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By Utpal Chakraborty, AI Researcher, Head of Artificial Intelligence at YES Bank
Many experts have already started contemplating that the damage due to COVID19 that is apparently visible today; may its economy, social, political or other aspects of our lives, is just the tip of the iceberg, and the gigantic submerged part is yet to be realized by the world and will be visible gradually post COVID. I am praying that this prediction comes out wrong, otherwise it’s not going to be any less than a horrible nightmare for all of us. On the contrary, probably the biggest positive aspect that COVID has attributed and initiated so far is that, it acted as a wakeup alarm for the entire world to focus on the healthcare systems. It brutally proved that healthcare and medicine today is far behind to fight against a pandemic or any biological war-fare, the possibility of which cannot be ignored in the future.COVID has proven that in this highly connected world we should be concerned about everything that is happening even in the remotest corner of the world, because the same can come and knock at your door the very next day. So, although globalization have numerous benefits but at the same time, we should be cognizant about the challenges and threats that it can pose at anytime in various forms. And no country should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of globalization without being transparent to the rest of the world, at least when it comes to a global threat. So, undoubtedly healthcare and medicine industry worldwide need a huge transformation be-cause probably the amount of innovation and agility this field is demanding today is somehow missing; that's what apparently it has been evident in this COVID time in many parts of the world. And let’s accept it gracefully and work upon for betterment. The only viable solution to this and many other issues is the “Digital Health Ecosystem”. There are various other reasons as well why digital health is a booming field and why it’s going to be a “Golden Era of Digital Health” post COVID. Number one, if we consider the cost of healthcare for both critical and non-critical illnesses in a developing country and compare it with average income of citizens; there is a huge disparity, and to bridge this gap the only viable and cost effective solution is bringing digital health ecosystem which is going to make healthcare affordable even to the lowermost income groups of citizens. Similarly, even in the developed countries the spend on healthcare is enormous and a big burden even for the flourishing economy, digital health is a sustainable solution for this. It can reduce the cost to almost one third in long run as per many experts. Number two, there is a huge shortage of doctors and healthcare professionals all over the world, the shortage is such enormous that the world will never be able to cater to this need even by producing more and more doctors and healthcare professionals even at a faster speed. But the alternative is to create a digital health ecosystem with smarter solutions empowering doctors and healthcare professionals with tools and technologies to serve and cater to the larger mass of the population. Number three, at one hand, there are many areas of healthcare and medicine that has already undergone some level of digital transformation including maintaining and utilizing digital health records at individual and public levels in different countries. But on the other hand, it has been observed that there are still huge gaps that need to be interlinked to enjoy the benefits from true Digital Health Ecosystem. Digital Health Ecosystem needs a federated holistic approach and cannot be just few solutions here and there in silos. The challenges exist even replicating such digital health models in developing and under developed countries because the overall digital infrastructure of such countries is still very poor. In digital health there are many areas like m-Health for delivering healthcare services and in-formation through mobile devices. Digital and Precision Medicine which is essentially tailoring the medical practices according to the needs of individual patients.