Note from India: Healthcare technology and the untapped potential of digitalisation

idhn-300x274 copy.jpg

In response to persistent health challenges, start-ups are leveraging technology with the aim of providing higher quality and more widely available healthcare in India’s cities.

India has a young and rapidly growing urban population. Government-sponsored urban development schemes have incrementally provided city dwellers with facilities offering improved quality of life. Change has been most significant in sanitation, public transport, and overall governance. But while Indian urbanites are enjoying improved infrastructure and better access to technological advancements, they remain exposed to a number of health risks. Demand for quality and affordable healthcare services in the country is on the rise. As a result, health care providers are scaling up with digital technologies to reach more consumers and provide better solutions.

Persistent health challenges

Despite improvement of living standards in some areas, chronic diseases are becoming more frequent in India. A leading healthcare service provider recently conducted an assessment of disease and illness trends across 35 Indian cities. The study reports increased visits to specialists for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and as spine and gastric conditions. While life expectancy in India has improved, the country’s urban health situation is in some respects witnessing a new low. According to recent study by the World Health Organization, India will lose $236.6 billion by 2020 as a result of unhealthy lifestyles.

Start-ups in India are increasing the reach of healthcare services across the country  (Source:  ELITechGroup ).

Start-ups in India are increasing the reach of healthcare services across the country (Source: ELITechGroup).

The promise of digitisation

Urban India has a high concentration of health-care providers, yet not everyone has easy access to health care. With this in mind, digital health start-ups are building innovative solutions, enabling patients with better access to treatment and preventive care. Stasis Labs and mfine are two such startups.

The Bengaluru-based Stasis Labs was founded by Dinesh Seemakurty and Michael Maylahn in 2015 with the aim of increasing the accessibility and affordability of healthcare in Indian cities. Seeking to address inefficient nurse-patient ratios in hospitals, they developed a cloud-connected vitals-monitoring product for patients who require close attention. Stasis Labs’ remote patient monitoring system measures six core vital signs, deploys predictive artificial intelligence at the bedside for diagnosis, and provides actionable insights to doctors working remotely. Using the Stasis App, doctors can remotely manage vulnerable patients on their smartphones, and Stasis has helped eliminate unnecessary ICU (Intensive Care Units) admissions, helping prioritise late night emergency trauma cases. Through the use of cloud-based technology and AI, Stasis aspires to transform the way urbanites receive medical treatment.

“A hospital on the cloud and a doctor for every Indian” - this is the motto of the founders of mfine, Prasad Kompalli and Ashutosh Lawania. mfine is an artificial intelligence-powered healthcare platform with a number of functions. First, the start-up gives Bangaloreans online access to doctors from numerous hospital networks in the city. Second, mfine’s has built a “virtual doctor” that can diagnose and decide the order of treatment for over 1,000 common diseases. Finally, mfine’s cloud-based platform facilitates instant video consultations, remote prescriptions, and medication reminders. It also helps organise health records and long-term care programmes. mfine’s cofounder and CEO, Prasad Kompalli, claims that the company’s AI engine provides accurate diagnoses in more than 90% of cases.

In India, digitalisation is contributing to the health and well-being of those who have access to technology. Meanwhile, Indians are gaining increasing access to such technology while digital healthcare companies continue to scale. Though the health challenges in India remain serious, the technology industry is beginning to pull its weight.

Srividya Yiruvanti is an IT professional, with 12 years of experience in the industry. She is also a freelance writer focused on digital trends in India.

This piece was edited by Dr. Binti Singh and Diana Huynh.