COVID-19 was an unprecedented crisis that found nations vastly unprepared. Many hospitals all around the globe have struggled to meet the spike in demand for critical resources such as medicine, oxygen, PPUs, medical staff, data management and much more.
For developing economies, the effects of the pandemic have been more acute exposing the deficit in medical infrastructure in both urban and rural areas. In India for instance, up to 75% of the country’s healthcare infrastructure is focused in urban areas while the rural population, mostly comprising of the elderly, the most at-risk age group, have little to no access to medical care.
Moreover, total healthcare spending in many developing nations is way lower than in Western Countries. This means fewer value investments leading to a resource crunch and thus a defunct healthcare system.
Technology can play an important role in such countries. It can help bridge the gap between healthcare access and affordability.
The pandemic is a perfect opportunity for technology to be deployed to underserved areas and play a crucial role in saving lives as COVID rages on.
Technology in Medicine
Technology has been used in medicine for a long time. Many are aware of solutions such as the Hospital Information Management System (HIMS) that was crucial in getting a grip on hospital databases that had been a mess for a long time.
Today, solutions like telemedicine, online pharmacies and the use of big data and cloud to collate and analyze patient data are becoming more commonplace.
With increased internet and mobile penetration in developing economies, these solutions are sure to be extended to underserved communities. It is here that there lie huge opportunities to provide unique solutions at affordable costs.
Big Data Analytics at Play
Much of the utility of data and analytics in medicine has been post-infection. These solutions are designed to understand who gets sick, how they got sick and why they did.
Viruses with high infection rates like COVID may however require a different approach. We will have to track the rate of infection as it spreads from one person to another to assess the infection rates and more importantly develop sound health policies.
During the height of the pandemic mid last year, there was a rush to develop apps that could provide real-time data about the pandemic to both the user and the relevant authorities.
Some of these apps were essential in curbing the spread of the virus, helping the government keep track of infected patients while also providing important information to the public.
Such is the future of medicine in the coming years. A much deeper utility of data in healthcare will provide medical professionals with timely data about their patients while also enabling fast and efficient communication between different medical professionals.
In the fight against COVID, information is key. In underserved communities, for instance, it is essential to get a comprehensive picture of the medical infrastructure deficit to address the problem.
For developing nations with fewer resources, data will be essential to ensuring the timely and efficient delivery of medical care to remote communities. These are areas that may completely lack any access to medical infrastructure and will thus better be served by mobile healthcare providers. Telemedicine may also play an important role here as many tend to have access to a mobile phone albeit not necessarily a smart one.
As technology continues to be more embedded into medical operations let us ensure to create solutions that will provide equal access to health care all over the world.