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The Future of Wearable Tech

The global healthcare industry is at the edge of a third wave of IT acceptance. In order to bring in an era of prosperity, we need to understand the demand of patients and the existing myths.

Kuldeep Malik        Last Updated: September 26, 2016  | 19:14 IST

Kuldeep Malik
The global healthcare industry is at the edge of a third wave of IT acceptance. In order to bring in an era of prosperity, we need to understand the demand of patients and the existing myths. Catering to a greater proportion of the population, India has become one of the leading destinations for high-end diagnostic services with tremendous capital investment for advanced diagnostic facilities. Further, consumers have become more conscious towards their healthcare upkeep.

With the growing technology and consumer awareness, healthcare apps can play an important role in enhancing patients' health. There are various easy-to-use health-and-fitness wearable technologies, which not only help modify behaviour but also act as a reminder to a person for daily care like exercise routine setting or taking medicines on time.

The Indian wearable sensors market is expected to increase to $18.29 million by 2018 at a CAGR of 48.49 per cent over the period 2014-2020 (source: Report Buyer India wearable sensor market March 2016). Based on the available sales trends, fitness bands secure close to 75 per cent of wearable sales, which clearly indicates the adoption trend of young generation towards the awareness of fitness. Home-grown start-ups are engaged in helping consumers adopt a healthier lifestyle by the day. At the same time, one can consult top doctors online through signing up on healthcare portals through browsing or installing applications. This enables both the parties to track history of the patient, reports, feedback and book the next visit to the doctor with the click of a button.

The Tech-savvy Youth

India currently has one of the largest youth populations in the world, with almost 65 per cent falling below the age of 35 years. These young denizens are quick to adopt newer technologies and this leaves many sections of the burgeoning healthcare industry ripe for development. I see these sections as opportunities that can be explored for the technology sector to intersect further with the healthcare sector.

Mobile health, which is the practice of healthcare supported by mobile devices - is often hailed as the future of digital services in healthcare. Hence, we can see a rising need for the availability of real-time personal health data. Patients are constantly on the lookout for innovative features and apps to monitor their well being. From a rural perspective, the tech boom has made it possible to educate people to impart primary aid, and numerous NGOs are working on applications that provide education to deploy healthcare services, thus ensuring that even the remotest villages can be connected. This segment has huge prospects, but considering the amount of investment and rural demographics, this is indeed a tall task.

Blips to be overcome

However, while there is a great deal of potential, we see several challenges that need to be overcome. For instance, the cost and complexity of the implementation of the services restrict the entry of players in this market. Standardisation is a must and should not be overlooked in order to prevent obstructions in the efficacy of these systems. There is a lack of process of ensuring that all electronic healthcare records and software designed to digitise the healthcare process are present in a similar format and/or can be integrated to provide users with access to data housed in multiple applications. In order to avoid such problems, there should be certain common standards fulfilling the requirements of most healthcare organisations. India is also home to a majority of people who are referred to doctors by family and relatives or by word of mouth. Making people believe that their health issues can be handled through the Internet or any other technology will continue to be a challenge especially in Tier III and rural markets where internet is percolating at a slow and steady pace.

How technology can provide better support

Technology can be efficiently, effectively and easily adopted to increase the pool of tech educated medicine professionals which will get duly supported by a steady increase in the number of doctors who are willing to adopt, execute and promote the technological advancement in healthcare sector.

With readily accessible data by way of digital monitoring, in-depth information about the patient can be recorded and this could be vital when nursing a chronic disease or making a diagnosis. Any anomaly can be quickly highlighted and treatment can be provided without delay even if the doctor is not locally present at that moment. Lives can be saved if the correct treatment is given at the right time, due to a piece of wearable tech. Further, new technologies can monitor blood glucose levels, deliver insulin, track food intake and activity levels; heart rate and rhythm tracking to keep a check on irregular heartbeat patterns; blood oxidation level monitors to help observe CO2 levels in the system; shoes and bands to count distances covered by activities done and exertion levels of the body.

Technology can play a key role by providing post-discharge medical care at home. Using the state-of-the-art sensors clubbed with cloud interface with hospitals, it will become easy to monitor the recovery of patients. Similarly, technology can also help bring in an additional parameter for health insurance sector, which can easily define the premium based on the track record of their customers.

The writer is Country Head - Corporate Sales, MediaTek India

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