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Why 2020 has been a watershed year for healthcare firms going digital

The use of internet of technologies, machine learning and robotics, virtual reality and blockchain technologies are no more exotic technologies, but have now started to become mainstream in healthcare.

December 28, 2020 / 07:27 AM IST
Doctor Luigi Cavanna is reflected in a mirror as he tends to COVID-19 patient Maria Teresa Orsi at her home, in Monticelli D'Ongina. (Image: AP)

Doctor Luigi Cavanna is reflected in a mirror as he tends to COVID-19 patient Maria Teresa Orsi at her home, in Monticelli D'Ongina. (Image: AP)

The COVID-19 pandemic has made healthcare and pharma companies, doctors and patients to embrace digital like never before. The biggest beneficiary is, of course, telemedicine, as it helped prevent doctors and patients from getting exposed to COVID-19, but still kept the healthcare delivery going.

Telemedicine platforms have seen a huge jump in numbers as people began accessing healthcare online.

Moneycontrol reported about how 100 competing private service providers private health practitioners have come together to launch free telemedicine app called Swasth in June,

There is also an explosion of online self-assessment apps to check for symptoms of COVID-19.

The government, after years of delay, released the much-awaited Telemedicine Practice Guidelines in March. The guidelines have helped in standardising care and inspiring confidence among doctors and healthcare providers, who are not inclined to use technology to reach out to patients.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The government is August launched the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM).

The aim of NDHM will be to issue a health ID and digital personal health records for each citizen will make healthcare more affordable and efficient by nurturing a supporting ecosystem to seamlessly connect data, people, institutions, systems, and applications.

The pharmaceutical companies have to invest on digital in a big way to reach doctors to promote their brands, as going to clinics and hospitals has become risky due to COVID-19 infections.

The use of internet of technologies, machine learning and robotics, virtual reality and blockchain technologies are no more exotic technologies, but have now started to become mainstream in healthcare.

In terms of investments too, Reliance Industries acquisition of majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds, Amazon striking deals with Netmeds, 1mg, PharmEasy and Medlife to sell medicines online in Bangalore, and reports about Tata Group planning to enter e-pharmacy has made the digital space most sought after.

The 2020 has set the platform for digital in healthcare, from 2021 it could become mainstream.
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Dec 27, 2020 11:45 am

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