The term preventive healthcare remains self-explanatory as it pertains to a form of medical care involving measures undertaken to prevent occurrence of diseases rather than treating them. This includes advise on routine check-up for an individual even if he or she is rather healthy considering that lifestyle diseases are asymptomatic in nature. It remains an important determinant of a healthy life.
The healthcare industry has put the spotlight on the importance of preventive care for quite a while now. It may be noted that it’s far easier and certainly less burden in terms of cost to provide patients with the care they need on a routine basis to maintain good health and to prevent illnesses, injuries and diseases from occurring in the future.
In the Indian context, the government has undertaken numerous initiatives over the years such as Health for All and The National Health Assurance Mission to ease the burden of chronic diseases. Through these numerous initiatives the healthcare modalities being implemented are pivoted towards the prevention, screening, early intervention and new treatment platforms for patients, thus resulting in facilitation of better patient outcomes.
Preventive healthcare is known to have several benefits, including reduced spending for payers, besides increased lifespan as it allows to catch things early and treat them much easier. In addition, productivity and efficiency at work can be maintained.
Further, preventive healthcare leads to better chronic disease management and reduces mortality. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 50% of the global burden of disease is chronic illness. Considering that chronic diseases are long-lasting illnesses, which can have a compounding and sustained effect on the social, physical, psychological and economic levels of the individual and society at large. Stopping the onset of illness remains crucial for healthcare transformation and sustainability.
In a country like India, there remain a few challenges, though. Primarily being the tremendous growth in population, which burdens the overall healthcare system and this includes preventive care as well. The doctor-to-patient ratio remains abysmally low, which is merely 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people. This compared to the WHO average of 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people. Improving this situation continues to remain a long-term process.
At the onset, to achieve preventive healthcare, there is a need to start from the core idea: prevention is better than cure. Ideally, preventive healthcare starts with change in the way we approach our health and our healthcare ecosystem. The preventive healthcare can be achieved by using data-driven informed decisions. In this regard, longitudinal clinical data for patients is critical for preventive healthcare ecosystem. There is also need to promote better educational and awareness initiatives to ensure building a robust preventive healthcare system.
The healthcare ecosystem in India also needs to be enabled with a framework of preventive caregiving using clinical knowledge, access to clinical data and usage of new-age clinical tools to enable predictability using artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to alert the patient care giver and the entire health ecosystem about the probable adverse event. At the same time, using digital healthcare solutions and connecting them for larger population and building population heath can prove to be a game changer for this cause. There is a need to promote collaboration and research initiatives for preventive healthcare system to flourish in an organic manner. The use of healthtech devices and connecting data from these smart devices to the mainstream ecosystem will subsequently help to increase focus on patient-centric healthcare delivery. For a country like India, healthcare industry is at a crossroads and there remains considerable scope for improvement and growth. In the end, it all boils down to the idea and will to use digital healthcare technology, which can also propel preventive healthcare frameworks.
(The author of this article, Ms Ashvini Danigond is Executive Director & CEO, Manorama Infosolutions Pvt Ltd (MIPL))