Touchpoint Highlights: Building and Scaling Digital Health for the Underserved

The second session in the SKI Touchpoint series was conducted by the Health Practice Area, on the theme of ‘Building and Scaling Digital Health for the Underserved’. 

The session was facilitated and moderated by Sattva Knowledge Institute’s Lakshmi Sethuraman, Principal and Lead, Health Practice Area and Prof. Prabhakaran Dorairaj (Cardiologist, Director of Centre for Digital Health at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Executive Director, Centre for Chronic Disease Control) was the chief discussant. The webinar covered: 

  1. The need for building and scaling digital solutions for the underserved, the current landscape, and major challenges; 
  2. Suggestions to drive penetration and usage of the solutions;
  3. Role of non-profits and philanthropic community in enabling digital solutions for the underserved.

The session began with an overview of the digital health landscape in India. It was highlighted that digital solutions can help tackle individual and nationwide health emergencies by providing timely information about hospitals and health registries through national databases. Yet, the lack of digital literacy, affordability, gender biases, and age gaps, among other socioeconomic issues, limit the reach and acceptance of digital health solutions for a population that most needs them. 

India has the widest gender gap of 40.4% within the Asia-Pacific region vis-a-vis internet access. The rural-urban divide is evident, only 25% of rural Indians have access to the internet, as opposed to 61% of their urban counterparts. Moreover, only 38% of the Indian population is digitally literate. 

Participants also shared the challenges they faced while deploying digital solutions in their contexts. The discussion revealed that in order to accelerate the demand for digital health solutions, it would be imperative to evaluate existing use cases and demonstrate the value proposition to drive awareness. On the supply side of the digital health solutions, pathways such as a common platform for solution-testing by start-ups, and increasing the production volume to supply solutions at lower per cost unit would allow these solutions to make the market inroads. 

The experts established that a host of roles are required to be played with concerted efforts between the state, the non-profits, funders, and digital health solution providers to build and scale digital health solutions for the underserved. They also interacted with participants, sharing their thoughts on addressing the impediments that healthcare providers and other stakeholders highlight in scaling digital solutions.

If you missed the session, you can access the recording of the webinar here:

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