 cases which also involve international patients, with a 95% success rate.
She has been an investor and business mentor to various health care companies & has successfully expanded businesses globally having launched new and innovative products & devices in the preventive healthcare industry. She has worked with several international firms & has set up their distribution channels in foreign markets. Apart from healthcare she has also invested in education, entertainment, real estate and food industry over last three decades.
She is also a renowned international speaker & award-winning author, published 1000s’ of articles, created several health shows on TV channels & spread her message of heart care prevention to millions of people globally. In 2016, the International Association of Cardiologists, New York, USA recognized her as The Leading Physician of the World. Recently awarded with Top 50 global woman healthcare leader in March 2017.