by March 5, 2012 0 comments



By CSC’s Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices

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Imagine healthcare designed, first and foremost, around being well and staying healthy. Of course, people will get sick at times and require medical attention, but a focus on wellness shifts the balance from reactive to proactive, with better outcomes. It also expands the healthcare service continuum beyond diagnosis and treatment to include wellness monitoring, prevention and earlier disease detection. This is what technology can help achieve, says CSC’s Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices. The Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices is the applied research arm of CSC’s Healthcare Group. The mission of the Institute is to track worldwide trends, conduct multi-country studies and evaluate emerging operational practices and technologies that have the potential to improve performance of health industries around the world. By merging trends and experience across geographies, the Institute helps healthcare providers learn about and capitalize on best practices no matter where they are developed.

Today life expectancy worldwide is 68. With the combination of living longer and not staying physically fit, people are experiencing more chronic diseases and getting serious illnesses like cancer earlier in life. This leads to higher use of healthcare resources. The wellness-first perspective will impact patients, providers, business models and the global healthcare ecosystem as all shift to focus first on health, then on care. The model relies on technology to put medical knowledge and advice — once the sole purview of physicians — into the hands of patients to proactively monitor health and wellness.

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Technology the enabler

And technology will be the enabler — driving several major trends that will make all of us healthier people and medical care more effective when needed.

e-Power to the Patient –This scenario envisages that the patient is in charge of his or her care management on a daily basis, marked by “shared care” between patient and provider. This is not about diminishing the role of the physician but enlarging the role of the patient, who is empowered through the availability of health information, new technologies and a support system to encourage and monitor progress. Social networking in the form of fitness and health Web sites — even within the boundaries of a company —can bring people together to encourage and keep the motivation going.

Earlier Detection – Accelerating early diagnosis is crucial to starting treatment for, if not preventing, a problem. Coupled with simpler and cheaper, technologies must be more accessible to more people to facilitate early detection. For example, Glaucoma leads to blindness, which can be halted if detected early on. The current technology is a device called a tonometer that puffs the eye with air to determine intraocular pressure, done during an annual eye exam. Unfortunately, pressure varies widely during the day, so there is only a small chance that the symptom presents itself exactly at the time of the annual exam. Scientists at Sensimed have created a smart contact lens with an embedded microchip that is worn by the patient and monitors intraocular pressure over a 24-hour period. If a patient wears the contact lens for a day, glaucoma can be detected sooner and more reliably, and the efficacy of the treatment can be monitored over time, potentially averting blindness. Diagnostic technologies might well be one of the next big business opportunities in healthcare and a systemic retooling around diagnostics, which brings with it earlier detection, not only promotes wellness and health but makes good business sense.



High-Tech Healing – Advances in the science of medicine using technology are leading to new treatments that improve health outcomes and quality of life with remarkable and even near-bionic capabilities. Let us take the example of diabetes. Diabetes management is not a task; it is a totally different lifestyle. Patients need to closely monitor their blood sugar and make medication (insulin) and diet adjustments daily. Today’s process of pricking a finger and using a glucose meter to determine blood levels is painful and not always accurate. There are problems with forgetting to monitor or knowing what adjustments to make.

Fortunately, there are other painless technology solutions for monitoring. One under development is a special tattoo that allows diabetics to more accurately and quickly monitor glucose levels. Two different research teams, one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the other at Draper Laboratory, “have developed two different types of nanotech ‘ink’ which would be injected in the skin and change fluorescence depending on your blood sugar. Both types of tattoo would require an external device to measure and translate this fluorescence.”

And perhaps mass consumption for such hi tech solutions may not be so far away! Progress in artificial organs and bionics is providing dramatically new levels of wellness. The cochlear implant or “bionic ear” was a pioneer in this field, bringing hearing to the deaf… and not so distant a solution even in India with several patients with hearing problems already subscribing to this technology. Many more advances in development include artificial organs using 3-D printing, bionic retinas, bionic contact lenses, bionic limbs and technology-restored skin.

Key health and financial ramifications for India

Growing aging population. From 2000 to 2050, the number of people on the planet ages 60 and over will triple from 600 million to 2 billion. In India, we will have approx. 500 million people above 50 years.

Shortage of care providers. By 2025, it is estimated that the United States alone, for example, will be short by 260,000 registered nurses and at least 124,000 physicians, and India, as per planning commission report in 2008, we had a shortage of 600,000 doctors, one million nurses, 200,000 dental surgeons and large numbers of paramedical staff, not to mention 2025.

Increasing prevalence of chronic conditions among children and adults. By 2030 chronic diseases, not infectious diseases, will be the leading cause of death globally. According to a recent study by two researchers there are 347 million people in the world with diabetes today and Asian countries also experienced very high numbers of people with diabetes include China and India which both has a total count of 138 million with the disease.

Rising healthcare spend. For almost 50 years, spending has grown by two percentage points in excess of GDP growth across all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. According to a report by industry chamber FICCI, Healthcare has emerged as one of the most progressive and largest service sectors in India with an expected GDP spend of 8 per cent by 2012 from 5.5 per cent in 2009.

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