Healthcare was always on its way to digitization, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated it decades ahead of time. Internet is such an incredible tool that it has wholly removed the boundaries. Therefore, any advancements that happen in the world affect Pakistan too.
Admittedly, the progress in Pakistan is slow. Frequent cases of incompetence and playing politics slow down the progress by many degrees, but they cannot stop the inevitable. Technology is changing everything about healthcare globally, and those changes are trickling down to the Pakistani healthcare system as well. It’s just a matter of time before our government joins the race of developing healthcare practices. Telehealth has already started gaining an incredible following. Online pharmacies, like emeds, are gaining popularity day by day. Even the government is making an effort to introduce a national health insurance policy under the banner of the “National Sehat Program.”
Following are the ways technology is changing healthcare in Pakistan;
2020 and 2021 have clearly demonstrated that it is not always possible to visit a doctor in person when half the country is in lockdown. So, what do you do when you are sick? Instead of self-diagnosing and gambling with your health, it is much better to consult a doctor via the internet right from your home.
Even in Pakistan, telehealth is gaining incredible popularity. Telehealth is an inherently patient-centered approach to healthcare. One-on-one interaction between a patient and a qualified doctor is a godsend for people who are tired of jumping through the hoops every time they visit a hospital.
Telehealth has gained popularity in Pakistan due to the pandemic, but it won’t stop its growth even when the pandemic ends. People like this approach to healthcare and will become increasingly dependent on it with time.
2. Online pharmacies and laboratories
2020 saw the birth of many reliable services that dispense medical products and services. Countless services came online pushing for contact-less dispensation of healthcare. Now, people only need to send required blood, saliva, or stool sample to get immediate results. The doctor can even coach them over a video chat on how to extract the sample needed.
Similarly, people no longer need to visit pharmacies. Instead, they need only call an online pharmacy to receive their medication without worries.
3. AI integration in healthcare
Many countries invest heavily in various tech advancements –sadly, Pakistan is not one of them. The allocation to healthcare in the 2021-22 budget is merely 28.3 Billion PKR, which is less than 0.4% of the total budget. However, it doesn’t mean Pakistan cannot be indirectly affected by the advancements made by other countries. More and more people are using internet-based services for better diagnostics and treatment. AI has incredible potential in healthcare, and it will continue to grow in the future.
AI allows healthcare professionals to diagnose the disease quickly. Algorithms can go through a CT scan, MRI scan, X-ray scan, etc., in seconds to help diagnose a potential problem. AI also helps automate workflow for hospitals and healthcare providers. It makes the system more efficient and more streamlined. The advantages are countless.
4. Remote monitoring and wearables
Technologies like IoMT are not just limited to their countries of origin. Even tech-savvy Pakistanis can benefit from them. Many doctors, online services, and healthcare businesses are offering special devices to monitor a patient’s condition in real-time. These devices can be used in the remotest corners of the country. As a result, a doctor can easily predict how a disease progresses in a patient and how to halt its progress.
Wearable devices can also send out a call for emergency support when your condition suddenly worsens, like in a heart attack. Remote monitoring is especially picking up steam for diabetes patients in Pakistan. This trend will continue to gain traction in the coming years.
5. Data security
Since more and more healthcare services are transferring online, the concern for data theft has become increasingly dire. The world has seen many recent cyber-attacks that have shaken the healthcare systems. It is inevitable that the new budding e-health based governmental or private services will worry over data security. That’s why the investments in this field are increasing day by day. However, much more needs to be done before our medical data become iron-clad secure.
Healthcare areas likely to see growth due to tech in the coming years
The most visible growth is occurring or will occur in the following six areas of healthcare due to technology;
- Remote consultation or telehealth
- Hospital workflow
- Wearable technology for the patients
- Virtual assistants
- Medical imaging and diagnostics
- Online record-keeping
Over the past year, incredible tech advancements and their implementation have allowed doctors to use them to predict the COVID-19 surge. AI-based smart algorithms calculate the likelihood of pandemic spreading in specific areas, targeted age groups, and the overall vulnerability of the population to it. They can also use it for screening, faster diagnosis, setting appointments, contact alerts, automatic deliveries of medicines or test results.
Even delivering food, medicine, or other goods to quarantined families has only become possible due to the latest tech advancements, especially in healthcare.