After the fintech revolution, digitised healthcare is set to be the next big change in our public systems.
A digital healthcare system includes telemedicine, mobile health apps, government supported electronic health records, and digitization of hospital systems. The government’s Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission has put frameworks in place for this transition, and the huge digital infrastructure it will require has already started taking shape.
But building systems is only half the battle. To reach the public, especially in rural areas or small towns, digitally skilled healthcare workers and support staff will be needed. Take the case of vaccination. To succeed, the huge, persisting need for digitally trained healthcare professionals and data entry operators had to be met. With this imminent digital transition in healthcare, that demand is only set to increase.
During a visit to Thane, I saw a glimpse of how this change might come about. The Thane Model Covid Care Centre felt the need to provide training to their team after their experience during the pandemic. There were just two data entry operators in the 1,200 bed hospitals.
The move to upskill and crosskill their own employees made practical sense. They wanted to avoid situations where patients are left in the lurch because systems are overwhelmed.
“People get tired of waiting. And everyone’s time is important,” says Dr. Hitesh Patil, part of the hospital’s management. “Earlier, the doctors had to step in to manage systems. Now we hope there will be a reduced workload,” he adds.
Sambhav Foundation implemented the training programme, supported by the National Skills Development Council and the British Asia Trust. Leading by example, Dr Hitesh and Mr Adhaar Kulkarni, also part of the hospital’s management, sat through the data entry operator course training.
More than 60 candidates — including pharmacists and ward boys — were trained and certified.
There was already a broad shift towards digitization of healthcare, with the Digital Health Mission and other schemes. The pandemic greatly accelerated that effort — first, with the move to digitally assign hospital beds. Then with the huge mass vaccination programmes that were launched across the country.
This hospital, for example, was the hub of Thane’s battle against Covid. The Central Processing System set up here helped efficiently assign beds during the pandemic. The hospital was praised by the state government as a Model Covid Care Centre. The digitisation of their processes and systems has a huge part to play in getting that accolade.
The biggest bottleneck towards complete vaccination in Thane was getting people registered. The staff at the hospital have all been trained to make the process of vaccination, from registration to vaccination, as frictionless as possible.
When patients are waiting their turn to get inoculated, the hospital has someone explain how they can generate their vaccination certificates. In case there’s a lot of rush, “even I can help with registering people,” Dr Hitesh says of the systems that are in place there.
Digitization is in full swing across various industries and sectors. By taking the first steps towards providing a computer education, Dr Hitesh says he hopes his staff are also equipped to find jobs elsewhere, if they want to.
“We want them to be skilled enough to get jobs outside. That way, everyone wins,” he says.