Hybrid model of digital & physical healthcare to met challenges

Khaqan Sikander

Nature is full of cues for those with keen eyes. Ignore a disease long enough and it’ll soon deteriorate to the point whereby you may even end up on the surgeon’s steel table. Take Pakistan’s economy as an example, when you don’t take the right measures at the right time i.e. measures that move us to an export lead economy (produce domestically – consume domestically -export the excess) instead of an import lead one, you will soon find yourself, as we do, on the surgeon’s (hint: IMF) table.

Our country faces a plethora of challenges in many sectors and healthcare is no different. A sparse network of ‘quality’ medical facilities, medical professionals, rising poverty, booming population, heightening costs of healthcare services add to the long list of similar issues.

But set aside dark facts such as, more than 29.5% of Pakistan’s population is living below the poverty line, having limited or no access at all to quality primary care facilities, Or that for every 1,200 patients, only 1 doctor is available, 1 out of 3 pregnant women doesn’t consult a doctor and 1 out of every 5 children does not reach the age of 5 in Pakistan.

Set them aside and take a look instead at this following fact. Most healthcare providers (insurance companies, hospitals, clinics, doctors, pharmacies, diagnostic labs etc. etc.) do well when disease runs rampant. Why? you ask. The answer is simple. Everyone makes their money when you get sick, no one makes it by keeping you healthy. And that, to me, is the biggest of all challenges that plagues this country’s healthcare industry. Think about it, think of the best facility that money can buy in this country, the most top-notch doctor that you have waited months for a single gaze from, have they ever called you a week after the consultation to ask you one simple question, ‘how are you feeling today? Are you feeling any better?’ I bet not.

But the providers are not the only ones to blame here, we the patients are equally at fault which brings to the elephant in the room, i.e., our reactive approach to healthcare (hint: the path to the surgeon’s table). You can ignore your health all you want but you are playing perfectly in the hands of the problem. Aside from all the pain that comes from intervening late, by the time you end up seeking a resolution, when it comes to your pocket, the feeling at the end of it all, is much like that of what one feels at the end of a robbery. But yet we all go on, stuck in a trap of our own creation.

Our healthcare was in dire need of a transformation. A DigiPhysi healthcare model can help. Yes, you read it right, Digi-Physi. A hybrid model of Digital & Physical healthcare that is proactive in nature is the answer. Covid-19 was a warning. In the wake of the pandemic, the new normal pushed our healthcare system to adopt digital technologies and embrace various innovations. It stimulated a change which is here to stay. But tools are plenty, it is the behavioral beast of reactive care that still looms large.

Most people will not buy into ‘speak to a doctor whenever you want’ promise over some app or even the phone unless they are stuck with no other option, like the pandemic days. If you take out the human element of healthcare, the efficacy of any model goes down drastically. Therefore, the model needs to be hybrid (physical touch points on top of digital ones) & proactive whereby the provider needs to make a genuine effort in forming a relationship with the patient, a relationship that is based on trust.

So what does digital healthcare entail? Well it all starts with data. Health data can be used to stratify patients into healthy, acute and chronic categories. Once profiling is done, patients can be put into personalized disease management plans where the target is to reduce, over time, the disease burden and consequently save costs.

In conclusion, the healthcare provider’s financial incentive must be tied to keeping you healthy, and not just treating you when you get sick. It is high time, our healthcare organizations adapt and upgrade their traditional operations to the advanced digital ecosystem and create a hybrid model of a care delivery system. This will result in higher patient satisfaction, a better quality of care, easy access to healthcare services, lower healthcare costs, and ultimately an improved quality of the healthcare system.