During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare ecosystem experienced something exacerbating it was not prepared for or had not planned for. The intensified impact stretched beyond the capacity of existing healthcare infrastructure due to relevant social distancing protocols. As a result, even the most advanced economies like the US and the UK faced challenges in delivering high-quality care to patients.
The dire need for digital intervention
India is a highly diversified country which makes it challenging for healthcare authorities to ensure universal health coverage across cities. This can be understood with WHO’s fact that prescribes a doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000. However, in India, the ratio stands around 0.7:1000. Furthermore, there are over six lakh villages where 70% of India’s rural population resides and the number of doctors is one-fourth of those present in urban areas.
Considering the Indian healthcare landscape, the ongoing crisis proved to be a catalyst in expediting the digital transformation journey of rural healthcare. The healthcare industry has undergone a major transformation with the adoption and deployment of disruptive technologies, including but not limited to, telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual care for patients, and cloud computing platforms. Now, with the world and the healthcare community approaching the New Normal, it is critical that providers keep an eye on the future and reinforce their telehealth solutions to ensure that they continue providing high-quality care using technology. Fintech companies are now recognizing the way that the health of populations is affecting the world's markets, and are looking at new business opportunities that could address immediate healthcare needs for large populations that have no other financial resources to cover unexpected health costs. In India, where almost 70% of the population is isolated in rural areas away from health care hubs, digital lending coupled with telemedicine could allow them access to good healthcare.
Digital Lending for reducing the financial burden in healthcare
Digital lending is a new technology that involves all processes of borrowing and lending such as loan application, approval, disbursal, and repayment taking place remotely over the web or mobile apps. With digital lending options in healthcare, people can avail instant medical emergency loans by uploading documents on a digital lending platform and getting approved with minimum paperwork. Digital lending apps leverage a combination of business models such as peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding along with new-age technologies such as AI, automation, and data analytics. This enables them to cover healthcare expenses and the cost of treatment of borrowers with low credit scores and low-moderate incomes. Instead of being coerced into a vicious cycle of ill-health and poverty, digital lending can widen the ambit of financial and healthcare inclusion for many underserved and marginalized communities. Based on financial inclusion, digital lending could also take major steps to lower the barriers to finance for health care. Digital lending has the potential to expand financial access, which will, in turn, improve healthcare access.
Improving the reach of Teleconsultation:
The majority of the Indian population resides in rural areas where people opt for government medical facilities or highly localized doctor clinics. Lack of monetary support, transportation facilities, underdeveloped roads, and other factors affect the accessibility of healthcare in rural areas. Teleconsultation has emerged to bridge the healthcare connectivity prevalent in the Indian healthcare ecosystem for ages.
Using technology, patients in rural areas no longer have to visit urban medical centers, unless it’s an emergency. Teleconsultation helps healthcare stakeholders to monitor patients’ health remotely through the use of smart surveillance and analytical tools. For example, through teleconsultation, doctors or care providers can be notified about the patient’s movement, changes in their activity, etc. This type of preventive care reduces unnecessary costs, helps patients rest in their own homes for longer, and further helps doctors to tailor the treatment as per the patient’s convenience. This reduces the financial burden of healthcare expenses on patients living in small towns and cities while providing them access to quality healthcare.
The use of teleconsultation also helps patients to have a sense of ownership while undergoing medical treatment. Patients who live in rural areas or small towns often compromise on their healthcare treatments due to inadequate healthcare infrastructure and facilities in their areas. However, teleconsultation empowers them to become more involved in their treatment plan and feel more comfortable when they are managed well at home through digital health. It supplements the overburdened healthcare ecosystem of the country by improving access, convenience, and efficiency of healthcare delivery – for all.
Today, people rely heavily on hospitals for severe medical conditions. In that scenario, the use of teleconsultation can play a pivotal role in deciding whether the patient needs a bed in an upmarket private hospital or can be treated at home with a healthcare professional’s assistance. The latest innovation in healthcare also extends healthcare facilities to remotest locations supporting the areas with inadequate healthcare facilities or infrastructure.
Unlocking the full potential of the digital healthcare industry will require robust connectivity and better integration of digital services, including digital identities, as well as fintech solutions. Touted to transform the current state of the population in India, teleconsultation and digital lending has immense potential to drive financial inclusion through last-mile connectivity. Considering their penetration and India’s burgeoning population, digital health platforms have barely scratched the surface and have many miles to cover and many lives to impact. With the help of new-age technologies combined with healthcare innovations, India can achieve both financial inclusion and universal health coverage.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.