‘The Future is Now’ was a hip-hop album. I borrow the term to underline the fact that all future takes birth in the present; we form and define it here and now. This calls for great responsibility, requires us to be visionary and innovative while being compassionate. And in healthcare, exceedingly committed to patients.
I see the future of healthcare driven by an increasingly patient-centric approach, characterised by constant connectivity and enabled by technology. Maturing in the middle of the last century, the present healthcare system is actually a sick care system. We have made incredible advances in treatment and technology, but care delivery has remained much the same.
It is still largely bricks and mortar where people who are sick or acutely ill come to be treated. It was never designed to deal with the huge growth of chronic disease, which now represents well over 80% of all healthcare spend. In the new paradigm, we will have to start looking at healthcare from the perspective of the patient.
That is, we have to first help patients understand the drivers that impact their chronic condition better, so they can play a more active role in managing it. We have to get involved in health, rather than just treating sickness. The aim is to proactively keep people well rather than react when they become ill.
It is not just about telling them what to do, it is about truly engaging them, providing them with smart technology so they can closely monitor themselves. Patients will still need specialists with expert knowledge, but the patient and specialist will not need to be in the same space at the same time.
Through a network of connected care, several experts will look at the case simultaneously. This would enable early diagnosis of health issues through constant monitoring, before they become more serious. This will be normal practice within 10 years.
The idea of maintaining people’s well-being, rather than reacting to an episode makes sense. We will have to apply ourselves to hard changing a system that is hardwired to be reactive. We can already see hospitals becoming smarter, patients more empowered and the ambient space increasingly dispense the efficiency and precision of technology.
I see interconnectedness and concordance with other sectors of the digital economy as healthcare moves to its logical progression. A robust ecosystem thriving alongside an intense healthcare ecosystem. From organisational perspectives, we will see a radical consolidation in healthcare.
The sheer size and scale of our country will attract investment in healthcare infrastructure, divided between increasing the reach and deployment of technology. Beds will increasingly move out of hospitals, which in turn will focus on diagnostics and treatment.
Recuperation will be shifted to homes. I expect to see India leading the world in creating the vehicles for that reach. This will also help in better continuum of care, further bridging the gap between the patient and healthcare provider.
This will also help patients take better care of themselves, for access to data and analysis will enable wearables to predict health problems and offer advice on potential lifestyle changes based on one’s health and genetic history, predict recovery duration, and suggest the right doctor in accordance with the patient’s profile.
In the future, algorithms will help map patient history, making treatment faster and more effective. With tremendous scope for innovation, the possibilities for ensuring better healthcare outcomes are enormous.
On the cusp of unprecedented disease and unprecedented treatment, we are faced with deeper questions: Who shall receive what healthcare? What resources can be allocated, how and to whom? What is an acceptable form of healthcare?
At the heart of these lies the demand for more equitable distribution of the benefits of medical knowledge. Unless we imaginatively improvise creative and sustainable answers and apply them, we cannot negotiate India’s healthcare crisis.
In closing, i am drawn to the one thing which has never and shall never change: the doctor-patient relationship. In ancient India, Charaka the physician clearly outlined four ethical principles of a doctor: ‘Friendship, sympathy towards the sick, interest in cases according to one’s capabilities and no attachment with the patient after his recovery.’
The Charaka Samhita emphasises values central to the nobility of the profession: ‘He who regards kindness to humanity as his supreme religion and treats his patients accordingly, succeeds best in achieving his aims of life and obtains the greatest pleasures.’ In the Susruta Samhita, the doctors’ duty and obligations to the patient are stressed: ‘The patient may doubt his relatives, his sons and even his parents but he has full faith in the physician. He [the patient] gives himself up in the doctor’s hand and has no misgivings about him. Therefore, it is the physician’s duty to look after him as his own son.’
The core and quintessence of all medicine past present and future has been, and shall be the empathy and trust between doctor and patient. Forevermore as the future of healthcare manifests itself.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Courtesy: Naresh Trehan, The Times of India