Technology can have a big impact on lowering barriers to healthcare access. More and more people the world over are suffering from a plethora of chronic diseases. As outlined in an earlier blog as well, the number of patients living with chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, mental illnesses in India is set to multiply manifold.

Despite treatments being available, the main challenge in many of these conditions is the inability to control the disease optimally over the medium to long term. Several diabetics in my family have struggled with controlling their blood sugar levels despite trying a variety of medications over the 30 odd years they have lived with the disease. These are not exceptions but the norm. Chances are most diabetics, hypertensives, and other chronic disease patients are not as controlled as they could be with better monitoring. This impacts their lifestyle, medium-long term health outcomes and also places a financial burden on the patients and their families.

Several diabetics in my family have struggled with controlling their blood sugar levels despite trying a variety of medications over the 30 odd years they have lived with the disease. These are not exceptions but the norm. Chances are most diabetics, hypertensives, and other chronic disease patients are not as controlled as they could be with better monitoring. This impacts their lifestyle, medium-long term health outcomes and also places a financial burden on the patients and their families.

Chronic diseases require regular monitoring for better control and yet patients do not often show up for follow-up visits, sometimes because they don’t feel unwell and very often because the barriers to accessing a doctor are too high. Think about it – to take an appointment with a doctor, make your way to the clinic/ hospital, wait in a queue (hopefully you’ll find a place to sit), have a 5-minute interaction with a busy doctor, queue up again for medicines/ lab tests and come back home.

All of this takes time, energy and motivation and very often just does not seem worth the effort. Yet those 5 minutes of regular monitoring with your doctor is often the difference between a disease being under control or not.

All of this takes time, energy and motivation and very often just does not seem worth the effort. Yet those 5 minutes of regular monitoring with your doctor is often the difference between a disease being under control or not.

Patient engagement has been called the blockbuster drug of the 21st century”. The health, economic and social costs of chronic diseases are so high that increasing patients’ engagement with their doctors and with managing their own conditions is the equivalent of giving them a life-saving drug.

We are beginning to apply our own learnings on using technology to lower barriers for patients to access healthcare and increase the engagement between doctors and their patients. The need for this was highlighted through findings of our doctors’ survey.

We have also undertaken a similar survey to explore patient attitudes towards the use of technology in healthcare. This survey should report out in June 2014 and should provide us more insights on the challenges patients face in their healthcare experiences.