There is a sea change in patient ecosystem and it continues to evolve : Sandeep Bothra
How do you look at ‘health’? A burden on financial resources and time. A limiting factor. A responsibility you wish you need not have. A situation that pushes people into poverty. Most likely the answer is a resounding ‘No.’ However, till a couple of decades back, the answer would have been a definite ‘Yes.’
Post liberalization and globalization of Indian economy – the huge change in demographics with 70% of the population in 18-30 age group, the telecommunications revolution and rising incomes – one area that has undergone a sea change is Patient ecosystem. And is still evolving rapidly!
Power to patients
Not long ago, healthcare was primarily driven by doctors from information to investments. When we delve deep to see how mindset of the patients has changed, we can observe several interesting factors that, today, influence decisions on health and medicare by patients.
Thanks to smartphone and high-speed internet, people are more aware and have in-depth health and medicare related information at their fingertips. There are more avenues, more options and more ways to connect with medical practitioners, facilities and patient communities – literally putting the power in patients’ hands.
Prevention over cure
The vast amount of information available today on diseases and their impact on health has put the focus on prevention over cure. More and more people – especially the educated, aware young people – give credence to preventive care. This has given a huge uptick to health education, nutrition, fitness and alternative fields of medicine as significant players in the healthcare industry.
From devices to tools to instruments, technology has changed the face of medicine. What used to be a complicated three-hour surgery with 10 days of hospitalization today could be a day care procedure with just few hours of in-hospital treatment. In eyecare sector, today, we have intra-ocular lens replacement for cataract, prescription lenses, computerized eye evaluation and painless laser eye surgeries. From bionic eyes to LED lenses, technology is moving closer to the goal of eliminating blindness.
But, is this what technology all about? Nay. Digital technologies and data science have changed medicare into a value-added service. From the way appointments are booked to consultations done to the overall experience of visiting a clinic/hospital, technology offers a different dimension to healthcare services.
Patient at the heart of practice
More aware and empowered patients have resulted in practitioners and healthcare centers focusing on better serving and treating the patient. Sample this. Today, the moment a patient undergoes a surgery, besides the doctor one of the regular visits is by the nutritionist.And then you have patient support groups, online communities, healthcare apps, counselling and the list goes on. These sources or touch points arm the patients with information about their choices, opinions & suggestions, so that they make an informed decision and consult their healthcare practitioner (HCP).
Affordability & Accessibility
Rising incomes and rising awareness among the young generation has led to the big change in the perception that health is not a cost but an investment in life. People are increasingly looking at health as adding more life to their lives. The offshoot of this is the multifold increase in the penetration of insurance and even customized options of insurance. It takes only a few minutes to buy insurance today and that too the buyer deciding the type and features based on his/her requirements.
Thanks to the penetration of insurance, the access to advanced medicare as well as access to emergency healthcare and treatment for dreaded diseases have all become possible. Enabling this development is the surge in healthcare infrastructure. It is becoming common for tier-2 and tier-3 towns to have multi-specialty hospitals with world-class facilities.
The lifestyle factor
While advances in medicine, greater access to modern medicare and the overall increase in the quality of healthcare meant that average life expectancy has increased dramatically, the exposure to western way of life has brought lifestyle diseases into play. Added to this is the perception of the new generation that health and wellness are an essential part of quality of life and something that is driven individually. In the last 10 years alone, several companies have started talking about health and wellness as a key corporate endeavor and a necessary ingredient of productivity.
In conclusion, what we are seeing is a transformation in the way health is perceived, care is accessed, and treatment is delivered. While it is power to patients with respect to information, options and choices, the overall positive result of this on quality, accessibility and infrastructure cannot be underestimated. However, this is just the beginning and there is a lot to be desired and achieved on these three essential elements of healthcare delivery. That’s a topic for debate for another day!