By Mr. Bhagwat Dhingra, Founder, MediSage
The world over, the healthcare system is currently navigating uncharted territory. Impacting all major stakeholders of the ecosystem, the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the lives of both prescribers and patients – never has the industry been under similar duress.
The current scheme of things has brought to light the role of technology in the healthcare industry. While there is a lot of discussion around how companies are bringing technology solutions for patients, are there technology solutions which can benefit the gatekeepers of healthcare i.e., doctors and aid them in providing higher quality of outcomes ?
To start with, it has become abundantly clear that doctors are increasingly accessing medical information on the internet, which opens up new possibilities on how medical information can be disseminated. It puts to test the role of current methodologies such as physical medical conferences, medical representatives and regional round tables to disseminate medical information. With digital penetrating beyond Metros and Tier-1 towns, I am compelled to explore the future-of-work for doctors.
Looking beyond physical sources of information
Typically medical conferences in physical formats have thus far formed the backbone of information exchange between Health Care professionals (HCPs). HCPs have achieved and retained their mastery within their area of specialization – be it learning about new drugs, devices or getting updates in their clinical field or learning about the latest surgery techniques – by attending numerous such conferences over the years. In the era of the internet boom and the power of technology, digital platforms are now collaborating with healthcare associations to bring these conferences online. As a result, medical conferences will no longer be limited by geographical constraints. A lot more doctors will be able to access these knowledge-sharing sessions online, irrespective of their location. From the travel or hotel reservations associated with these conferences, the focus will completely shift to the content and outcomes of the conference, that is, capability building.
Offering better care by making continuous, real-time learning the norm
Imagine this: a doctor is dealing with a complicated case, which by-the-way is one in every ten cases that come to him. While some doctors may discuss the case with a senior doctor in the hospital or with a peer from college, others may struggle. A limited peer network or hesitation to get a 2ndopinion can be detrimental to the patient. In the Digital era, it is possible to get a 2nd opinion from a larger network of global peers connected on a digital platform. A treating doctor will have the ability to connect with senior experts from around the world and seek advice, which could have a significant positive impact on patient outcomes. Peer learning will effectively become a wider activity. If executed well on digital platforms, you would witness a change in mindset amongst doctors where focus would shift from one- off discussion on patient cases to accessing cases on an app to ensure continuous learning.The silos that exist between professionals practicing across geographies will be removed and the collective mission to offer better care will come to the fore.
Taking this a notch further, India, through its diverse population, offers an array of patient cases for doctor’s globally to access and learn from. This makes a compelling case for having a global platform for doctors enabling such information exchange and creating a rich knowledge repository for any doctor to refer to. A network where there is free flow of information in a secured, reliable environment offers immense potential on furthering medical research.
Building capabilities in an industry where there is a rapid flow on new information
Technological progress has rendered several aspects of our daily lives obsolete. Yesterday there were newspapers and today we consume news from across the globe through an app on our mobile phones. Why, then, should a doctor still be going through bulky journals and physical research reports to understand the latest developments in their specialty? A recent survey among Indian doctors suggests that more than 45% of the doctors prefer digital resources to print resources to make informed clinical decisions. The future of acquiring information is undoubtedly digital – and it’s currently a fast-growing trend.
Moreover, new information is now generated at a rapid pace. Consider this, that during the last 15 months, there have been ~130,000 research papers accessible on COVID-19 on PubMed. A doctor is expected to go through such research and modify his practice based on new research.It’s practically not possible. However his job can be made easier if short summaries of such papers can be delivered digitally on an app.
Healthcare companies that are keen on supporting practitioners are working on the convergence of relevant information on a single, digital platform. So, in the imaginable future, doctors will be getting their daily dose of information not from unending texts but from trusted and verified online resources helping doctors to continuously auto-learn and stay abreast with the fast-evolving world of medical science.
From peer- learning to learning from global experts
Networking and associations has been the cornerstone of the healthcare community and a major source of information for HCPs. Collaboration and networking amongst HCPs is possible through a digital platform that not only allows doctors to connect with, and learn from, their peers, but also allows highly accomplished medical practitioners or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to share their wisdom on practical management of clinical complications, clinical protocols, differential diagnosis etc. through short videos, tweets or live video interactions. Add to this other interesting formats such as podcasts and chat-casts and you have a thriving community of doctors connected to ensure better information flow.
Ensuring better outcomes across India’s socio-economic landscape
India is a vast and diverse subcontinent, and different regions have varying degrees of access to healthcare. It is not uncommon to witness patients and their families traveling from tier 2/3 cities to metro cities to receive better care from renowned doctors. Can medical outcomes be better if there is an opportunity to aid doctors in the remotest of district of say Bijnor to access the same level of scientific information as a doctor practicing in the metropolis of Delhi.
When this happens, every patient, irrespective of their geographical location, can get access to the same quality of care, with doctors across the country having access to the same level of insight on treatment protocols. This asymmetry of information has been brought to light during COVID times, where new information flow has been rapid and adoption of new treatment protocols is contingent on doctors learning about such protocols. Online platforms can provide a necessary information highway between source of new information and treating practitioner.
As more and more doctors experience the simplicity in accessing medical information digitally and at their own convenience, it could significantly disrupt how Pharma and Device companies engage with doctors in the future. While COVID-19 has inhibited mobility of Medical Reps, it has given Doctors a new way to access high quality information from credible online resources, a mindset I expect will continue in the Post- COVID world.
For doctors, digital is the new normal. Welcome to the future!