Outlook 2022: Healthcare leaders call for imbibing cutting-edge tech advancements

With the digital technologies like extended reality, cloud systems, big data, and artificial intelligence taking the center stage, the pandemic has almost entirely changed how the healthcare industry in India operates

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New Delhi: “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fault lines in the public health system of the country. As hospitals ran out of beds, oxygen cylinders, ventilators, and key drugs used in managing the disease, both the private and government sector worked in tandem to tackle the situation,” says Dr. Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare.
Dr Narang adds further: “In order to effectively manage the outbreak, the Indian government also leveraged technology and developed various applications both at the central and state-levels. Digital transformation in healthcare such as telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI)- enabled medical devices and blockchain electronic health records are reshaping how we interact with health professionals, besides data sharing among providers, decisions about our treatment plans and overall health outcomes. This is going to be the future of healthcare. There has also been an increased awareness of health insurance products in the past few years and more people are investing in health insurance with each passing year. Health insurance and healthcare delivery synergies are going to be prominent in the coming year. The ever-evolving situations and the ongoing pandemic eventually helped healthcare providers cover their journey from digitisation to digitalisation. Imbibing cutting-edge technological advancements has thus become critical for the sector to keep abreast with the ever-evolving world.”
“The year 2021 was a challenging one for India’s health sector, as the lethal second wave of coronavirus struck. As a result, an unprecedented number of people lost their lives and there was unparalleled suffering for countless others. It did, however, serve as a valuable lesson for the entire healthcare industry, leading to the resurrection and upgrading of health infrastructure in both the public and private sectors. We not only have a completely functional oxygen plant but are also now fully equipped to face new challenges, such as Omicron, with a team of experienced doctors and paramedical staff. As we approach 2022, I strongly advise everyone to take both the doses of the vaccine, if already not taken. Also, continue to observe social distancing measures, wear masks, practise hand hygiene and adhere to all the guidelines issued by the Indian government, says Dr. H S Chhabra, Director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.
Sharing his Dr Aashish Chaudhry, Managing Director, Aakash Healthcare says, “As the New Year approaches, we hope to complete the trials for the children’s Covid vaccine. As a  part of our overall development and expansion plans, we will establish a World Class Bone and Joint program/hospital in Gurgaon by next year. The new venture will serve as an Orthopedics, Joint Replacement, and Spine Hospital. In addition, we intend to open a new Cancer Hospital in Dwarka. which will provide comprehensive cancer care  including Radiation and BMT (Bone Marrow Transplant). We are almost about to launch our State of the art Liver Transplant Program at our existing Dwarka Hospital, Multiple clinics as well as Super Speciality Hospitals are about to crop up in North India. A couple of our international projects  are also in the pipe line for 2022.”
Vikram Thaploo, CEO, Apollo Telehealth, a unit of Apollo Hospitals Group in his outlook statement says: “During the lockdown, both the patients and the healthcare practitioners realized the importance of digitisation. The pandemic has almost entirely changed how the healthcare industry in India operates. With telehealth, hospitals are now also concerned about reaching patients online, how to deliver and protect patient information. Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are being increasingly adopted by service providers to virtually manage patients, predict and prevent illnesses, and improve clinical outcomes. There’s been almost an 80 per cent rise in consumption of digital healthcare services after COVID-19. Digital technologies like extended reality, cloud systems, big data, and artificial intelligence are taking the center stage to enhance user- experience and increase process efficiency. These technologies have accelerated digital Health, remote patient monitoring and timely clinical protocols.”
“In the coming years too, digital health applications & 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,” adds Thaploo.
Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, Entod Pharmaceutical  says: “The healthcare market can increase three-fold to Rs. 8.6 trillion (US$ 133.44 billion) by 2022. In 2020, in a very short period, Covid-19 became an unparalleled disruption to every area of the healthcare industry. Despite initial hiccups, the healthcare system in India managed to withstand the pandemic. The different efforts in manufacturing of medical equipment, disposables, drugs and the most recent vaccine efforts made by India has placed us as a global leader. Primary healthcare has become accessible to the needy and poor through digital interventions. Even in areas like clinical trials, there is less intervention in terms of human repetitive reviews due to use of technological tools like Artificial Intelligence (AI). The country’s competitive advantage lies in the increased success rate of Indian companies in getting Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) approvals. India also offers vast opportunities in R&D as well as medical tourism.”
Sharing his outlook, Masurkar adds: “After the pandemic, governments and organizations are more focused towards building digital infrastructure and preventive healthcare which will surely pave the way to a brighter future for the healthcare industry in the years to come. ENTOD has grown by 45% year on year (YOY) in the Ophthalmic and Otological market as per the IQVIA MAT Nov 21 data. We have also gained the maximum market share 0.93% in this segment during this period. We expect to maintain the same growth in the next financial year too due to the momentum generated in the market and the launch of our new divisions, new innovative products and proposed increased field force numbers.”
“With telemedicine and app-based online pharmacies becoming more of a constant surrounding our daily lives spurring innovations in related devices and equipment, the coming year will also 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 musculosketal conditions. However I must add that for AI-based ventilators to become a reality, more time would be needed,” says Ashok Patel, CEO and Founder, Max Ventilator (India’s leading ventilator manufacturer).
“While make-in-India has gained momentum with the view to become more self-reliant, the Chinese products have received a setback. This means that quality will determine the entry of new products and more rigorous quality checks will increasingly become a norm. The coming year will also see major investment and focus on medical device components and parts in the country. At the same time, given the surging omicron cases outside India and a repeat of the same not totally being out of question in India, Covid-related devices and equipment will continue to remain a focus of attention of manufacturers in the country in the coming year,” adds Patel.
As per Dr. Ankit Gupta, Managing Director, Park Group of Hospitals “2021 was one of the most challenging years for the Indian healthcare system as the country was plagued by the devastating second wave of Covid. This put an additional strain on the healthcare infrastructure, but the country rallied and triumphed. This was also the year when India ramped up its Covid vaccination campaign, reaching 85%with one dose and 50% with both doses. Taking a cue from the second wave, the private and public sectors have both improved their healthcare infrastructure. As we enter the new year, we should focus even more on increasing immunization rates. This is also the year that children should begin receiving Covid vaccinations. This will aid us in our fight against various Covid variants, including Omicron. People should also maintain a vigilant mindset, wearing masks, using hand sanitizers, and keeping social distance.”