India and Sweden have set out aims to develop digital health systems to improve both accessibility and affordability of healthcare. A new health platform was launched at the India-Sweden Business Summit on December 3rd, during the visit of Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia to India.
The key aim of the system is the use of digital systems to improve the efficiency of current systems, allowing doctors to cope with large numbers of patients more easily. This is of great importance in particular to India, as the current situation of poor infrastructure and doctor shortages — impeded further by frequent strikes — has limited access to healthcare for many.
Supply chains also present a key area in which digitised systems could improve efficiency. Both India’s rural and urban environments present unique challenges in this regard. India is a nation of vast geographic diversity, with many rural villages situated in difficult-to-reach areas in which supply chains are difficult to monitor. Likewise, India’s considerably sized metropolises present their own challenges, with healthcare and medicine needing to be dispersed often for a population sometimes exceeding ten million within a single city.
This collaboration on digital health is being signed under the umbrella of the India-Sweden memorandum of understanding (MoU) in public health. The MoU is celebrating its tenth year of health cooperation between the countries. According to Business Sweden, the businesses involved will bring together their healthcare expertise, technology leadership and experience of running similar platforms globally and will complement the research and development expertise of the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences in Delhi and Jodhpur.
This is not India’s only collaboration on healthcare with a Scandinavian nation. Last year, India and Norway signed a letter of intent, promising to expand their cooperation on healthcare. This agreement placed a particular focus on matters such as reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health.
India has also taken the helm of global digital health programmes. India led the way at the recent BRICS summit – bringing together Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa in “[establishing] state-of-the-art digital health systems…managing the core digital health data [by creating] a system of personal health records, based on international standards and easily accessible to the citizens and healthcare providers” according to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Expanding access to healthcare in India is a worthwhile, though complicated goal. Using the learned experiences of businesses and groups within other nations, then applying that knowledge towards Indian healthcare — particularly in the realms of digital healthcare — could help to rapidly improve India’s own healthcare system.