Re-imagining Abhijit Banerjee’s ‘A Note on Healthcare’ from “What Economy Needs Now”

Lifestyle diseases, an aging population, rising income levels, and easier access to insurance, can assist decrease the barriers between hospitals and patients, boosting access to care, and raising overall patient satisfaction.

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Re-imagining Abhijit Banerjee’s ‘A Note on Healthcare’ from “What Economy Needs Now”

The Digital India vision and Healthcare

The primary goal of the Modi-led government’s Digital India program is to make government services electronically accessible to individuals by enhancing online infrastructure and otherwise empowering the nation in the digital sphere.  In this regard, the Indian healthcare system is changing with the use of digital health technologies – wearables, telemedicine, genomics, VR, robotics, AI, and whatnot.  India is also on the verge of witnessing a digital health revolution, like many other economies, where the delivery of value-based care throughout the healthcare continuum is supported in large part by digital health technology.  Lifestyle diseases, an aging population, rising income levels, and easier access to insurance, can assist decrease the barriers between hospitals and patients, boosting access to care, and raising overall patient satisfaction.

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In this regard, the Clinical Establishment Act was amended by the government to ensure data compliance.  Other new laws and regulations included the National Digital Health Plan and the Personal Data Protection Bill, to reap the benefits of EHR and get accurate, complete, and up-to-date information about patients with quick access to patient records for more coordinated, efficient care, and diagnoses, and reduce medical errors.  Robotics are used to help doctors conduct surgical treatments more quickly and accurately.  This results in smaller incisions and more precise maneuvering for the surgeon, which has the advantages of less blood loss, better pain control, and faster healing.  Numerous ongoing projects in the field of digital health are being carried out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), including reproductive child healthcare (RCH), the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP), e-Sushrut, the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN), the National Health Portal (NHP), the National Identification Number (NIN), the Online Registration System (ORS), Mera Aspatal (Patient Feedback System), and the National Medical College Network.  The information is straightforward to record, and patients can better approach and access the medical records tool for health protection.

“A Note on Healthcare” and beyond

Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee in this chapter, emphasized digital health initiatives in India that shall aim to prevent diseases at lower healthcare costs, customize medications based on patient needs, monitor, and manage chronic conditions, increase, and promote access, expand, and improve the quality of healthcare, and best serve the needs of the individual.  The digital health transformation is anticipated to reach its pinnacle in India, as after the pandemic, digital health gained enormous appeal and has continued to change the game for many medical facilities.  It has made it possible for new consumers to interact with specialists, as well as remotely consult specialists who have benefited existing clients.  As a result, institutions that once catered primarily to the local community can now appeal to a far larger audience. Some technologies have been made available to the general population, such as mobile diagnosis, which allows individuals to identify and control their health.  With the help of the Netra-G, a patient can conduct their eye exam by measuring their refractive error on a smartphone.  With your fingers from each hand lying on the electrodes, the device snaps onto your iPhone and wirelessly communicates with the app.  The app detects skin contact and takes your ECG as it records displays, and saves your heartbeat.

Remote Patient Monitoring, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), etc. have all become tools that allow medical facilities and professionals to remotely monitor their patients, periodically get their readings, and permit two-way contact.  As these solutions address two key issues, this adds more businesses to the industry that eventually is offering enhanced services.  Also, a combination of telemedicine, portable technology, and wearables (such as ECG monitors), is gaining momentum.  Applications for digital health in M-Health range from telemedicine and chronic disease management to education and awareness campaigns, diagnostic and treatment support, tracking of disease and epidemic outbreaks, and control of the healthcare supply chain.

Digital Therapeutics – A Way Forward

With the digital health advancements around the world, one area which is gaining traction off-late is  Digital Therapeutics (DTx), a subset of Digital Health with innovations in delivering care through digital interventions and improving/managing/preventing a disease/disorder.  The main distinction with other digital health technologies is the fact that DTx software applications are clinically validated and tested.  As these are delivered digitally, these solutions can expand care access easily.  Especially in countries like India where it is difficult to create a physical health infrastructure in rural areas, smartphones and the internet have penetrated to a large extent.

One of the leading companies, Fitterfly has developed Diabefly which is a digital diabetes management program that provides personalized care on diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and weight management.  The product analyzes diet and lifestyle with fluctuations in glucose levels using continuous/ ambulatory glucose monitoring & has proven to reduce HbA1c in 85% of patients.  Other companies like Wellthy Therapeutics provide a platform to build DTx solutions for life science, and medical devices companies.  Thus, developing a DTx ecosystem and enabling the development of digital solutions that complement their drugs/devices for better outcomes & increased adherence.

Wysa’s AI-enabled chatbot/digital companion is targeted to improve behavioral health and mental wellness.  Wysa recently announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted them Breakthrough Device Designation (meaning, an innovative product and would get fast-track approval) for their AI-based digital companion indicated for chronic musculoskeletal pain and depression and anxiety (patients above 18 years of age).  Post approval of the same, it can be prescribed by physicians/doctors in the U.S. and would also make them eligible for reimbursement from insurance companies.  Just like physicians have been prescribing lifestyle changes for a lot of conditions, we can imagine a future where they will prescribe Digital Therapeutic solutions enabled by mobile/web apps.  And we believe the adoption of DTx will rise shortly driven primarily because it will prove its clinical effectiveness in the real world.


Author

Samridhhi Mandawat
Samridhhi Mandawat

Shivang Bhagat
Shivang Bhagat

The authors are Consultant (Strategy) at Healthark Insights, Ahmedabad


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Re-imagining Abhijit Banerjee’s ‘A Note on Healthcare’ from “What Economy Needs Now”
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Lifestyle diseases, an aging population, rising income levels, and easier access to insurance, can assist decrease the barriers between hospitals and patients, boosting access to care, and raising overall patient satisfaction.
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THE POLICY TIMES
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