In the healthcare sector, the significance of digital identity has surged, particularly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. The global crisis exposed healthcare systems to cyberattacks, putting patients’ sensitive medical data at risk of misuse or theft. Digital identity, essentially a one-to-one connection between an individual and their online presence, becomes increasingly crucial.

Digital identity is more important than ever in the healthcare space, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. The unprecedented crisis witnessed cyberattacks on healthcare systems across the world, leaving the sensitive medical information of patients vulnerable to misuse or theft. Digital identity can be typically defined as a one-to-one relationship between a human and their digital presence. For, e.g., Aadhaar is a form of digital identity in India and is also the largest national digital identification program in the world.

When it comes to healthcare, digital identity plays a crucial role in protecting vital medical information, optimising efficiency, and ensuring proper access. These factors make it a significant tool in modernising healthcare.

Why digital identity is important in healthcare?

There are several reasons that make digital identity significant in healthcare. Giving patients more control over their health data is one of the primary benefits it offers. It enables patients to manage access to their medical records by healthcare providers. For instance, patients can choose to share information with just their primary care physician and no other doctors.

Another crucial aspect highlighting the importance of digital identity in healthcare is that it would enable patients to get better care by simplifying provider access to their records. For instance, if the patients have seen various specialists or received care at different facilities, then it can be challenging for providers to get a clear picture of a patient’s health history.

The importance of digital identity in healthcare is underscored by its ability to enhance patient care. Simplifying provider access to patient records becomes crucial, especially when patients have received care from various specialists or different healthcare facilities. A robust digital identity framework facilitates seamless information sharing, providing a comprehensive view of a patient’s health history. This, in turn, leads to better-informed decisions and improved patient outcomes.

Digital identity also contributes to error reduction and fraud prevention in healthcare. The streamlined and secure access to patient information minimizes errors, enhances safety protocols, and acts as a deterrent against fraudulent activities. These aspects are pivotal in establishing trust and integrity within the healthcare ecosystem.

How digital identity can play a pivotal role in modernising healthcare

Digital identity became more important in the face of an unprecedented health crisis. One example is how digital identity improved infection control during the Covid pandemic. As per a report, the use of digital identity in hospital settings during the pandemic improved infection control, facility operations, and clinical care.

There is no doubt that digital identity is the foundation of a modern healthcare IT system that is the need of the hour. Ensuring proper access, protecting medical information or sensitive patient data, and optimising efficiency are invaluable pillars of an increasingly complex healthcare system. Digital identity management is key to protecting these pillars. By allowing a solid digital identity framework, healthcare organizations can position themselves for success and reap benefits like protection against attacks, ensuring the right access at the right times, streamlined compliance and reporting, and enhanced patient care.

Some of the important opportunities and disruptions presented by digital innovations in the realm of “Health for All”, further necessitating the need and potential of digital health technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in enabling a health ecosystem that ensures equitable health.

Bridging the gap with Telemedicine

Healthcare practices in many countries took a shift from in-person consultations to telemedicine. This was to ensure social distancing and avoid the deadly viral infection that claimed millions of lives. Telemedicine emerged as a magical phenomenon during the pandemic as virtual care gained significance. Patients across the world, including in India, were able to consult doctors virtually with the help of remote and digital consultations, bridging the accessibility gap in healthcare. Telemedicine basically involves the use of digital health technologies like connectivity, sensors, and software for healthcare and related uses. Hence it is a boon for country like India where accessibility as well as affordability of healthcare a major concern.

The use of wearable technology to monitor health gained prominence as a pandemic response and the same is reflected in the widespread use of smartwatches and other wearable gadgets to keep a check on body parameters. These personal gadgets are furthering boosting the shift from curative towards a preventive approach thus making way for a patient centric approach in healthcare.

AI- A move towards smart care and reducing the burden on doctors

Cutting-edge technologies have reduced the administrative burden on physicians and AI has taken this game several notches up. Physical burnout among doctors is a prevalent condition and the pandemic was a testing time as we witnessed the problem on a large scale. It has been a long-standing issue across the world, but with AI enabling tech automation, things have started changing.

Nowadays, doctors or physicians are using AI-based voice-recognition software to document a wide range of clinical encounters. For example, speech-recognition software is being implemented by different healthcare providers. They are using it to do routine tasks that used to take a lot of time, like scheduling follow-up appointments and generating emails, orders, and prescriptions.

Better diagnosis through precision medicine and effective patient care

AI-based diagnostics are making effective patient care possible through better diagnosis as well as prognosis of diseases like cancer and diabetes. Precision medicine or personalized care has received a shot in the arm recently due to the implementation of AI. Several studies have also established that the convergence of AI and precision medicine promises to revolutionize healthcare. AI, for instance, leverages sophisticated computation and inference to enable the system to reason and learn, and generate insights. The technology also empowers clinician decision- making through augmented intelligence.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that intelligent healthcare has become the new norm in the post- pandemic setting. AI and digital health are already accelerating the Indian healthcare system to new heights. They are shaping the future of healthcare, with a lot of scope for innovation and implementation of new-age technologies in developing countries like India. A new World Economic Forum report also states that digital health solutions like telemedicine and remote tools and sensors, backed by new technologies like big data, could significantly reduce healthcare costs and equitably improve access, outcomes, and efficiency. However, the constrains of digital divide, economic disparity as well as education level need to be addressed in a holistic manner before we can fully use the technological innovations for a better healthcare ecosystem in the country. Leaving no one behind, as enshrined in the SDG’s should be the priority and digital heath can be an enabler to achieve that goal.

Increased reliance on digital identity can however have increased vulnerability to things such as identity theft, financial damage, and data loss, even as the benefits of cloud-based services and digital workflows are incredibly important. Data facilitates digital health practices, but increased use of data collection tools can raise privacy-related concerns. To overcome these challenges including ethical ones, a robust mechanism can be devised to take care of compliance and regulations, apart from integrating doctors, patients, and other stakeholders on a single platform. The whole process needs to become hassle free for users and also to address the gaps like digital divide and hesitancy in accepting technology.

In the midst of constant change and a rapidly evolving healthcare technology landscape, effective digital identity management emerges as a cornerstone for delivering quality healthcare. The modern healthcare system faces difficulties in fulfilling its primary purpose without a secure and efficient digital identity framework. By addressing challenges, fostering compliance, and embracing a user-centric approach, the healthcare sector can harness the transformative potential of digital identity, ensuring a future where healthcare is not just efficient but also secure patient-centric and inclusive.