This century will witness the dawn of digital healthcare

This century will witness the dawn of digital healthcare

By DR Prerna Motwani | | 13 August, 2016
Indian health care has grown considerably in the last 70 years.
Looking at the big picture of Indian healthcare, we come across one of the most resounding success stories of post-Independence India. But the challenges that lie ahead are by no means easy to tackle.

According to WHO, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Health and healthcare have always been an integral part of the Indian State. From eradicating polio to waging a war against HIV our government has initiated various policies and acts for the benefit of public health.

Health Care in Pre-Independence Era

Medicine as we know today in India is a product of amalgamation of various civilizations and their knowledge over the years. Ayurveda originated in the Vedic period, over time. And with invasions from foreign lands came other forms of medical practices like Unani and Homeopathy. Be it Greek, Mughal, Frenchmen at our coast or Chinese traveller; any contact with foreign land brought with it the knowledge which shaped the health care in India. 

Evidence of practicing some form of medicine has also been discovered during the excavation of Indus Valley Civilization, which means that healthcare existed in the pre historic era also.

Modern medicine or allopathy as we know today was introduced to us by the Britishers. Allopathy was first established as dispensaries for British people which went on to become hospitals. General Government Hospital, Madrs was one such hospital. Founded in 1664 by East India Company, was the first medical institution in India. 

Although healthcare for Indians was in a dismal state in pre independent India and a large part of the population depended on traditional medicine, British Raj established the Modern Medicine as it is practiced today.

 

With economic liberalisation of 1980s came the National Health Policy which made health in India a responsibility of the states than the Central Government. Prior to that health policies were mainly focused on achieving targets set by Central Government in the given number of years or controlling epidemics.

Health care in an Independent India 

As a land of 1.25 Billion, Indian health care has grown considerably in last 70 years. The first five year plan, formulated in 1951 by Jawahar Lal Nehru addressed the pressing issues of Children Health, Infant Mortality Rate and the population growth. 

Since the first five year plan, healthcare was never on the agenda of Indian Reformers for many years. This led to expansion of private practiced in post colonial India. These private practices form the central part of the health sector even today, due to which providing a universal healthcare plan has become a challenge for our present day policy makers.

With economic liberalisation of 1980s came the National Health Policy which made health in India a responsibility of the states than the Central Government. Prior to that health policies were mainly focused on achieving targets set by Central Government in the given number of years or controlling epidemics. 

The National Health Policy was introduced in 1983 and updated in 2002. It has focussed on plethora of Health Issues in India. Malnutrition, infant mortality rate, women’s health issue, rural health issues and eradication of communicable diseases are some of the goals mentioned in national health policy. 

Since the last few decades, healthcare in India has improved significantly. The system has been able to eradicate polio and control the spread of other communicable diseases, reducing the burden on our hospitals. However, our health care is far from perfect. It is no secret that medical professionals are largely out numbered and the patient:doctor ratio is skewed. Moreover, there are no policies to ensure the quality of health care services to be provide. 

Fortunately, our government recognises these challenges and steps are been taken to rectify these shortcomings. With the upcoming reform in the National Health Policy in 2017, it is expected to introduce Uniform Health Coverage ans well as policies to promote “good health at low cost” .

Government is also taking a keen interest in digitalising the healthcare industry. With the setting up of National eHealth Authority(NeHA)  it is left to be seen how will the implementation of integrating IT with healthcare take place. 

A lot of private players are already in the arena, trying to tackle the issues of this industry. The 21st century is going to be the century of digital healthcare for India. Apps like practo are already working towards making appointments for doctors easy. Apps like Curofy and Dailyrounds have made platforms for doctors to discuss cases and enhance their knowledge. Many new startups are also working towards introducing Electronic medical records in India. Digital healthcare is the future of India and we have started taking incremental steps towards this vision. 

The writer is content manager for Curofy, a healthcare app

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