Posted by Admin on February 17, 2015

Recently, the World Health Organization released 10 facts on the state of global health. Some of the key highlights are:

  • Around 6.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year.

  • Pre-term birth is the leading cause of infant mortality.

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of adult deaths.

According to other reports, approximately 80% of coronary heart disease, 90% of type-II diabetes, and more than 50% of cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes such as proper diet and exercise. Almost all premature infant deaths can be prevented if there is access to simple and affordable facilities such as proper breastfeeding, inexpensive vaccines and medication, clean water and sanitation.

As of now, in India, an underlying problem of unequal access to, and underutilisation of, information are key issues in effective health care. This can initially be corrected by shifting the focus of care delivery from acute care to long-term management of chronic diseases. Technology has to be purposed for rapid and consistent dissemination of information for consumers to make informed health care choices. This is important because simple and cost-effective care can have a colossal impact on saving lives. Currently, collation of medical information and all the technological advances being made have limited value because they do not transfer efficiently across providers, customers, and databases. The information is mostly static and scattered.

Creating digital health records, which let people access real-time medical information on personal mobile devices, is a step ahead. Smart cards are also a viable alternative. Simple as they sound, such measures can enable patients to take charge of their own health. Another point in delivery transformation is to provide care in new settings such as retail stores, workplaces, and homes.

Oslo (Norway) has shown the way. It has installed sensor networks for the elderly and mounted screens with Skype. They allows care providers to keep a tab on consumers virtually. They can issue spoken reminders about medication as well as general health and safety checks. The project has resulted in big savings for the government over what it cost to keep patients in nursing homes.

The Department of Information Technology, government of India, has spearheaded several e-health initiatives in collaboration with state governments. These include telemedicine network in West Bengal for diagnosing and monitoring tropical diseases, an oncology network in Tamil Nadu and Kerala for cancer care, and specialty health care in Himachal Pradesh.

India’s burgeoning use of smartphones also proves to be a significant advantage. Installed with apps to measure the body’s vital signs, smartphones can tell us when we are ill, alert responsible agencies to check the spread of any infectious diseases, and become a great delivery point.

A smart city cannot be truly smart if its inhabitants are unhappy, or if their welfare is not a priority cause for the deployment of technology. Although the problems in health care are of huge proportions, we have reason for optimism when we consider that the solutions are, to a great extent, inherent in the advances already made. They just need to be sharpened at a targeted audience.