India is the second-largest country in the world and covers an area of over 1.269 million square miles of land. With agriculture being the main occupation in India, 66% of the country’s population inhabit the rural landscape, and only 34% of the population lives in the urban regions. There are very few doctors and healthcare providers who volunteer to relocate to villages to provide healthcare. While 67% of the doctors live in cities, only 33% of the doctors serve the rural population. Therefore, healthcare is not equally accessible to the entire country. People from various remote places still have to travel several miles before reaching a healthcare provider. The WHO recommends the doctor to patient ratio to be 1 doctor for every 1000 people, while a government doctor in India, on an average, attends to 11,082 patients. To make healthcare available evenly to the entire population and to prevent overburdening of the doctors, technologies have become indispensable. Major cornerstone technologies of Indian healthcare have been used to improve equity in healthcare access.

4 Cornerstone Technologies of Indian Healthcare

  1. Mobile AI radiology inferences: One-fourth of the world’s tuberculosis patients live in India and are more concentrated in the villages. NCR, a renowned hospital in Delhi, along with the government of Haryana, developed a mobile van that conducts digital chest x-rays as it travels through several villages. These x-rays are later processed using Artificial Intelligence (AI). This initiative was successful in identifying 244 tuberculosis patients in the first three months. This technology played a vital role in providing a timely diagnosis to people with inaccessible and unaffordable healthcare beyond geographical barriers.
  2. Smart clinics: Biocon, an Indian pharmaceutical company, has developed smart clinics named ‘eLAJ’ in rural areas of Karnataka and Rajasthan. When a timely diagnosis of diseases occurs at the primary healthcare centers, the burden on the secondary and tertiary healthcare centers will reduce significantly, and ailments in several patients can be proactively diagnosed before they become severe. Hence, these smart clinics specialize in primary healthcare by digitizing medical records (Electronic Medical Records) of the patients and making them available on distinctive, real-time dashboards. These EMRs help monitor the outbreak of diseases over various regions so that a clinic or relief camp can be set up where it is most needed. The records are also connected to the Aadhar cards (government-issued unique identification number) of the patients so that their health history over long durations are centrally available to any physician at any given place or time.
  3. iBreastExam: iBreastExam is an FDA-cleared tool that has been in operation since 2015. It consists of a small wireless sensor, marginally bigger than a barcode scanner, with 16 sensors to detect tissue stiffness in women’s breasts. The results are relayed in real-time to a mobile app. The test costs only four dollars and isn’t painful or time-consuming. The effectiveness of this tool was established in a study involving 900 women in Bangalore.
  4. e-Aushadi: e-Aushadi is a drug procurement, storage and distribution company. The company keeps real-time, electronic data about the quality and quantity of drugs stored in several warehouses of various districts. These records ensure that no medicine is in deficit and that they are continually restocked, so quality medicines reach the customers on time.

The Indian government has realized the potential and indispensability of technology in healthcare. It has proposed to increase the healthcare expenditure from 1.3% of the GDP to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025. The Rajiv Arogyasri program in Andhra Pradesh requires all hospitals to have computers with an internet connection to maintain electronic medical records. This program provides interest-free loans to make sure that all the hospitals are equipped with the necessary technology. Nearly 5000 startups are involved in developing healthcare technologies in India and raised a total of $504 million from 2014 to 2018. Despite being a developing country, India is advancing in healthcare technologies and has room for more innovative ideas to evolve. These four cornerstone technologies of Indian healthcare are just a start.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj
Photo: Unsplash

Health Technology in India
With India’s population nearing 1.4 billion, its health care system must be equipped to meet the needs of its people. The health care industry has struggled to keep up with the burden of disease and various health issues in the country, but has significantly expanded its reach in recent years, facilitated by almost doubling the investment in health technology in India. Some of the health challenges that India faces include inequalities resulting from access issues and inadequate resources.

The Ayushman Bharat program, launched in 2018 by the government, has aimed to move toward comprehensive health care with the end goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Included in this program is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), the largest health insurance program globally. The health coverage provided by PM-JAY targets the poorest 40% of the Indian population. This health insurance plan is cashless and paperless, with all information accessible from IT platforms. These improvements have grown the Indian health care industry, which is expected to be worth $372 billion by 2022. Here are other ways health care in India can be improved by technology.

Telemedicine and Disease Mapping

Investment in health technology in India can help address issues such as access gaps, the shortage of health workers and low doctor-to-patient ratios. Smartphones and online programs, such as messaging services, are being used to facilitate communication between doctors and patients, tackling geographical barriers to access to doctors and allowing easier access to consults, appointments and medical information.

Disease mapping is another aspect of health technology in India that is crucial to gaining an understanding of the largest health issues in various geographical areas and providing a visual representation of health disparities across the country. The Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), founded in 2002, is co-sponsored by the University of Toronto and Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. CGHR does epidemiological research for the world’s poorest population. In addition to conducting many studies in India, the CGHR has created an interactive health map of the country to aid government and health officials.

Medical Databases

Online databases improve access to health data for both patients and doctors. This allows patients to receive medical information and data from home. Doctors can also monitor their patients if they are traveling or if they are helping patients in a different region. Many companies including Microsoft, Google and Amazon have made cloud services available to health care providers. Public as well as private sector health providers have increasingly been using these features.

In addition to generally improving the flow and accessibility of health information, clouds and databases increase the efficiency of health workers. Through these aspects of health technology in India, hospitals can consolidate data, and patient transfers and referrals become more organized. Using databases can also improve diagnoses and treatments by allowing doctors to easily access previous cases to inform their decisions regarding new patients.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The Indian health care system is increasingly using more artificial intelligence. The aging population and growing rates of non-communicable diseases have resulted in a demand for technology that can help predict diagnoses and future health challenges in patients. AI and machine learning (ML) include algorithms that find patterns in large amounts of data.

These technologies allow doctors to benefit from thousands of patient cases and information that help in identifying trends. Doctors are then able to make more informed diagnoses for new patients and create effective treatment plans. By analyzing patient data, AI programs can help diagnose patients earlier than would otherwise be possible. They can also help identify patients that might be more vulnerable to certain conditions. This also increases the effectiveness of disease prevention programs.

The use of AI in health care also has the potential to improve doctors’ understanding of what risk factors contribute to disease. Heart disease and cardiac issues have become a leading cause of death in India and doctors hope to use AI to analyze data and gain understanding about the factors contributing to the trend.

Furthermore, AI has the potential to increase the affordability of health care. While increasing the use of health technology in India will initially be expensive, the costs will eventually diminish. The processes will become more streamlined and focused on each patient, improving overall efficiency and decreasing costs. Investing in technologies such as AI can also help make up for the lacking resources and increase the efficiency with which resources are used by improving the accuracy of diagnoses and treatment.


While health disparities in India are very pronounced, the increased use of health technology in India is promising and could potentially decrease the level of health inequity. Various uses of health technology can minimize the consequences of health worker and doctor shortages, facilitate access to medical services and information and improve doctors’ understanding of medical trends and social factors relating to health.

– Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr