Technology and Health Care
Mains syllabus: Science and Technology Awareness in the fields of IT, Nano Technology, Bio Technology etc. – (GS paper III)
Context: While using cutting-edge technology, we need to find ways to continuously lower the cost of healthcare
Healthcare is no stranger to change — in fact, the most impactful transformations in human life have happened in healthcare. Time’s cover three years ago showed the picture of a child with the headline, “This baby could live to be 142 years old”. That is the extent of the breakthrough in longevity that modern medicine has been able to achieve. Healthcare in India too has been transformed over the last three decades, and India has done good progress in terms of improved indices on life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal deaths and quality of outcomes.
Role of Information and Bio- Technology in Health Sector
- Information technology and biotechnology are twin engines, with immense potential to transform the mechanics of care delivery.
- Telemedicine has already brought healthcare to the remotest corners of the country.
- The use of artificial intelligence for preventive and predictive health analytics can strongly support clinical diagnosis with evidence-based guidance, and also prevent disease.
- From the virtual reality (VR) of 3D-printing, we are now moving towards augmented reality (AR), by which, for example, every piece of node in a malignant melanoma can be completely removed, thereby eliminating the risk of the cancer spreading to any other part of the body.
- Biotechnology, cell biology and genetics are opening up whole new paradigms of understanding of human life and disease, and have made personalised medicine a way of life.
Largest health scheme
- India’s change imperative has become even more pronounced with the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana Abhiyan, or National Health Protection Mission (NHPM), under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat.
- This major shift in approach to public health addresses the healthcare needs of over 500 million Indians in the first stage through what is probably the world’s largest public health-for-all insurance scheme.
- The vast scale of the programme requires reimagining an innovative model which will transform healthcare delivery in the country. By leapfrogging through smart adoption of technology and using emerging platforms such as Blockchain, significant improvements are possible in healthcare operations and costs.
- The private health sector is committed to support this programme, and ensure its success, because we are beneficiaries of society’s social licence to operate, and it is our responsibility to make sure this programme reaches the most vulnerable and the under-privileged, for whom it is intended.
- At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to ensure that the sector is sustainable in the long term. For India to grow, healthcare as an engine of the economy needs to flourish.
- The Private sector, which has contributed over 80% of the bed additions in the last decade, needs to earn healthy rates of return on investment to continue capital investment in infrastructure, technology upgrades, and to have the ability to acquire top clinical talent, which can lead to differentiated outcomes. In our quest to achieve low-cost healthcare, we must not inhibit our potential for growth, nor isolate ourselves from exciting global developments.
The way forward
The prescription is clear. We need to achieve a balance between staying at the cutting edge of clinical protocols, technology and innovation and continue to deliver world-class care, while finding increasingly efficient ways of operating to continuously lower the cost of care and bring it within the reach of those who cannot afford it. This is a difficult balance to achieve, but not impossible. And when accomplished, India would have found an answer that can be an example for the rest of the world to emulate.