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Will digitization in healthcare improve the rural healthcare ecosystem?

I am proud to be an Indian, a country with a rich history and culture that dates back thousands of years. One of the things that makes me even prouder is the fact that India was the first country in the world to provide national healthcare as a uniform right to all its citizens. However, the present-day scenario of rural healthcare in India is a cause of concern for all of us.

As a country, India has made significant progress in improving healthcare outcomes in the last few decades. But the challenges faced by the rural healthcare system are unmatched by any other social sector. Nearly 65% of the Indian population resides in rural areas, and providing adequate healthcare to this vast population remains a significant challenge.

Despite the steady increase in government spending on healthcare, which stands at 3.2% of GDP, India lags behind international standards. The rural healthcare system is divided into a three-tier system that covers the village, block, city, and district population. However, there still exists a gap between the need for healthcare services and their availability. The shortage of healthcare professionals, lack of necessary health infrastructure, inefficient diagnostic facilities, middleman brokerage of availing healthcare, reluctance of doctors to serve in rural areas, and red-tapism are just some of the challenges that the rural healthcare system faces.

But there is a silver lining to this cloud, and that is technology. The push provided by the Indian government to digitization has made the internet available to every part of the country, even in rural areas. Today, India has one of the highest smartphone usage rates globally, breaking gender and age bias as well. Government initiatives like the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) aim to empower the health of every Indian.

Interoperability of medical data through electronic health records (EHR) can simplify the process for patients and doctors, eliminating the need for paper records and making health information easily accessible anytime, anywhere. Telemedicine and tele-diagnostics can make top-class health services accessible to the rural population at no additional costs. Digitization in healthcare has shown us that if used correctly, technology can solve the most complex problems very easily.

As an Indian, I believe that it is crucial to adopt digitization in healthcare at a much faster pace if we want to make a healthier India. We need to leverage the power of technology to bridge the gap between healthcare needs and resources in rural areas. The government must continue to invest in improving the rural healthcare system and support the adoption of digital health technologies to ensure that every citizen, regardless of their location, has access to quality healthcare services.

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