Over the last decade, India has been on the cusp of a major digital transformation. Fuelled by ‘Digital India’, a flagship programme which envisions transforming India into a digitally empowered country, the number of internet users in India has doubled to over 765 million in the last 5 years alone, making it clear that the future is definitely digital.
Be it the way we consume goods and services, to the way we make payments, learn or even access healthcare, digitization, powered by technology and innovation, has impacted our lives at a grassroot level. Even within healthcare, this digitization is helping tackle the long-standing issue of accessibility, affordability and quality, making it easier for patients sitting even in the remotest corners of the country to get access to quality healthcare, seamlessly.
To explore the future possibilities of digital healthcare and the existing tools, specially in general surgery and general medicine, we conducted the 23rd edition of the Practo Connect Webinar. Meant exclusively for doctors and healthcare professionals, the webinar which connects thousands of doctors virtually, was led by Dr. Alok Modi, MD (General Medicine), FACP, PGDL, Kevalya Hospital (Mumbai) and Dr. Manish Joshi, MS (General Surgery), DNB Surgical Gastroenterology, MRCS, Practo Care Surgeries (Bangalore).
Meeting the rising demand for digital solutions in General Medicine
While the popularity of digital healthcare has been on the rise since the past two decades, there is no denying that the unprecedented pandemic accelerated the rate at which digital healthcare was adopted and accessed by both patients and doctors. The need for staying safe and keeping distance during the pandemic propelled people to rely on technology to bridge the physical gap in a safe and comfortable manner.
Today, almost two years later, people have become more comfortable with leading and conducting their day-to-day activities virtually.
Although the advent of technology in healthcare began decades ago and has led to the introduction of various digital tools like digital stethoscope, 12 Lead ECG, wearables, remote monitoring sensors , Live Signal bio sensors, QT monitoring and so on, innovations like digital and infrared thermometer, COVID-19 throat patches, rapid response test kits, contact tracing apps came to the forefront during the pandemic, helping patients and healthcare practitioners reimagine and rethink the future of general medicine and the role technology can play it in. “A qualitative, logical and substantiated improvement can be seen in telemedicine and it is disrupting the way we practice medicine, connect with our patients and offer care. “ asserted Dr. Modi.
Through examples of sensors and wearable technology, Dr. Modi explained how it is possible for doctors to identify and monitor a patient’s food intake, drug intake, sleep patterns, teeth health, body vitals, overall health and even ascertain if the patient needs to be admitted to the hospital.
To add perspective to his statement, Dr. Modi also gave examples of how leading hospitals across India adapted to change and were quick in using technology to treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.”In addition to all the telemedicine tools, we also have robots who collect temperatures, collect necessary information of patients, take pictures of the patients, deliver medicine and thermometers, set up video consultations with doctors for further diagnosis and even sanitize and disinfect the environment and all of these were and put to test by leading hospitals during the pandemic.”
However, despite the overwhelming positive response to technology, there is still a long way to go, believes Dr. ModI. “Telecommunication is disrupting technology and that is the way ahead. So it is important for us as healthcare providers to get conversant with this kind of system if we want to be comfortable tomorrow. It is a brand new healthcare ecosystem that we need to walk into,” says Dr. Modi, adding that companies like Practo are at the forefront of this change. “It is one of the most tech-savvy integrated healthcare companies that is using technology to make optimum advantage to bridge the gap between us and our patients.”
Dr. Modi concluded his session by stating that technology when used in a proper, legal and supervisory manner will only make offering healthcare services seamless, effective and stress-free and it is important for everyone within the industry to champion this change, make their patients feel comfortable with new technologies and empower them to walk with the changing times.
Changing the face of surgical care through cost-effective technology, technique and training
There is no denying the fact that findings and innovations of the last 50 years have transformed surgery and the way clinical care is offered to patients. From minimally invasive surgeries to robotic surgeries, artificial intelligence, three-dimensional printing and new image methods, technology is already changing and will continue to change the way surgical care is delivered. And surgeons across the globe have largely been open to change and have adapted the best of technology to provide the most adequate care to their patients.
While earlier it took decades for newer technologies to see the light of the day, the changing demands, needs and willingness from the patients and doctors to try new technologies have fast-tracked the innovation and adaptation of surgical technology. “If you look back, it almost took 30-50 years for the stapler to be medically usable but since it has come into work, it has become a mainstay of any and most surgical procedures and you can see that it is only evolving and getting better and better,” adds Dr. Joshi who believes that the future of general surgery relies on 3 T’s-Technology, Technique and Training.
By using the right training, technology and techniques, doctors and patients can expect surgery to gradually become less invasive, accurate, painless, have faster recovery time and low risk. “The disease remains the same, the diagnosis is more or less evolving but what has changed drastically is the technique and it is something that will change in the future as well because newer technological innovations will give us more ways to treat the patient,” says Dr. Joshi, reiterating the importance of traditional methods. “The traditional methods will always be the gold standard because it is the foundation for everything else and only when you have a strong foundation, can you build bigger, taller and better buildings and adapt to newer changes.”
However, in contrast to other streams of medicine, where newer technologies are welcomed with open arms, technological advancements in general surgery comes with a huge challenge of increased cost—a problem which Dr Joshi believes can slow down the digital revolution within general surgery. He explained how even if hospitals are willing to invest in newer technologies, patients might not always be comfortable with the additional cost and the only way to overcome this is by finding cost-effective solutions. “I see a host of new things coming into the surgical space this decade and in addition to cost being a challenge, the only other roadblock to a digital future in surgery is our willingness to learn, unlearn, relearn and keep up with the changing times.”
Even so, despite the roadblock and the challenges that might stand in the way of making the future of general surgery truly digital, Dr. Joshi wholeheartedly believes that the future of surgery is exciting and full of change. “It is important for all of us to remember that change is the only constant and it is the only way we can ride the wave or be with the future, otherwise we will be left far behind.”
In case you missed the insightful session, you can watch the webinar here or if you are interested to know more about the other topics that we have covered under the Practo Connect webinars, you can click here.
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