Healthcare is an important element of a nation’s path towards economic development and in a country like India it occupies a pivotal role due to its strategic importance. British politician and author Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) once remarked “The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.”
Enhancing the role of ICT Enabled Social Media in Healthcare Services in India : A Prospective Analysis
The tools towards providing healthcare for all with respect to the Million Development goals 2015 set by the UN is being reintegrated in order to cross the chasm between a non healthy and a healthy society in which social media is being increasingly assuming an important role. Consequently there has been a greater impetus being put by private and public sector agencies dealing in conceptualization, planning and implementation to engage social media as a tool for mass mobilization ,increase social and economic support base through active channels .With the increasing use of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook ,linked-in,Comptalks and a range of others they are fast becoming a tool to provide affordable ,accessible and accessible healthcare and an ‘enabler’ for both the providers as well as the patient end. India as per the recent Global Information Technology report by World Economic Forum (2012) occupies the 69th position on the Networked Readiness Index, and may take some more time for the country to attain the status of a fully networked and wired nation and is not likely to happen sooner before 2020. Yet the efforts being put by the federal and the state government to improve healthcare in urban as well as rural areas all over the nation ,provide ‘healthcare for all’ and aim to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, improve maternal health, reduce child mortality rates etc is slowly but steadily bearing fruit. The elimination of Polio from India wherein not a single case has been detected in 2011 proves beyond doubt that the vision and goals are set for real and may well be achieved sooner than later. The best part in the whole process of the government to eliminate polio is the role of ICT enabled social media which played a crucial role in achieving the target more so due to the astounding growth in the telecom sector which acted as a catalyst in the whole effort.
Source : INSEAD Global IT report
ICT as a facilitating agent for interactive two-way information sharing has brought forward a revolution of some sorts with newer technologies such as the internet and social media websites have enabled healthcare providers to reach their patients in a virtual environment, revolutionizing the way patient care is being provided. This is already under application in US and several Western nations with availability of cloud computing and sophisticated techniques now widely under application but which is still to be seen in the Indian context due to low penetration of internet and application of ICT in business especially healthcare. However, health infrastructure is already undergoing a rapid change and a positive ecosystem is being created for health care to leapfrog to the next generation. This ecosystem is necessary as the current environment or ecosystem index figure as per WEF in which India is languishing at overall 78th position which includes the political and regulatory environment at 71st as well as business and innovation environment at 91st position out of 142 countries is a matter of concern if it intends to fulfill its goal. This would require internet connectivity and a larger & faster bandwidth for ICT enabled platforms to sustain. Though healthcare is a priority sector for improvement , the major factor which motivates the forward march towards the mission to improve healthcare is the affordability of ICT which acts as a booster to the good efforts being put in the field with India notching thee 1st position .Moreover, the increasing industry and government usage of ICT with a much favorable ranking ( 47 & 46 consecutively) followed by the fact that governments priority for the ICT as an enabler at 35th position is a welcome news . This has implications for the health sector as government usage in the same propensity as other sector is also going to benefit the health sector in a favorable manner.
The WEF report mentions the increasing role of ICT enabled social media as well but the efforts being put to use it in varied applications in India is quite low pulling it down to 90th position. This may see a drastic improvement in the long run due to the increasing impetus of using it as an agent of change and the eagerness of the general population to adopt new technologies for their benefit. KPMG report (issues monitor, Increasing Importance of Social Media in Healthcare, October 2011, Volume Eight.) cites an online survey conducted by Max Bupa Health Insurance in 2010 which reveals that – out of 1,004 Indians surveyed, 39 percent use the internet for general healthcare information which in turn proves that when it comes down to usage of technology in healthcare, Indians are not far behind. When it comes down to application of social media too, India’s have been using it in several successful cases.
In one such case in India,an ICT (Information Communication and Technology) enabled scalable Health-Exchange System model (HES) under implementation in West Bengal is already utilizing social media, cloud computing and ERP for healthcare applications to assist and provide basic healthcare to tertiary cities and rural areas .Driven by “equity ownership of entrepreneurs” and community platform to deliver innovative healthcare services through leveraged private enterprise network, the social entrepreneurs comprising of students and faculties of IIT-Kharagpur who have established a unique and vigorous entrepreneurship driven Scalable Low Cost Scalable Healthcare Delivery Model or Health Exchange System (HES) Model . The HES utilizes and built innovative mechanisms and channels, offering flexibility to networked service providers such as tertiary wellness providers, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic, post tertiary homecare, elderly care, OBGYN (Obstetrician/Gynecologist ) services including maternity and epidemic outbreaks using currant IC (Information Communication) driven technologies to provide accessible affordable and available healthcare in their local sphere of influence .The model utilizes social media for mass penetration of the model and acceptance as a research test case. The model also puts the latest mobile technologies to good use for easier, secure information sharing.
Healthcare will benefit immensely if social media is used as a priority tool of application to access basic services which includes healthcare. The large-scale use of IC Technology has had a significant impact on the global healthcare sector and the role of social media in India too will be looked up as a test case. Fortunately, the capacity for business innovation and technology innovation with government’s vision to use ICT as a tool for furthering development across all social sectors is destined to lead India towards success in the long run.