Will Adoption of Digital Health Accelerate now!

Date: 27th August 2020


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Our fourth edition of the Webinar saw us talking on - Will Adoption of Digital Health Accelerate now? We were accompanied by our esteemed panellists


Samir Desai

Dr. Neha Tanna

Harry Paul

As we are 6 months into this COVID-19 Pandemic which is sure to sustain more than what we initially thought. The changes that took place in the whole world from the pre-covid time to the post-covid is tremendous. Healthcare & Healthtech is one of the biggest sectors which have experienced this change due to COVID-19.

The recent Apple watch series 4, which has launched by the company, enables users to take ECG from its own app and then send it back on cloud to be consumed by anybody. This example itself gives us a clue that we are standing at a pedestal where Telemedicine & Telehealth are going to hold the ground and continue in the months to come. Taking telehealth as a context which has transformed the Global Health Industry.

Further on, the webinar went into deep understanding about the transformation of the Healthcare Industry, wherein the panellist shared their respective views.

Samir started with his views on the Adoption of Digital Health Acceleration - As we should look at this transformation to digital journey in two parts - one which is the pre-covid part, where people were already very health conscious by joining gyms, yoga centres, consulting dieticians and health consultants. Thus the journey was on going from the pre-covid times where the transformation had a very core focus of an individual's day-to-day lifestyle in Urban Market. Whereas in Rural Market things like Telemedicine and Telehealth were experimented and were happening at a very slower pace. This was because as the adoption rate at villages was lower, the needs were more latent than patent and obviously the low economy rate. But at present things are transforming be it healthcare going digital or the current work pattern (WFH) or even considering changes in people's behaviour or habitats.

Neha further elaborated the topic with two angles - one with investor’s perspective and the other with the medical hat on. From an investor's perspective, March to July the startups that she has invested in were quite significantly focused on health outcomes and replaced patients' contact with Telemedicine and Telehealth drastically. Neha also agreed that COVID-19 has helped to accelerate the adoption of Digital Health, but still eagerly waiting to see what comes next in terms of Emerging Technology which can replace the human touch with digital technology, where the face-to-face interaction will no longer be necessary.

Harry carried forward his views on the same and mentioned that Digital Healthcare has been under development for quite some time now as Pandemic changed everything upside down and everybody had to adapt. So did the healthcare system around the world probably had to adapt it quickly in the biggest speed simply because of the necessity of the moment? In many countries the hospital had to repurpose so that the current resolous had to be focused on Pandemic, but they also had to adapt by providing alternatives to treat other patients. Many hospitals have found the need of repurposing as there is a greater need for Telemedicine and Telehealth Care also low investment is to be seen in hospitals. Number of Hospitals already have few Digital Healthcare Systems. The existing Digital Healthcare System will also need lots of improvement.

Here the Pandemic plays a vital role in the Digital Transformation. COVID-19 is more of a Catalyst for a lot of trends that has been going on for a while and is also going to accelerate in future. Post-Covid World is going to be very different as everyone is going to rely on Digital Health.

Further on, the webinar was carried forward wherein the panellist shared their respective views on shift towards Digital Healthcare in the Q&A session.

Earlier a push had to be given to the doctors or the healthcare service providers to adopt these technologies and ensure that it works efficiently. Since Covid has done exactly the reverse push wherein consumers are probably demanding these kinds of operations contact list, remote monitoring, digital transformation from the healthcare provider or from doctors.

Q. What do you believe are the different growth drivers or factors that will really influence the adoption across different stakeholders?

To which Samir answered that there are three to four things - one safety, second is convenience, third is the cost and fourth is scale. These are the four key factors which would completely transform the way healthcare is delivered today.

Consumerization is the most important aspect as that drives the entire change and the second aspect is the larger healthcare delivery par which resides largely on technologies. Giant companies are moving into cloud enablement on the health side. The second aspect is technology in the technology innovation i.e Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Augmented Reality, Robotics and NanoTechnology, which is going to shape the future growth of Digital Healthcare. And the third aspect is the adoption, which is the most important part around Telehealth, IoT, Remote Patient Monitoring. Technology will play a big role here. To summarise this, Technology and Convenience are two major things which will drive the growth of Digital Healthcare as we move forward.

Neha further answers it from the innovations side. From the startup world where the success stories come out of those whether there is a real problem that needs to be addressed and then there is a solution. It is a simple basic formula for a successful startup. They are in an unawarble factor that comes into it to get that product from the world who is going to pay for it. That is a question that comes up in healthcare quite a lot because consumer health is one thing which is very important, but who is going to pay for it?

When it comes to pharmaceutical companies and doctors that is another big area, we have seen a lot of companies saying that they want to disrupt the clinical trial space and devices. The thing with healthcare is you need hard outcomes. The problem in this area is the capital that is needed at the beginning . It is not as simple as putting something out in the market trialing it, iterating it as you go along and which is very important as it is harder in healthcare because people's lives or conditions are at risk. So who is going to pay for it is a key.

How are you going to prove its worth? So really what we are seeing is not only innovation in product but innovation in business modules and innovation in getting people to pay for it. These are going to be some of the drivers towards it.

There are a number of steps which had to be followed for drug companies for pharmaceutical companies to validate those technologies or even the solutions.

Harry shared his thoughts. So if we have a technology which can immediately show benefits in hospital settings or Health pairs, then nothing is highly likely as long as all clinical benefits are there as well. There is a high hood of it being adopted quickly and that is exactly what in some countries where hospitals are finding out their profit margins are changing because of the way they are changing their business approach.

There are many technologies which are already on their way to disrupting the traditional medical devices, for eg - 3D printing which is largely a data model with the printing element alongside.

There is no regulation for these kinds of technologies which will come in the near foreseeable future. Yet these people are using data already for facilitating diagnosis and a lot of models of leisens for eg - Knee surgery or even Heart surgery the physicians can talk to the patients about the procedures. Some of them are taking a step further and developing therapies which can be used in procedures which raises lots of questions as well from the regulatory perspective. So the economy is going to help the environment and improve clinical standards and processes.

Q. What is the shift that we are seeing wherein data is also used as a part of this different innovation which is happening and views on opportunities that will open up in further as long as data is made available at that point of consumption?

Samir replies that it is a huge opportunity for us and the opportunities are different for each of the segments. Technology becomes a very interesting backbone of enabling this healthcare delivery. For hospitals the very important aspects to improve the patient engagement and patient experience. They should make it easy for the patient so the patient finds it even easy to understand the problem and the given solutions.

Specifically, virtualization of data is seeing a lot of investments in hospitals. The mental insurance companies are now investing money on technology which will expedite the process of the digital transformation. Third important segment is the pharmaceutical companies which everyone knows are investing in clinical trials, drug discovery processes etc as well. The whole confluence is making a lot of changes the way we are doing.

Neha mentions that corporates and insurance companies all these are welcoming innovation. The transformation of innovation might be slower than E-Commerce but that is acceptable as it is the nature of the industry. From a startup point of view as a fund, a lot of effort and energy is spent trying to connect with big institutions that focus on corporates, insurance companies, and the public healthcare system. It is important as an investor to understand what are the gaps that they need filling because if they have a problem that a startup can solve then it is a much easier journey to the startup and for the founders. Both public and private sectors can drive a lot more innovation.

Harry adds his views which are largely focused on LatiN America with unique problems. It is because of 20+ different countries having different legislations and regulations where there are plenty of solutions around which will probably help to overcome those providers. So suddenly there are lots of opportunities in Latin America with in cooperation new digital technologies in two areas which are clinical studies to study. The opportunity for making these studies more efficient. Suddenly there is enough in terms of patients so it is obviously accelerating and improving the quality of clinical studies. Secondly the area has a huge opportunity, not sure how quickly it will be adopted because of the circumstances. ECTD is the area where there are a lot of opportunities to advance. The capabilities here are ready to adopt new technology and implement. But for the longer term definitely it is going to be a way of improving and accelerating the adoption of technology and also it is going to help people talk in the communication region. The challenges we are going to face is adopting each model of healthcare system. The mix between private and public, they operate in two different ways, that is going to be a challenge. But all kinds of technology is going to save people's money.

Kaushal mentions his views and questions. The issue here is as everyone said that technology existed. We are monitoring everything all the time whether it is weather or temperature. But we are monitoring our own health 24/7. So what we are talking about is disease care not healthcare. Digital health should be able to help us in preventive care, if we keep on monitoring and keep on having various diagnostics tools and everything exists today for eg - H&W Health Monitoring Watch, Apple Watch, the different diagnostics tools. So clearly the preventive measure can be a big benefit of digital healthcare but as it requires a lot of money. This industry requires lots of money to be invested.

Q. Do you see a role of large NPO or other foundations and where do you think the money can come from?

To which Harry replies that definitely there is an opportunity from people like Bill Gates to invest in this technology. Mostly private investors are going to drive the innovation because of the risk. There are some countries where we do have funds dedicated for this kind of thing and new ideas are being generated to grow. So not sure where the large amount is going to come from for this innovation.

Samir adds his views by dividing the capital going into three parts - one part is ensuring the unequals are made equal and that capital which makes unequal - equal on healthcare funds should come through philanthropists. The second aspect of this is making innovation have to come as a capital from corporates. And the third aspect of that is the users or the impacted parties or people who are part of the delivery chain they have to put in the capital, whether it is through hospitals or insurance companies or even pharmaceutical companies.

Neha also shares her view - We have seen the fastest growing startups for those who are in the healthcare delivery space. Because of COVID-19 situation has changed the people's mindset of their interaction with healthcare. The mindset change is also going to drive the technology change. In some countries the government is providing capital from the very beginning.

Q. How does data adherence play a role in conveying the right kind of data?

To which Samir answers by dividing it in two markets - US & India. The US has to be through better patient engagement portals and better patient engagement solutions which are deployed largely by the providers. That can solve the challenge. India has a very unique challenge. The mindset to realise something needs a certain amount of medication. The mindset here needs to realise the importance of proper medication or treatment.

To summarise the whole webinar, it is very clear that the adoption of Digital Healthcare is the norm. But however there are a number of stakeholders or growth drivers that will contribute to it.