Can Wearables Help with India’s Healthcare Dilemma?

1/5th of the worlds population lives in India. The majority of it’s 1.3 Billion people reside in rural areas and lack medical access. If silicon valley wants an extreme benchmark for wearables efficacy for healthcare, this might be the place.

The mixed bag of prosperity

Despite increasing population by 450 million between 1991 and 2016, India managed to reduce those living in poverty by 50%.

In 7 years between 2005 and 2012 India reduced the number of poor by 138 million, which outpaced China. With the reduction of poor and the increase in food subsidies has come an unintended consequence that is increasing the load on India’s healthcare system.

A sharp increase in lifestyle related illness due to dietary choices.

Lifestyle related disease accounted for half of all deaths in 2015 according to the IHME.

In an opinion piece for Yourstory, the author points to 3 primary hurdles with healthcare in India.

Indias 3 Health Care Hurdles

While 75% of the population resides outside urban centers, the share of rural hospital beds is only 16%. Can wearables help?

What is “access”?

Wearables can help collect heart rate and blood glucose data, and device costs continue to fall. But, who’s going to monitor this? Sure, it potentially reduces the number of hospital beds, but it presents another issue. If you take an already fatigued health care system and increase the inputs by 10X, does it really help? Those who currently can’t physically make it to a hospital would have access to a point. It’s here, where proponents will usually point to “Big Data” and algorithms.

A Healthcare Solution- or just more data?

Uber-powerful algorithms aside, it’s difficult to see where patient outcomes change significantly. There is the fact that for some, having the information available empowers them to make changes on their own. Increasing early access heads off more serious conditions, thereby reducing costs. Or to put it another way, managing healthcare cost by shifting focus from treatment to prevention. This was the theory behind 2010 A.C.A, increase early access, address the problem while it’s small and health care costs will decline.

With access comes cost

Preventative care savings appears to be real, but it’s impact might be slightly exaggerated. A NY times article points to a study using 20 proven preventative services and the model only showed modest savings. It should be noted that the .2% savings was based on 90% compliance. When do any of us do 90% of what our doctor tells us to do?

India’s hurdle is everyones hurdle

You can change the collection methods, reduce hospital beds and increase realtime insights, but it still comes down to dollars. Per capita health care spending in the US in 2016 was $9,526. This doesn’t factor in the individual cost, deductibles averaging $4,500 for the same year.

India spent $63 per capita 2016, about 40% of what the US spent in 1960. In addition, a little context about India’s impressive climb out of poverty and what it means to be poor. The Tendulkar committees poverty line in 2011-2012 was Rs 4,000 for rural residents and Rs 5,000 for urban; roughly equivalent to the World Bank poverty line in purchasing power. It equates to approximately $.50 per day (about 2X over Chinas poor).

Do more than collect

In order for there to be a significant change in patient outcome for this generation, wearables will have to do more than collect and report. The resources in India (and just about everywhere else) are going to be stretched unbearably thin if access is increased by orders of magnitude. If they are going to have a noteworthy healthcare impact in the next 10 years it won’t be with more stats. The system(s) can’t handle what it has now. It will be in some form of medical independence.

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Can Wearables Help with India’s Healthcare Dilemma?
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Can Wearables Help with India’s Healthcare Dilemma?
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1/5th of the worlds population lives in India. The majority of it’s 1.3 Billion people reside in rural areas and lack medical access. If silicon valley wants an extreme benchmark for wearables efficacy for healthcare, this might be the place.
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