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World Health Day 2024: Role of technological advances for best possible healthcare

Technological improvements in healthcare benefit society and the industry. Healthcare systems must implement these creative ideas to improve healthcare delivery and medical issue resolution.

World Health Day 2024: Role of technological advances for best possible healthcare RBA
First Published Apr 7, 2024, 7:00 AM IST

Technological advancements in healthcare benefit society and the healthcare industry. Healthcare systems need to use these innovative solutions to improve healthcare delivery and improve medical problem-solving. These systems will likely gain importance in the coming years as healthcare is expected to focus primarily on the patient, who will take on the "health service consumer" role. This is imperative as patients want to seek control over their health management. The healthcare industry will be shaped based on the needs and expectations of this new "consumer of health services," which will require enhanced experiences with the main objectives of personalisation, comfort, speed, and urgent service delivery.

Apart from the primary goal of patient efficiency, these systems are likely to increase employee productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness in the operation of health units, as well as reduce operating costs. This is going to enable the goal of " attainment of the highest possible level of health and wellbeing for all at all ages".

Probably the most important digital innovation was the use of e-medical records. As an example, 75% of hospitals in the United States use electronic health record systems. India has also upped its game by adopting the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). This aims at not only empowering the individual with money for healthcare access in public or private centres but also allows the patient to securely store and access their medical records (such as prescriptions, diagnostic reports and discharge summaries) and share them with healthcare providers to ensure appropriate treatment and follow-up. 

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Thus, ABDM will empower individuals with accurate information to enable informed decision-making and increase healthcare providers' accountability. The problem has been coverage, which was probably a paltry 15 to 20 % until recently. Magnanimous efforts in public education and training need to be undertaken to reach the most far-flung areas of the country to achieve this dream.

Another grave challenge for a large country like India has been the availability of well-trained manpower (doctors, nurses, etc) to take care of the health in the peripheries. This challenge remained for a long time. One of the earliest innovations in this regard was the development of teleporting systems for radiology whereby the patient's scans were reviewed by a qualified radiologist in a city elsewhere, and reports were sent online, obviating the need to transport an extremely sick patient to a different city for emergent treatment. 

Various departments, like Radiation Oncologists, have adopted similar systems that can contour and plan patients remotely, enabling patients to receive treatment near their homes. Huge oncology facilities can be created on a hub-and-spoke model. If one delves deep into any medicine department, one will find the use of digital technology to expedite or reduce workload.


Necessity is the mother of invention. The onslaught of COVID-19 taught the healthcare industry this, making us wiser to adopt popular platforms like Zoom and Google MEET to consult patients and decide on the next management level. This also enabled the workforce to be streamlined and reduced the anxiety of patients and healthcare workers alike.

Now, having said all this, imagine what the world would be like to have so-called SMART hospitals. Hospitals using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could change the face of health, whether it is for the patient or the workforce. Imagine calling a hospital, wanting to see a specialist and you get a whole bunch of great doctors you could choose from by yourself based on self-assessment of your issue. 

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When you enter a clinic, your doctor has all your previous case records and treatment history even before you can bat your eyelids. They discuss your disease and treatment and then schedule a full board of doctors to see you in person or online, seeking opinions from the best in the business. Or having software devised based on internationally acclaimed guidelines where your data can be entered and treatment protocols returned for best outcomes. Imagine a hospital where the waiting times have vanished or been reduced by robots being used to perform routine procedures (robots don’t get fatigued like humans). 

Think of a place where your doctor has practiced hours for your surgery or radiation treatments using Automated and Virtual reality systems (reducing chances of human error and complications in complex procedures). Think of a day, when the nurses can quietly sit by your bedside and compassionately sympathize with you because a mobile health application did her mundane job of measuring vital signs and prescription refilling. 

Imagine a hospital where the pharmacy could easily dispense drugs because technology like RFID, GPS, or bar codes solved the problems of stocking and inventory.

Such seamless hospitals will only be possible when our overloaded healthcare systems start integrating and weaving together technologies like WiFi, GPS, 5G, Othogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), Mobile health services, Sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), AI services and Robotics.

Yes, technology is going to be a game changer in healthcare, and it is going to make hospitals really SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound). It is high time that we focus on its applications, research, and adoption to make India a great force to reckon with in healthcare. 

-Dr Gunjan Baijal, Consultant, Radiation Oncologist - Manipal Hospital Goa

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