Is there a link between climatic changes and coronavirus spread? It is debatable. But as per a study by researchers at IIT-Bhubaneswar and AIIMS-Bhubaneswar, temperature and relative humidity have a significant impact on the disease growth rate and doubling time. An analysis on relative humidity revealed that more moisture leads to a higher growth rate of Covid-19 cases and reduced doubling time. The study titled “Covid-19 spread in India and its dependence on temperature and relative humidity” showed that seasonality in environmental factors does play a role in the dynamics of coronavirus spread. As rain is wreaking havoc in India, monsoonrelated illnesses like dengue, leptospirosis, malaria and gastric problems, coupled with the corona scare, are acting as a catalyst to the ongoing misery.
Temperature and humidity are inversely correlated with daily new cases and deaths of Covid-19, revealed findings of a research. For every 1°C increase in temperature, daily new cases of Covid-19 reduce by 3.08% and daily new deaths reduced by 1.1 % and for every 1% increase in humidity, daily new cases of Covid-19 reduced by 0.85% and daily new deaths reduced by 0.51%, according to analyses of 166 countries.
“Most respiratory viruses exhibit a seasonal trend of infection, such as the influenza virus, SARS-CoV. In 2019, the study Association between viral seasonality and meteorological factors demonstrated that the respiratory syncytial virus and influenza A virus exhibited obvious seasonality, peaking in November-December and December-January, respectively. However, Covid-19 is in a stage of high infectivity and rapid transmission. Furthermore, the effect of temperature and humidity on Covid-19 transmission is not sufficient to fully inhibit the pandemic,” says Dr Rajiv Dang, senior director and HoD, Internal Medicine, Max Hospital, Gurgaon.
Studies have reported that SARS-CoV-2 is sensitive to high temperature and humidity. Under experimental conditions, the stability of SARS-CoV-2 was similar to that of SARS-CoV, reporting that at temperatures of 22- 25°C and relative humidity of 40%-50%, dried SARSCoV could survive for over five days on smooth surfaces. The temperature and humidity are inversely correlated with daily new cases and deaths of Covid-19. The spread of any viral infection depends on factors such as seasonal changes, human behavioural patterns and even the characteristics of the virus.
Dr Vikrant Shah, consulting physician, intensivist and infectious disease specialist, Zen Multispeciality Hospital, Chembur, opines: “Coronavirus can be termed as a respiratory illness with similar symptoms like flu and the cases of seasonal flu are said to increase during the monsoon months. And other monsoon-related illnesses would make the situation worse for patients and doctors as these would have similar presentations. Hence, one will have to adhere to the Covid-19 protocol.” The rainfall, those dropping temperatures and cooling of the atmosphere and the progression towards winter may environmentally favour the spread of coronavirus, adds Dr Harish Chafle, consultant intensivist, and chest physician, Global Hospital, Mumbai.
The pandemic has already put the entire healthcare system under insurmountable pressure, with frontline doctors and health workers putting their duty first to rescue the people from the deadly virus. In the meantime, the monsoon season also brings along with it scrub typhus, dengue, malaria, typhoid and cholera so our healthcare system is going through a dual crisis. Malaria, dengue and chikungunya, the vector-borne diseases are posing a challenge at a time when the medical staff is overworked and overwhelmed battling a pandemic.
Dr Aviral Roy, consultant Critical Care & Internal Medicine, Medica Superspecialty Hospital, says, “With the monsoon followed by flood and natural calamities in certain areas of the country, the social distancing measures implemented by the authorities will have a propensity to break down. It also raises the chances of cross-contamination. The doctors are now dealing with two different types of cases — Covid-19 and fever due to water and vectorborne diseases. There is no special precautionary measure that can be taken besides maintaining proper hygiene and social distancing, wearing masks and regular hand sanitising.”
With over one million cases of Covid-19 in India and with the monsoon, the country is witnessing increased viral and protozoal infections. Incidentally, these infections present with symptoms such as fever, body pain and joint pain among others, similar to Covid-19 symptoms. “The medical fraternity has to be extra careful so that they don’t miss the diagnosis of these infections. People are taking due measures to control coronavirus spread. But for the vector-borne diseases, mosquito breeding needs to be controlled,” says Dr Navneet Kaur, general physician, Apollo Spectra hospital Delhi.
Water-logging in slums is a common sight every year during monsoon, especially in Mumbai, Gujarat and other areas where monsoon fury creates havoc. But this time the crisis is more severe due to Corona. Evidently so, heavy rain has heightened the fears of the underprivileged of contracting Covid-19 and other monsoon-related illnesses. The monsoon season comes with its own set of problems which add to the fear around the pandemic. Most people who are destitute do not even understand what coronavirus is and worry that even having low-grade fever indicates Covid-19, there is still a lack of awareness on the ground level.
“Underprivileged families live in tents and open shelters that do not provide adequate protection from water-logging. The heavy rain adds to their woes and makes them exposed to water-borne diseases. Due to this lack of awareness, people tend to jump to conclusions. In one of the shelter homes supported by our NGO, a man complained of acute stomach pain and was running low-grade temperature. While he was rushed to the doctor, everyone at the centre was alarmed as they thought he had Covid-19. He was tested and the doctors ascertained that it was gastroenteritis,” says Dr Geetanjali Chopra, founder and president, Wishes and Blessings NGO. This just shows the complete lack of awareness on the ground level and the dangerous panic it can create.
Simple living holds relevance even in the times of corona. By adapting safe and preventive measures risks of seasonal diseases can be easily avoided. “By being conscious of your eating and drinking habits as well as clean surroundings over 95% of the infectionrelated issues could be prevented. Such individual efforts will help society in terms of reducing the burden on the country’s healthcare system. Even if one does get sick the system is there for the treatment which will be more effective if it is not overburdened with these infections,” says Dr Rajesh Kumar, Internal Medicines, Paras Hospital, Gurugram. In addition, to avoid catching these infections, avoid getting drenched in rain and wading through stagnant water or flooded areas. If you have any open wounds or cuts then clean it immediately, don’t eat fruits and vegetables that are kept cut for a longer period as they may carry bacteria.
Since many monsoon-related illnesses mimic symptoms of Covid-19 which is making people anxiously rushing to clinics/hospitals. Out-of-hospital care brands can share the burden of doctors battling Covid-19 cases. Dr Vishal Sehgal, medical director, Portea Medical, says, “While people have been cautious about visiting hospitals during the pandemic unless necessary, it is imperative to continue the same even during monsoons. Preventive measures are the key and people must ensure that they undertake teleconsultation services first. We have been making continuous efforts to lighten the burden on hospitals by providing teleconsultation and home-based healthcare services on demand. This ensures that hospital beds are reserved for those with critical illnesses or Covid-19 patients with complications.” He also adds that individuals and communities can opt for home isolation services in case they develop mild symptoms or are asymptomatic as well.
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HEAR ME OUT: A CHILD’S UN-ATTENDED MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS CAN CAUSE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES
Balanced mental health helps a child achieve good mental, emotional and physical growth. If the required emotional support is missing, it can harm the child’s overall wellbeing with long-lasting effects. Since one can’t point out exactly where and when the damage occurred, the signs of this unintentional act can be challenging to identify and overcome. At times, parents are unable to comprehend their child’s emotions and feelings which makes it difficult for them to retort to their cognitive needs. For instance, a child has been complaining that he or she is upset about a friend at school but the parent brushes it off as a childhood game instead of attending and helping the child cope with the issue. As a result of this behaviour, over time, the child begins to feel that his or her problems are not as important for their parents and stops seeking support.
As a responsible guardian, one must take the time to understand the role played by mental health in your child’s overall well-being. Untreated emotional needs can lead to more grave health problems having long-term consequences.
Below mentioned are some of the jeopardies of disregarding a child’s mental health needs:
Deteriorating of mental health problems: Mental health needs in children like unconditional love from family, the urge to be raised in a secure environment or ample opportunity to socially interact do not get better on their own. In order to fasten the process of recovery, it is important to address their need on a timely basis. For instance, unattended anxiety-like low-self-esteem may intensify to panic attacks, and failing to address the same can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Enduring physical health challenges: A healthy and balanced lifestyle can be achieved only by a fine amalgamation of one’s emotional and physical requirements. One needs to be mentally fit to be physically fit. Intertwining our physical and mental health lends us with a recipe for balanced health care. To maintain that stability, love, security, and acceptance should be at the core of family life. For parents, it is extremely important to make their child understand that their love is boundless and does not depend on his/her success or any accomplishments. Parents who do not notice the child’s emotional needs tend to indirectly abandon their physical health too causing them to fall prey to multiple ailments in the long run.
Instability in your daily life: Being unable to meet the child’s emotional needs can make it challenging to cope with everyday life. It can hinder the child’s ability to study, sleep, eat and play. Anxiety in children can make communication tougher, making it even more difficult to treat mental ailments and address the issue.
Inability to nurture emotions: Never having understood the importance of their own emotions, these kids will grow up into adults who too will fail to nurture emotions in their children. Hence, effective treatment is necessary to help people of all ages to overcome the effects of emotional neglect in the short term and avert future complications.
A child’s emotional state of mind must never be unnoticed since their mental wellbeing is just as essential as their physical health. Mental health in kids is crucial since it tends to impact how your child thinks, feels, acts, learns, and the way they handle stress, and relate to others. Hearing out about the child’s innate emotional needs will help them to follow good mental hygiene and develop resilience. This will further help them cope with whatever life has in store for them and turn out to be mature and stable adults.
The writer is Mental & Emotional Wellbeing Coach, Founder – Let Us Talk.
5 TYPES OF TESTS FOR ALZHEIMER’S DIAGNOSIS
Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related neurological disease that occurs due to the progressive shrinking, damage and death (atrophy) of brain cells. Dementia too is an age-related disorder that occurs due to the damage and death of brain cells (atrophy). However, both diseases are not a part of normal ageing.
In India, an estimated 11% of people above the age of 65 years develop Alzheimer’s disease. Over 50 million people the world over have Alzheimer’s disease, of which 5.3 million are in India alone, and it is expected that the number of Alzheimer-related dementia is expected to go up to 10 million by 2040 (1 of every 27 people), as per a 2020 study on dementia.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause leading up to dementia.
• Deterioration in brain function manifests gradually in the manner given below. However, interestingly, the part of the brain which deals with skills like reading, appreciation of music, dancing or drawing, may deteriorate at a much later stage:
– increasing absent-mindedness,
– decreased ability to remember conversations and recent happenings,
– memory lapse, memory loss and difficulty remembering or recognising previously familiar places, people and objects,
– lack of concentration,
– difficulty in organising and articulating thoughts,
– inability to multitask,
– increasing inability to recognise numbers and dealing with bills and other such;
– graduallyfinding it increasingly challenging to accomplish daily routine tasks such as eating, bathing, and dressing.
• Social withdrawal,
• Mood disorders, apathy and depression,
• Disturbed sleep pattern,
• Delusionary behaviour
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is gradual. Recent path-breaking studies indicate that the following tests can predict its onset long before the symptoms begin to appear:
•Thyroid profile (T3, T4, TSH) – to assess thyroid dysfunction: Both Hyper and Hypothyroidism have been recognised as risk factors for dementia. Both high and low levels of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) are linked to AD and dementia among women, but not men.
•Vitamin B12 test (methylmalonic acid (MMA) blood test) –Low levels are associated with brain shrinkage and brain cell atrophy.
•Vitamin D test (25-hydroxyvitamin D) – Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, magnesium, phosphate, zinc and iron in the body and acts as a hormone on its own while encouraging healthy hormone secretion. Low Vitamin D levels increase the risk of AD by 50%, while severe deficiency increases the risk by 125%.
•IRS-1 protein – (IRS-1 proteinis critical in insulin signalling in the brain and is found to be defective in Alzheimer’s patients). Insulin resistance is the most vital factor for Type 2 Diabetes, and research studies are afoot to prove the strong link between T2DM and AD with absolute certainty. AD has been termed as Type 3 Diabetes by many experts.
•APOE4 protein – DNA evaluation ascertains the presence of APOE4 protein in AD patients, especially where genetics is a major cause (as in young-onset AD). It is found to be absent in patients who are not afflicted by AD.
•Testing of microRNAs – Testing of microRNAs in the blood and brain, which has an 87% accuracy in predicting dementia.
NEUROLOGICAL HEALTH EVALUATION
The doctor may ask the patient to carry out some physical activity (e.g. walking from one point to another, draw a chair, sit down, stand up, respond to sounds, solve a quiz or solve mathematical questions requiring dealing with numbers, logic, etc.) to assess the following:
•Tests involving physical movement
– Muscle tone, strength, coordination and reflexes
– Hearing and vision evaluation
– Physical balance
•Tests to assess cognitive decline and mental health
– Level of memory skills: remembering recent conversations, recognising people, places and objects, etc.
– Coherence and flow of thought
– Articulation and decision-making skills
– Depression and mood swings
– Social interaction levels
BRAIN FUNCTION TESTS
•MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain to detect brain shrinkage.
•CT (computerised tomography) scan of the brain to detect abnormalities caused by a previous trauma due to brain injury, stroke, or tumour.
•PET (positron emission tomography) scan helps indetermining the pattern of brain degeneration and poor nutrient metabolisation, beta-amyloid clusters and tau tangles. However, many times, the full picture of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, which are a major cause of Alzheimer’s can be fully ascertained as the definite cause, only after the patient’s death.
The writer is Lab Director at Lifeline Laboratory.
ALL YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a slow and progressive brain disorder that results in the gradual worsening of memory and thinking skills, eventually resulting in an inability to do even simple things over time. Every year, 21 September is celebrated as World Alzheimer’s Day to create awareness about the disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia (a group of diseases that results in memory impairment). It amounts to nearly 70% of all causes of dementia. Why people develop this disorder is not yet known so far. The sufferer experiences symptoms because the nerves present in the brain that carry out the function of thinking, memory, learning (called cognitive functions), are damaged or impaired.
There are nearly 55 million people affected with dementia all over the world and nearly 70% to 80% of them have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This number is projected to increase to 155 million in 2050. As the healthcare system is improving all over the world, the number of aged population is also increasing which results in more elderly people being diagnosed with dementia.
Sufferers of AD experience loss of productive abilities, increased dependence on family for care, and create a huge economic impact on society. Nearly 50% of Alzheimer patients are living in resource-poor countries. It is commonly seen in people over the age of 60 to 65 years of age and increases in number with the increase in age.
AD is caused due to the accumulation of a protein called beta-amyloid outside the nerve cells and an abnormal protein called tau inside the nerve cells. These accumulations result in the impairment of the supply of nutrients to nerve cells in the brain and finally death of the nerve, which then progresses and results in shrinkage of the brain. These changes initially involve the nerve cells in the brain which are responsible for memory and learning, but as the disease progresses, it will involve other parts of the brain. The average life span after diagnosing AD is about four to eight years, but some can live up to 15-20 years. The progression of AD can be divided into three stages.
STAGE 1. MILD OR EARLY STAGE
In this stage, most people can function independently in many areas and may need assistance with some activities. They are able to drive and take part in most activities. An important feature in this stage is the impairment of recent memory which may show slow worsening over time. This stage usually lasts for two to four years.
STAGE 2. MODERATE
In this stage, most people show impaired memory, difficulty in remembering names, places, confusion, inability to recognise familiar places, mood changes, aggression, sleep disturbances, hallucinations and delusions. Many people show uninhibited and improper behaviour. They may have a stiffness of the limbs, limitation of movements. Most people required assistance for their day to day activities. This stage is usually long duration spanning from 2 to 10 years
STAGE 3- SEVERE STAGE
In this stage, all the affected people need total assistance for all the day to day activities round the clock. They may be incontinent, feeding may be difficult and mobility may be significantly restricted, with poor recognition of self and surroundings. This stage may last for one to three years.
All those people who are around the age of 60to 65 years, who show impairment of their recent memory- like forgetting familiar names, forgetting places of objects, difficulty in finding familiar ways and places should be evaluated by a neurologist. This is important because while dementia could be the reason, the root cause can be another treatable condition if evaluated correctly and with treatment, a patient can significantly improve.
Currently, there is no permanent cure for AD anywhere in the world. Some of the medications which can delay the progression of the disease are used in all the affected patients.
Many studies suggest that the following helps in slowing the progression
• Getting regular exercise. It helps to stimulate your brain’s ability to maintain good brain health
• Stay socially engaged. Connecting face-to-face with others can help improve your cognitive function
• Eat a brain-healthy diet. The right foods can help reduce inflammation and promote better communication between brain cells.
• Get quality sleep to flush out brain toxins and avoid the build-up of damaging molecules.
Most importantly, a person affected with this disease has to be supported by a multi-disciplinary team which is supervised by neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physiotherapist, and most importantly expert nursing care. The caregiver plays an important role in the management of a person with Alzheimer’s disease along with the help of other family members.
The writer is Head of Neurology, Aster RV Hospital, JP Nagar, Bengaluru.
A person affected with Alzheimer’s has to be supported by a multi-disciplinary team which is supervised by neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physiotherapist, and most importantly expert nursing care. The caregiver plays an important role in the management of a person with Alzheimer’s disease along with the help of other family members.
IMPORTANCE OF EATING HEALTHY AND NUTRITIOUS FOOD FROM CHILDHOOD
Nutrition plays a crucial role in the wholesome growth of a child—both physically and mentally. A balanced diet is recommended for children so that they do not suffer from cognition and immunity-based health hazards.
Children’s brains are capable of developing at a very fast cadence. Interestingly, by the time children reach a stage where they begin to attend primary school, their brains already progress at a very high pace compared to any other point in their life cycle. We frequently make use of the terms “growth” and “development” synonymously while discussing children growing up, but in fact, these are two very different qualities. Growth implies a quantifiable enlargement in dimensions of the body, such as height and weight; on the other hand, development implies the acquisition of perceptions towards surroundings, attitude, behaviour patterns, and socialising skills. Apart from growth and development, the third most crucial dimension is maturation, which refers to the progression of a child into adulthood at a certain time, depending on the sex of the child, and other biochemical factors. All three aforementioned dimensions of progress in children are facilitated by good nutrition.
When children are deprived of essential nutrients in food, they get malnourished or undernourished. Malnutrition is a state when an individual’s diet is not capable enough to make available sufficient nutrients required for optimal health. It can be due to a variety of underlying socio-economic reasons—low-income sources, difficulty in obtaining food, and other physical and mental health circumstances. Malnutrition severely affects growth, development, and maturity amongst children. In the 2020 Global Hunger Index report, India was ranked 94th out of 107 countries. India harbours more than one-third of the world’s malnourished children. 50% of children, below 5 years of age die because of sheer undernourishment. Most of these children belong to underprivileged and destitute families.
The Government of India considers the health of children an important concern. Hence, various central and state schemes are being executed in full swing, to eradicate hunger. They consist of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), National Children Fund (NCF), National Health Mission, Midday Meals Scheme, amongst many others. Under the government’s supervision, various steps have been taken in the direction of nutritional security amongst children and vulnerable citizens. These include setting up community kitchens, adding protein-rich supplements to the Public Distribution System, which includes pulses and millets, etc. Various Non Profit Organisations are also executing hunger annihilation projects in the same direction. It requires a partnership between all the entities involved in hunger annihilation in order to actually help the country progress.
The children of today become the powerful and progressive youth of tomorrow. They must be protected and nourished adequately. Our efforts as individuals must never fell short when it comes to the children of our country, and hence it is important to join forces and work together for a brighter future for our children. Food must always remain a fundamental necessity and not a luxury!
The writer is the Founder and President, Wishes and Blessings NGO.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND TREATMENTS OF ACNE AND PORES?
Acne or pimples as it is commonly known is not just a teenage problem. It can happen to anybody at any time! Men and women included. The zit that you have been itching to pop happens when the skin pores become blocked with oil, dead skin cells, debris and even bacteria.
This is why it is important to keep the skin pores clean. When clogged, the skin can not breathe and oil and bacteria find a merry ground to cultivate and cause different kinds of acne. There are millions of pores on the skin and they keep the skin healthy, ensure even distribution of sebum (aka keeps its moisturised) and keeps the skin cool.
The cause of acne and enlarged pores
The pores open outwards to a follicle that has hair and a sebaceous gland. Any disturbance in its function can cause the pores to become enlarged, clogged and turn into blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and other kinds of acne. The common well-known causes of acne and enlarged pores includes
• High level of sebum production
• Loss of elasticity of the skin around the pores
• Hormonal imbalance
• Dirt and pollution
• Sun damage
• Reduction of collagen
• Diet high in processed food and refined carbs
Of course, we all know or have heard about period pimples but there are some little known reasons that also might be causing those unsightly zits. Some of these are:
• Hair products coming in contact with the skin
• Not removing makeup or using the incorrect makeup remover
• Facial hair removal using topical products
• Too many skincare products and switching products too often
• Heavy sunscreens
• Your cell phone. The surface can transfer bacterial on the skin
Not treating acne or relying solely on home treatments will not bring in the much-needed relief. Acne and large pores are not a threat to your life but can be a bit of a downer for self-esteem and sometimes physically painful too.
Most of the time if you are careful in not popping the zit, it will go away in some time but if there is a pattern to the appearance then your dermatologist is the go-to person for long time relief.
The good news is that simple home care and some professional treatments can help get clean the pores and remove the acne without leaving any scars behind. Treatment depends on the type of acne, your age, the severity of acne and type of acne. Here are some popular treatments recommended by skin specialists worldwide to control acne:
• Medications – There are two types of acne medications one that is applied topically and the other that you have to take orally. Topical medications include:
Benzoyl peroxide cream and gel. This helps in killing the bacteria and drying out the pimple. Use it only on the pimple.
Salicylic acid is a common name for over-the-counter acne medications. This helps by removing the dead skin cells and keeping the pores clean.
Azelaic acid kills the microorganism and reduces swelling and inflammation
Vitamin A derivatives include retinol products that not only prevent clogged pores but also get rid of the signs of ageing. These can be used on the entire face safely.
Glycolic acid works by exfoliating the skin and improving collagen production and thus keeping the pore size in check.
Niacinamide is a popular vitamin B derivative it controls inflammation and reduces excess oil production and thus keeps moderate acne in control.
Oral medications include antibiotics, oral contraceptives and isotretinoin. Contraceptives are commonly given to women and contain a combination of estrogen and progesterone and they target the underlying cause of acne, that is, hormonal imbalance.
• Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion – these professional techniques remove the top layer of the skin using a rotating tip. These are mostly used to remove the dead skin cells (preventive measure) and treat acne scars.
• Photodynamic therapy – Using lasers and lights to reduce oil production in the follicles and preventing bacterial development
• Chemical peels – Specially formulated chemicals are applied to the skin to exfoliate the top layer. This treatment is not a permanent solution.
• Removing blackheads and whiteheads – the blackhead and whiteheads are removed using a special tool to keep the skin pores clean and breathing.
• Cystic acne – For Cystic acne, Cortisone steroid injections are used to bring immediate relief and improve acne healing.
● • Micro-needling – This treatment is specifically used to make the pores appear smaller and improved collagen production. This indirectly helps in controlling acne.
At home, you can do simple things like using skin suitable cleanser morning and night, protecting your skin from the sun, avoid contact with friction such as phones, hats, helmets etc., avoid using greasy products, drinking an adequate amount of water and avoiding ‘breakout’ food to keep the acne and enlarged pores at bay.
The writer is a Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetic Dermatologist & Dermato-Surgeon, The Esthetic Clinics.
FROM PROMISE TO FULFILMENT: HEALTHCARE STARTUPS WILL BUILD INTERNET OF MEDICAL THINGS IN INDIA
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare was one of the most critical issues in India, from both access and cost viewpoints. Having limited resources means doing more with less, and nothing enables that better than technology. In the last 18 months, the emergence of healthcare and health-tech startups has demonstrated that admirably.
Here is the scale of the challenge in healthcare: India’s allopathic doctor-to-patient ratio is 1:1596, compared to the WHO standard of 1:1000. India is ranked 145 out of 195 countries on the Health Access and Quality (HAQ) index, a global metric created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.
At the same time, in June 2021, India had 5,705 startups that focus on healthcare, according to Traxcn, a research firm that tracks technology investments. According to the same firm, investment in India’s health-tech sector from 2014 amounts to roughly $3.4 billion.
As our 2020 report “Igniting Startups with Investor Insights”–that we wrote in partnership with KPMG–said, health and technology would be the fastest growing sectors that startups and private equity investors would be betting on.
SURVEYING THE LANDSCAPE
India’s health-tech universe is a widely varying one, and experts identify several areas. Most, however, are concentrated in a limited group: telemedicine, online pharmacies, homecare, and diagnostics. In other words, they focus on improving access and care.
Telemedicine was one of the areas where the impact of health-tech was most visibly felt during the pandemic. A report by IAMAI-PRAXIS found that telephonic and video consultations with doctors went up by 300% during the pandemic (still ongoing). Orders from e-pharmacies went up 200%, mostly from patients with chronic conditions.
Apollo Health, a healthcare player with a large presence, has set up teleclinic centres in rural locations; video chat technologies allow patients to consult doctors directly. But several health-tech companies offer more than just teleconsultations. Consider Practo, that helped to create scale in direct-to-patient, app-based solutions. This startup offers a whole package of services that includes insurance claims filing, electronic health records, and even links patients to a network of doctors and hospitals.
Other health-tech startups that enable more efficient doctor-patient consultations include Lybrate, DocsApp, and MFine. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2025, telemedicine will account for half of all patient-doctor consultations in India. There’s a bonus: it will save $4 to $5 billion in costs since telemedicine visits are 30% cheaper.
Access to medicines has been another challenge. According to a 2018 report from Research and Markets, a market intelligence provider, India’s 850,000 retail pharmacies are still only able to meet 60% of total demand. Firms like 1mg, PharmEasy, Netmeds, Medlife, etc., have emerged to address that gap.
FROM HEALTH-TECH TO DEEPTECH
In recent years, people have started paying greater and more regular attention to personal health management. Health tracking apps like Maya and PregBuddy, for example, help women monitor their periods and their conditions during pregnancy.
Many fitness and nutrition startups have emerged as wellness gained importance. Fitternity, Cure.fit, HealthifyMe, GoQii, and HealthKart are among the prominent ones. There are several business models, for example, GoQii has a wearable device with remote trainers. Yourdost and InnerHour focus on mental wellbeing.
The home healthcare segment continues to evolve, from simple testing, taking care of the elderly, cancer support, pathology sample collection–many remember the flurry of RT-PCR testing at home during the pandemic–to physiotherapy and home nursing.
More than 75% of all clinical decisions depend on diagnostics, so it is only natural that health-tech goes there too.
This is where artificial intelligence and data analytic—the high-tech end of health-tech—come in. Qure.ai, NIRAMAI Health Analytix, and SigTuple enable faster, better diagnosis, using deeptech to analyse radiology, pathology, and medical imaging reports.
Some innovations address indirect health issues. The BabyLabel LLP, for example, makes CO2Care, which are small canisters to be placed in any masks to protect against airborne virus infections like Covid-19. These canisters have the material in them that absorbs CO2. It addresses concerns over CO2 buildup in masks worn for extended periods. Research indicates that increased CO2 concentration could result in people suffering from fatigue, headaches, and a loss of concentration.
There are other areas in which health-tech startups become deeptech or IP-driven, innovator firms: medical devices, biotech R&D, biopharma, healthcare IT services, even genomics. The possibilities seem almost endless, integrating healthcare and technology to make the extraordinary possible.
FUTURE OF HEALTH-TECH IN INDIA
Viewed in terms of size, the market for healthcare technology does not seem impressive, at an estimated $2 billion or roughly Rs 15,000 crore. That’s less than 1% of the overall healthcare market which according to many analysts, will be $372 billion in 2025.
But it’s the impact that healthcare startups and health-tech will create that matters. Health-tech is expected to grow at 39% on a compounded annual growth rate and create 40 million new jobs by 2030. The government has introduced several elements of a national digital health ecosystem that, when it all comes together, will have exponential network effects.
In July 2015, while launching the Digital India Initiative, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “I dream of a Digital India where quality healthcare percolates right up to the remotest regions powered by e-healthcare.” Health-tech startups will reshape how healthcare is delivered in the next decade and make the realisation of that vision possible.
Aman Gupta is Co-founder & Managing Partner at SPAG and Christina A. D’souza is the Healthcare Practice Lead at SPAG.
Health-tech is expected to grow at 39% on a compounded annual growth rate and create 40 million new jobs by 2030. The government has introduced several elements of a national digital health ecosystem that, when it all comes together, will have exponential network effects.
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