World Health Day 2019: Telemedicine, rise of ayurveda are transforming health care

Their shaping-up will have a big impact on how Indian citizens access healthcare in the coming years.

“With India as a market demanding better healthcare facilities, the telemedicine industry, considered to be a niche, is expected to grow over 20 percent and cross $32 million by 2020, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). Some medical advancements and systems have a significant role to play in the growth of the industry as well as in reaching out to as many citizens as possible.


Telehealth is one of the best solutions for a diverse country like India where the smaller towns still do not have access to superlative medical care. It is the fastest growing and most cost-effective method that allows taking consultation and treatment from the finest doctors, from anywhere, by use of electronic means like smartphones, computers and video-conferencing devices. A rise in chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, asthma, etc. has been a major reason of more people adopting this method. Some positives of e-health include early diagnosis, timely treatment, and therefore, seemly prognosis. This method is convenient for patients and doctors alike and is the business model that is likely to stay and better the medical world.

Representational image.

Representational image.

Ayushman Bharat

Another significant highlight of 2018 is the National Health Protection Scheme called Ayushman Bharat. It aims to provide superior curative care, wellness facilities and insurance to underprivileged people by offering them a defined benefit cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year. Under this scheme, the government will cover nearly all secondary care through District hospitals and Community Health Centres at the block level and specialized consultative care procedures with the help of private players, who provide tertiary care. Over 1,300 disorders like heart diseases, kidney and liver disorders and diabetes will be included under the world’s largest government healthcare program. Some of its biggest advantages are ease of availing the benefits by simply showing ID proof, having no waiting period, and including the cost for both pre- and post-hospitalization expenses.

The other form of science that has been followed in the country since centuries is Ayurveda. Based on this approach, in 2014, the Government formed the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy). This body aims to promote therapeutic philosophies by following healthy living styles to prevent diseases. One of the main reasons for its growing popularity is the emergence of diseases related to lifestyle problems. Other reasons include the growing challenges in medicine, long-term treatments, non-communicable diseases and more that have resulted in high mortality.

AYUSH medicines are available at a reasonable price and are both an alternative and an aided source for people with a long-term disease. AYUSH medicine has been there in the industry for many years. Also, with different forms of medical systems being supported in the country, people have a choice to opt for a healthcare system of their choosing.

Representational image.

Representational image.

Violence against doctors

2018 also saw a rise in an unpleasant aspect of medical care and that was violence against doctors and other members of the medical fraternity. Relatives and patients who behaved in this manner claim that they were motivated by issues such as inflated bills, the death of a loved one and a feeling that the doctor was neglecting their duty. In fact, a report by The Lancet, one of the oldest medical journals around, stated that a shocking 75 percent of doctors in India are verbally or physically abused.

This issue is more prevalent in government hospitals where there is a lack of security and needs to be addressed immediately. For this, the government needs to take swift steps to upgrade the safety in both government and private hospitals. Though there is a Doctors’ Protection Act in India that shields them against aggressive behaviour, a guilty person faces a minimum of 3 years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs 50,000. However, these laws need to get stricter or else this sort of retaliation will become an accepted norm.

Biosimilars, AI and more

Other interesting trends that have emerged include Biosimilars. Termed as the "next big thing" in healthcare, these are drugs that are similar to the ones already approved by the FDA. These substitutes are generated from living organisms and have high molecular complexity. The positive of this is that patients will now have treatment options at lower costs.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also prevalent in the healthcare sector. This much-needed tech upgrade is an apt solution that helps medical professionals use algorithms and software to provide better guidance, diagnosis and support for patients. In fact, the use can help in initial profile screenings of customers, maintaining health history, appointments and even prescriptions for quick health analysis. This easy method of storing all information of the patient safely and securely helps in better diagnostics and treatment.

Precision medicine is yet another exciting concept that is slowly gaining traction. It describes a form of medical treatment where the treatment is fine-tuned to a person's genetics to optimise the treatment. It covers factors like individual and family health history, lifestyle factors including both diet and exercise, and environmental factors that classify them into groups as per genetic makeup for medical purposes.

All these existing, emerging and new trends in healthcare aim to provide seamless solutions to treat patients more efficiently and effectively. Such big experiments are encouraging steps towards the streamlining and scaling up of healthcare in India this year. Their shaping-up will have a big impact on how Indian citizens access healthcare in the coming years.

The author is a Senior consultant in the medical team at

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