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Digital Health Healthcare Technology Public Health

Population Health Management through Digital Tools

Dr Pallabi Roy

Does the Public Health Industry need a Digital Makeover?

Have you heard of buzzwords like ‘Tech Trends’?

Blockchain, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things?

As a Healthcare Professional, you might have heard of these digital tools.

Aren’t sure about what they mean? You’re not alone!

We often ignore the technical aspects of a project.

We deal only with the core Biological Sciences.

But this approach needs some amount of tweaking. With the heavy penetration of digital tools in Healthcare, we must embrace the digital era. There is no going back to Pre COVID-19 times!

Isn’t population health management a well-known concept in the Public Health domain?

Yes, it is, but digitization is changing the face of this sector. 

Public health challenges like tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, and other communicable diseases still exist. India’s healthcare industry is going through a transitional stage. The disparity between the rich and the poor is becoming more clear. This gap creates poor health outcomes and using digital tools, we can bridge this.

Why should healthcare professionals bother about these tools?

It’s because they are going to be the harbingers of change!

The Finance Minister allocated Rs 69,000 crore for the healthcare sector. The 2020-21 Union Budget looked better than last year. This is another spectrum where digital tools can come in. FinTech can help divide funds according to the needs of our country.

80% of our fund allocation can elevate health promotion and disease prevention. Using digital tools, we can deliver these healthcare services to the rural parts of India. The public health workforce is working hard and adopting these measures. How can you leverage these tools for research and evidence-based treatment protocols?

Technology has made it easier to reach out. This holds true not only for remote areas but also for an international ecosystem. Doctors can use this approachable network as a reference. Digital tools are facilitating knowledge and implementation, in new-age India.

The Government of India has come up with training and guidelines for telemedicine. Tele-Consultations in specializations like Ophthalmology, Radiology, Mental Healthcare, and Obstetrics-Gynaecology have created waves. ASHA workers (Accredited Social Health Activists) are warming up to digital tools. These include virtual training and EMRs (Electronic Medical Records). We are observing a gradual improvement in primary levels of population health management.

Mother and Child Care programs are improving since e-governance is possible. There are online registries that get updated every week by these healthcare facilitators.

We use them for tracking data like child mortality rates and cases of tuberculosis. Cases of COVID-19 are being monitored through similar means.

National Digital Health Mission has an agenda that we cannot sideline. Our government is centralizing healthcare. This gives us time to catch up with tech trends. It gives us time to understand these digital tools and make the most of them in our clinical practices.

Which are some digital tools that you have used for population health management?

About the Author

Dr Pallabi Roy is a dentist and works as a marketing professional, podcaster and an influencer in the area of digital health. She can be reached on Linkedin- https://in.linkedin.com/in/pallabiroy27

Categories
Healthcare Technology Public Health

Why Internet of Things (IoT) makes sense for Healthcare

Internet of things dominated my world this week as I participated in Liveworx16. Liveworx is the signature event of Thingworx a PTC company. PTC Chairman and CEO Jim Heppelmann  has taken a big gamble by integrating the traditional industrial design strengths of PTC with a up and coming technology area like Internet of Things (IoT)

The event saw a curious mix of CAD/CAM experts who were trying to understand how IoT was going to help them mingling with IoT experts who had already implemented a few projects and were looking to consolidate on their early mover advantage. But one Industry that is looking at IoT very seriously is healthcare. Yes you heard me its healthcare, and may even leapfrog other industries when it comes to IoT adoption.

downloadBut then why should healthcare look at IoT?

Well that is a good question that is being asked by many hospitals and rightfully so. Hospitals have a duty towards their patients, community, physicians and staff and the last thing they want to do is to embark on a new technology for the sake of technology. But before we look at why IoT, we should probably try to understand the origin of IoT.

Some might argue that IoT is not new, maybe the patenting of the passive RFID in 1973 was the origin of IoT. By the 1980’s many manufacturing units were already connected. Some others like consumer goods were using a form of IoT. For example Coke was using a similar technology with its vending machines in 1980’s which was invented at the Carnegie Mellon University. 1980 was also the year CERN launched World Wide Web (WWW) and the internet was born. By 1990’s Wal-Mart had mandated all organizations that are displaying their goods to have advanced RFID chips. This had led to the famous spat between P & G and Wal-Mart. I am not sure who blinked first but for a while P & G was off the shelves at Wal-Mart.

By 2000’s we started connecting devices to the internet. Power grids and Energy companies started systems which were talking to each other. Soon cell phones were connected and then by 2008, we saw the inflection point on the number of connected devices. Today we have wearable devices that can send your physiological data to your physician that can help him or her track your health parameters like BP and sugar levels.

IoT in India is not new either. I know for example a hospital in Delhi-NCR region  had ambulances with  antennas on its top, ECG machines, and monitors along with physicians in the ambulance. This way despite the traffic jams in India, the critical records of the patients would arrive at the ER and the physicians and surgeons would make the necessary preparation for stabilizing the patient and save valuable time that otherwise they would have wasted in these tests. At that time Rajesh Batra who was head of technology, was able to make this work and get the physicians and management on board by demonstrating the value of IoT in an ambulatory set up.

“IoT has the potential to improve care” says Rajesh Batra , “But we need to be careful about security as it very easy for a breach which would be dangerous for a hospital”

He continues the same zeal in Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai where he currently is the CIO. He is also looking at integrating IoT with emerging areas like Omni Channel with iBeacons to give a truly connected experience at the hospital.

As I have written many times in the past, we in India have this unique opportunity to create a new healthcare model that can help 1.3 billion people manage their health. I think an important component of that is population health.

Now a hypothetical population health program could work on the principle of a hospital enrolling a set of patients who need chronic care, let’s say for example diabetes into a program. The program entails these patients to check their sugar levels regularly and through IoT their sugar levels get updated into a program dash board that the physician can see. If the sugar levels are within the parameter then there is no incident. But if the sugar levels rise or fall outside of the normal range. Then the system alerts the physician. The physician would check if this is one off case or is there is a regular pattern. Based on this he or she can intervene and schedule a checkup and enter the same in the record.

download-1-250x179Now this is a simple example, but helps us to understand how a potential IoT solution could work in population health. It would not only help in tackling chronic diseases in India, but could serve as the only option in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where access to hospitals is not available.

In subsequent pieces I would like to explore more areas in healthcare where IoT could have implications. I definitely see some Medical Devices companies taking the lead in this space. Also concerns around security need to be addressed, but would love to hear your views as well on this topic.