India is the second most populous country in the world with an estimated population of 1.27 billion. Nearly 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas out of which half belongs to the Below Poverty Line class. According to recent surveys, over 60% of the rural population doesn’t have access to healthcare facilities. Hence, the death rate due to epidemics and curable diseases is high among rural population owing to the dearth of qualified medical professionals and clinical facilities. The major healthcare issues faced by rural population are malnutrition, sanitation, female health issues, infant mortality and diseases. The lack of access to medicines and facilities have rendered primary health centres helpless. Besides, standardization of healthcare delivery across the country becomes strenuous as the responsibility of healthcare lies with the state government rather than central government.
The demand-supply gap in healthcare services have lead Government as well as NGOs to introduce technology as a mode of healthcare delivery in rural areas. Rural India has nearly 417 million mobile subscriptions in 2015 with growth aided by improved penetration of communication services. Given the massive growth of mobile phone users in India, implementation of mobile healthcare will be the most feasible solution for rural healthcare challenges. Application of mobile healthcare in rural regions includes timely health alerts regarding vaccines, immunization, disease preventive aspects, health camps etc., remote monitoring of patients located in faraway places and healthcare hotlines & IVR solutions. Apart from this, setting up of information kiosks in villages also plays a prime role in educating rural population regarding sanitation, prevention of epidemics, home remedies for various diseases etc. Mobile healthcare apps will also bring exceptional changes in the lifestyle of rural population. However, smartphone penetration in rural regions will have to grow in leaps and bounds to bring out remarkable changes in the healthcare ecosystem of rural India.
mHealth initiatives in rural regions can bring out changes in the lifestyle of people in various ways:
- Improved female & maternal health and reduced child mortality rates
- Improved sanitation through citizen education
- Health campaigns for regular check-ups & vaccination
- Generation of awareness regarding various health issues like diseases, malnutrition etc.
- Improved response to healthcare service requests made through mobile channels
- Monitoring performance of healthcare delivery facilities like primary healthcare centres and other rural clinics.
The Digital India initiative which plans to improve digital infrastructure have a special focus to innovate the healthcare sector in India. Digital health delivery takes up the healthcare ecosystem in rural India to the next level through introduction of remote healthcare, standardized healthcare delivery platforms, healthcare apps, telemedicine, connected devices, electronic health records of rural population improving visibility of patient data etc. The focus of initiatives like Digital India towards the upliftment of healthcare sector will overcome the challenges faced by rural population striving to gain access to quality care services.
India lives in its villages and technology serves to be the right intermediary to endow healthy lifestyle to the population residing in villages.