Digital inclusivity is a must for achieving equitable access to healthcare

India is likely to have 1 billion digital health users by 2030


HYDERABAD: Digital technology is expected to transform every facet of healthcare in the near future. However, many may be left behind in this transformation if policies do not address the issues of digital literacy, inclusivity, and last-mile connectivity. Access to digital technology may become as important as other social determinants of health in determining the health status of populations in the future says Dr. Krishna Reddy Nallamalla, President, InOrder, the Health Systems Institute & South Asia Regional Director, ACCESS Health International

Digital technology, through telemedicine, offers access to doctors around the clock. It enables people to place an order for drugs and diagnostics to be delivered at home. It enables people to access their health records in one place irrespective of where they received healthcare and share their health data through a consent mechanism. It can provide health information to guide people in navigating complex health systems, especially during epidemics and other health crises. It can enable accessing loans for health needs more easily and efficiently.

Tele-medicine could save India between 4-5 billion USD every year. In rural India where the doctor-patient ratio is as low as one doctor per 25,000 citizens, tele-consultation is no longer an option but a necessity. India is likely to have 1 billion digital health users by 2030. India already has 400 million digital health users who have used telehealth, home health, home testing, e-pharmacies and other digitally powered offerings

People who are not comfortable with technology can be assisted by a community worker or a frontline health worker. However, there should be reliable and fast connectivity even to remote places. People should be able to afford the necessary hardware like smartphones or tablets or personal computers and the charges involved in using the technology. The download speeds should be reasonable to have fast services. The power supply should be reliable.

Investment needed to ensure universal digital health access is small compared to the economic returns in terms of increased efficiency of health systems and improved productivity of people. Some countries and philanthropic funds are making digital public goods accessible to disadvantaged countries and communities towards inclusivity.

As global health actors and countries formulate their policies for national digital health systems, it is imperative to keep digital inclusivity in mind.

India is likely to have 1 billion digital health users by 2030

  • 85 per cent clinicians used teleconsultation and digital platforms during the lockdown
  • 50 per cent doctors found digital platforms to be an effective tool for patient interactions
  • 80 per cent Tele- consultation services were from first time users
  • 44 per cent Tele-consultations were from non-metro cities
  • 67 per cent drop in-person doctor visits

(By Dr Krishna Reddy Nallamalla, President, InOrder, the Health Systems Institute, South Asia Regional Director, ACCESS Health International)

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