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Ushering in the new era of preventative healthcare

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Global healthcare influencer, Dr. Sangita Reddy stresses that the future of healthcare revolves around three Ps – proactive, predictive, and preventive.

According to Dr. Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Group and Former President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), the future of healthcare revolves around three Ps – proactive, predictive, and preventive. A global healthcare influencer, she is passionately committed to transforming the healthcare system through technological advancements and is accelerating positive transformation for effective healthcare service delivery.

Dr. Reddy was in Dubai recently and visited the India Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, where she highlighted the collaboration between the UAE and India. In an interview with Omnia Health Magazine, she discussed game-changing technologies and strategies to make the industry more patient-centric. She said: “The future of healthcare is being proactive and using predictive risk profiling to prevent a disease from happening.” Excerpts:

Do you think digital health has had an impact on improving patient outcomes? Are there any specific technologies that have helped in the fight against COVID-19?

There is no doubt that technology has assisted in the fight against COVID-19. For example, at Apollo, within 15 days of the pandemic coming into force, we had over 4,500 doctors on a telemedicine platform. We have had the platform for 20 years, but COVID-19 accelerated the use and adoption of this platform in a tremendous manner. I think it has been an eye-opener for doctors who understood that they could care for patients, even when they are at home; they don’t have to be physically in front of you. I believe that many of these models will continue to play out as the healthcare system transforms itself.

Furthermore, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made interesting inroads, such as in risk prediction during COVID-19. Assisted software is another area that is set to explode in the healthcare arena and will bring efficiency into repetitive work. AI will be used to manage large pools of data and obtain information on relevant medical conditions and care protocols.

All this will enable doctors to stay current and use the cumulative knowledge of the entire community validated scientifically and presented appropriately so that the patient who is right in front of them gets the best possible care pathway. While the use of AI in the business end of things across various sectors is very well known, I am most excited about the use of AI on the clinical side of things.

What can be done to prepare doctors for this AI-empowered future?

Making doctors a part of the transformation is the most powerful way to prepare them. We are having extensive conversations with doctors and asking them to share their care pathways. Ultimately, AI is only a culmination of the intelligence you put in, then you study the outcome. If more data is available with doctors, it would improve the result for the patient. Therefore, assisted intelligence assists the doctor to treat better.

What can be done to make the healthcare system more patient-centric?

There are several ways this can be achieved. For example, drones can deliver medicines at home; healthcare apps can be enhanced; wearables can be linked to the healthcare system, etc.

While patients are what a hospital focuses on, they should also concentrate on populations and communities. They should be looking at individuals and proactively planning and directing their efforts towards preventative care. The concept of proactive study awareness and treatment prevention should happen for all ages. For example, Apollo Hospital’s cardiovascular risk score profiles the community for modifiable and non-modifiable factors, which cause heart disease. So, instead of having to chase 100 patients, 15 patients are selected and informed that they are high-risk. The hospital can then work with them to reduce their cholesterol and keep their blood pressure under control, thereby decreasing the heart attack rate.

At Apollo Hospitals, we are clear that we belong to the health “care” sector and not the “sick care” sector. Currently, we carry out around 10 per cent of the country’s high-end cardiac surgeries and have patients coming to us from over 120 countries. Yet, at the same time, our chairman is committed that it is essential for us to keep populations healthy. Therefore, we are looking forward to a partnership model to introduce a proactive and preventive health initiative in Dubai. The partnership will see us work with the individual patients, but it will be based on a personalised testing protocol that we create. We will then use this technology to connect the patients with our specialists whenever they need it. We are looking forward to doing more in the region.

Is India on the path to becoming a medical tourism hub?

The market size for medical value travel in India, which was about 2 billion pre-pandemic, will grow this year by about 15 to 17 per cent. I think India has been ranked about 10th on the medical tourism index, but by improving a few aspects, we should be able to move up to the top five globally.

What is your vision for the next five years?

We will look at aspirations at multiple strategic levels. Number one is that we should double the number of patients we treat in the advanced care category, both from India and abroad. We are also aiming to grow the number of patients we serve by five times, from remote care clinics to the outpatient partnership model. Our goal is that everyone we serve should receive the best and the most personalised care. Also, technology and digitally assisted experiences should match up to customer expectations. We are also looking to partner with technology and scientific companies and use the data that we collect and the knowledge of our doctors to make new breakthrough cures. The last aspiration is on the education front. There is a global shortage, and we must continue to train staff digitally and in contact programmes and are open to sharing some of our technologies.

Apollo will continue to stay ahead because of the vision of our chairman and leader. It’s important for us to continue to innovate. For example, Apollo has its own unique healthcare ID and personal health record. We also launched our 3D printing initiative in our hospital in Hyderabad because we believe there is a significant future in that. Moreover, we are committed to robotic surgery. In fact, in Bangalore last month, we celebrated over 100 robotic heart surgeries. This is why Indian healthcare is renowned and patients seek out Indian surgeons to gain the expertise of their skill and capability.

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