Posted by Admin on January 27, 2015

According to a study by IBM, most health care systems around the world will become unsustainable by 2015. The debate and problems centering on health care provisions in developed countries like the U.S. and Britain suggest that this statement may not be far off the mark.

Developing countries like India, which have deep-rooted infrastructural iniquities are hard pressed to come up with alternative methods of delivery in health care and other services. One issue is scale. There are 1.2 billion people in India. The second is delivery. Approximately 750 million people live in villages. Access is a significant issue, as with other services. Third, India’s health care workforce is quite small, given the global average. As per World Health Organization data, there are seven physicians per 10,000 people. The regional average is 5.9. This is a serious imbalance in the system where supply is in no way synced to demand. Fourth, India is a lower-middle-income country and the challenge is to deliver care in a way that keeps costs manageable.

Mindful of the conditions, the George Institute for Global Health and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (Oxford University) have run a trial SMART (Systematic Medical Appraisal Referral Treatment) health project in India. The project utilises health infomediaries – nurses, midwives, and so on who have greater presence, especially in rural India (17.1 per 10,000 people on a country basis, 15.3 per 10,000 regionally). This initiative is coupled with the widespread use of cellphones. Approximately 80% of the population owns one.

For the project, these health workers have been trained to use a smartphone programme with custom-designed software to identify and manage people with heart problems. Management of chronic diseases is more effective with such measures, which focus on education, early detection and enhanced management.

Another option which has been discussed is the use of smart cards which collate all physical and virtual data for the convenience of both consumer and provider. These cards can empower citizens to take care of their own health and play an active role in health care schemes.

As the world witnesses an explosion of chronic diseases, there is also unprecedented expansion of innovative technologies which can help spread awareness and keep illness in check. There are already experiments such as SMART and Cloudtree in India, which augur well for our digital future.