New report by The George Institute urges the mHealth community “to go beyond the quick fixes”

Scaling up pilot projects in the area of technology-enabled health care delivery requires a concerted effort that involves going beyond the quick fixes and working towards a sustainable health solution that can help tackle the rising burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases in the country.

This is the recommendation of a new report entitled, “Landscape of Technology enabled Health care in India”, by The George Institute for Global Health. Researchers evaluated a large number of initiatives  and several healthcare apps in the area of mHealth that have been launched in the market.

The report, which was released at a Consensus Conference on Technology Enabled Healthcare organised here today, argues that bringing many of these projects to scale will require a generation of robust evidence that can work in a variety of geographical contexts. While the Digital India campaign being implemented by the Government of India offers tremendous potential for strengthening health care delivery, more robust evidence is required of what works and what does not in different community settings.       

The conference drew renowned experts from the health care industry and government health officials who deliberated on topics related to the potential of technology-enabled healthcare in India. It was noted by experts that smartphones and tablet devices are being increasingly used to screen and monitor high-risk conditions and so presented a real opportunity to tackle the rising disease burden.

Technology-enabled health care is rapidly being recognised as an important enabler in reducing the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCD). Several examples of the usefulness of technology-enabled health care delivery were presented. These included a range of interventions that utilize handheld computing devices, point of care diagnostics, electronic decision algorithms, wearable and environmental sensors, wireless technology and cloud computing as transformative tools, and leveraging community healthcare workers for primary care as well as post-discharge care for patients with chronic diseases.

Speaking about the importance and relevance of of mHealth in India, Dr. Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of The George Institute for Global Health, India, said technology-enabled health care delivery holds out a lot of promise to tackle the disease burden in India where there is huge shortage of doctors. Dr Jha said: “If we are able to provide simple technology to a village level health worker to detect and screen various diseases and link her up with the doctor at the primary health centre to manage, we would have established a grassroots level process that can yield rich dividends in the long run.”

The George Institute is using an evidence-based approach to implement a m-health driven community engaged project called SMARThealth that has inportant learnings for technology-enabled health care delivery.  The project has shown that village-level health workers can be empowered to screen high risk NCD cases through hand-held devices and then through a referral mechanism to ensure that proper treatment and follow-up is done. Initially evaluated in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, the same model is now being tested in Haryana in North India.