Healthcare delivery in the country is going to witness further changes this year in the wake of continuing Covid-19 pandemic. Segments like home healthcare, mental health screening and use of technologies like telemedicine, Artificial Intelligence and robotics in healthcare delivery are going to gain more traction, say experts.

There has been an almost 80% rise in consumption of digital healthcare services after Covid-19, shares Vikram Thaploo, CEO, Apollo Telehealth, a unit of Apollo Hospitals Group. "These technologies have accelerated digital health, remote patient monitoring and timely clinical protocols. In the coming years too, digital health applications and therapeutics, personal health wearables, and AI, NLP (neural language processing), robotics process automation or the RPA-enabled process accelerators in clinical prediction, operational transformation and compliance improvement will further drive and shape the future of healthcare," he says.

Consumer-facing telemedicine will continue to manage acute and chronic diseases and telemedicine will become more mainstream and will improve healthcare access in remote areas, feels Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, founder & director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.

"In order to effectively manage the outbreak, the Indian government also leveraged technology and developed various applications both at the central and state-levels. Telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI)- enabled medical devices and electronic health records are reshaping how we interact with health professionals, besides data sharing among providers, decisions about treatment plans and overall health outcomes", adds Dr. Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare.

There has been an increased emphasis on making low-cost lifesaving devices such as ventilators and oxygen concentrators and the norm of four beds per ventilator will become a reality, says Ashok Patel, CEO and founder, Max Ventilator. "The coming year will see more action in big data, AI and machine learning-based disease prediction technologies, apart from a push to more sophisticated surgical devices meant for a range of conditions such as neurological, cardio-vascular, oncological, orthopedic or musculoskeletal conditions."

With fast spreading Omicron, mental stress needs top attention, adds Bajaj. "As the cases of Omicron are increasing, it looks like remote working will continue going into 2022, possibly for the first three months. This signifies that we have to strengthen our mental health care as more isolation will result in more mental health issues like depression, stress and anxiety."

Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of health globally, but the pandemic has further worsened the scenario. Several studies have documented increase in mental health issues. Today, nearly 1 billion people live with a mental disorder, and in low-income countries, more than 75% of people with the disorder do not receive treatment, according to Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee, Poddar Foundation. "Last month, the Union government had issued guidelines saying that COVID-19 facilities in the country should provide for psychiatric consultation as well. But investing in mental health requires a multi-sectoral and integrated approach. It entails a 'whole of society approach', with community-based involvement, along with primary care services, public health, social protection, jobs, and education", she says.

Robotics and Artificial intelligence will change treatment of orthopedics patients too. "Many home-grown medical device startups have been emerging, which will help ensure more availability of orthopedic robots, making the whole replacement surgery process more accurate and cost-effective. Besides robotics, the next step in orthopedics is 3D printing of patient-specific implants. This would bring a revolution in the treatment of many orthopedic problems,” says Dr. Shubhang Aggarwal, director and orthopaedic & robotic joint replacement surgeon, NHS Hospital, Jalandhar.

2022 will be an year of innovation and grassroots penetration, opines Dr. Gauri Agarwal, founder & director, Genestrings Diagnostic Centre and Seeds of Innocence. Newer diagnostic research and development in home diagnosis, affordable and easy to implement molecular testing and digital care using IoT will enable this penetration.

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