In digital India, he says, patient, not doc, is all set to become God
Let Medicine reach every Pin Code- Rajendra Pratap Gupta
Meet Rajendra Pratap Gupta, ‘Knight in Digital Armor’, who, like an oracle, appeared on the lectern and read the riot act for doctors in Digital India Health Summit HIMSS 15 held last week in Gurgaon.
Mr. Gupta, a globally renowned policy expert, an original thinker and chairman of HIMSS, the congregation of a battery of high- end digital health honchos, envisaged a healthcare scenario wherein human doctors might not remain indispensable. He mooted a very radical idea of a ‘digital doctor’ to replace human doctor majorly, if not completely.
In an extensive interview to Meditoall editor- in- Chief Dhananjay Kumar, Mr. Gupta, a custodian of patients’ rights, declared with a fair degree of conviction that the digital pathway is all set to rewrite the script in healthcare where the patient, not the doctor, would be anointed as God. Doctors would no more be presiding deity. He further said making patients digitally empowered is a must for Universal Healthcare, which is avowed aim of incumbent Narendra Modi Government at the centre.
Mr. Gupta carries the conviction that a digital doctor will run errands for patients with more success and finesse. He seems smitten by the potential of digital technology in making quality healthcare available to all and sundry. Being a writer of incumbent Union government’s health vision, he seems mandated to freeing patients from the stranglehold of doctors. The new national health policy, to be launched anytime soon, is said to bear the massive imprint of Mr. Gupta’s thoughts.
Mr. Gupta has a slew of solutions up his sleeve to herald universal healthcare coverage. His idea of healthcare envisages cutting down cost of treatment, reaching last mile, making quality healthcare available anytime anywhere. He wants to make quality healthcare ubiquitous. He wants medicine to be sent to far flung and inaccessible areas through speed post and to every pin code of India. Here medicine for him also stands for healthcare in its larger connotations. Mr. Gupta is like ‘doctors do not want to go to rural areas? Let them not, technology will run the errands.’
What position do you assign to patients in the upcoming digital scheme of healthcare?
It will be a complete reversal of doctor- patient paradigm – wherein patient, not the doctor, will be god. Doctors will just be a cog in the emergent health delivery mechanism, not the presiding deity as currently they are. So far, all consumers except patients have attained godly stature. Now, it is the turn of patients. The emerging digital healthcare will for sure assign this status to patients. I mean, center of gravity will move from doctor to patient.
I have been a votary of patients’ rights from the word go. As a policy expert, my avowed aim has always been to get patients their due. I am so happy seeing digital technology has come like manna from heaven to make it happen. I am cocksure IT will completely transform the healthcare in favor of patients. I am soon going to launch an International Patient Union to bring all patients of the world on one platform to leverage them to streamline policy making in patients’ favor.
You made a very powerful and provoking statement in your brief special address at the Summit, saying doctors will not be needed by technology in treating patients if they do not embrace the inevitable. What makes you think technology will make doctors subservient?
Just take into account how change has panned out so far, thanks to technology. ‘Set of box’ came and goondagardi (vice like grip) of cable operators came to an end. Digital photography did the same. Mobile phone came and we are no more held to ransom by lines men. Technology brooks no obstructionists. Now, the same change is dawning for healthcare. Digital healthcare is name of the new game.
IT- transformed healthcare will herald a demand led system in place of current supplier driven system- The current system is like they sell what they have. Now they would have to sell what is demanded. Medical Science is evolving in favor of patients. Technology will make doctors answerable, accountable and transparent. As for now doctors are not amenable to change. They are just stuck at pedestal and do not want to be answerable to anyone. They think patients are bound to come to them – and you know the vicious circle.
I do not say doctor will be replaced. It will rather be a digital doctor.
If technology is so good, why government so far failed to push it?
Doctors are not only next to god, they are next to politicians as well. They tend to block every move that might make them accountable. But digital India will not brook such blocking anymore. I am happy the current Union government has decided to give institutional framework to promote e-health adoption through E-Health Authority. Digital healthcare is embedded in the new health policy to be unveiled sooner than later.
What makes you think doctors would no more be indispensable in the emerging digital healthcare scenario?
I fail to understand why we always relate healthcare to doctor. The indicators on which healthcare as of now hinge on are all negative indicators. Why cannot there be positive indicators of healthcare?- why we only measure healthcare in terms of mortality rates , why cannot we enumerate healthcare in terms of yoga centers, spas , gyms et al? Definition of health infrastructure has to change to include wellness indicators along with illness indicators. That is why NDA government’s model of healthcare is focusing on child health- the next generation to catch the disease by the scruff of the neck just when it sets in. Preemptive healthcare is the best option.
How can healthcare do without doctors? Sounds bizarre.
Why not? Medical Science is clinical with scientific evidences in tow. There is research of 100 years. Molecules are all clinically tested and it is known what medicine will be needed in what ailment. There is not much intelligence required because treatment all is protocol driven. Technology can do it more capably through using big data available. I would say technology can do it more precisely without any human error.
Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, Secretary General, IMA, the largest trade union of allopathic doctors, referred to MCI’s rules and regulations and said digital mode of healthcare may not be compatible to them. After hearing him, concerns were expressed from the audience regarding regulation. What is your take?
I am not against regulation. Digital healthcare must be regulated. It cannot be free for all situations but I am against over regulation. Over regulation will kill, stifle the growth of digital healthcare which is the need of the hour for making universal healthcare a reality.
Are you in favor of Online Pharmacy?
Yes, if there are checks and balances to avoid misuse of prescriptions. Digital prescription should be allowed and digital signature should be made mandatory. Scan prescription should not be allowed. I am in favor of even medicine sent through speed post. I want postal department to collaborate e- prescription. Medicine will and should reach every pin code of the country.