Digital Health holds promise but requires ethical considerations, says Boston Consulting Group’s Partha Basumatary | Healthcare Asia Magazine

Digital Health holds promise but requires ethical considerations, says Boston Consulting Group’s Partha Basumatary

The Boston Consulting Group Principal discussed the complementary role of digital health services and emphasises the need for continuous innovation.

The increased use of smartphones, wearable devices, and internet connectivity has opened a world of possibilities for healthcare in recent years. The industry has witnessed the transformative phenomenon of the rise of digital health, allowing healthcare professionals to collect and analyse vast amounts of health data whilst gaining valuable insights to make informed decisions.

Partha Basumatary is a Principal at Boston Consulting Group (Singapore), with over 15 years of industry and consulting experience under his belt. He specialises in life sciences and the healthcare industry. He has served clients across pharmaceuticals, providers, MedTech, and payers space. 

For Partha, digital health does indeed have the potential to create a positive impact on patients. However, he cautioned that if not controlled, there is a huge risk of these technologies not being utilised properly.

In an interview with Healthcare Asia, Partha delved into the “complementary role” that digital health services will continue to play, along with how organisations can address the ethical and legal concerns that might surround this technology.

Digital health amidst shifting patient expectations

The global pandemic has been the key catalyst in the adoption of digital health tools such as teleconsultations. Partha even noted that telemedicine penetration increased two to three times across the Southeast Asia region between 2019 and 2020.

As the effects of the pandemic subside, it is becoming evident that the digital health technologies that emerged during that time are here to stay. These technologies encompass a range of services that interface with patients, such as wellness, appointment booking, laboratory tests and diagnostics, teleconsultations, e-pharmacy, health insurance, as well as remote tracking and monitoring.

“Digital health is incredibly exciting, and I truly believe in the potential of digital tools impacting patient outcomes positively,” Partha said. He then highlighted that offerings by digital players in healthcare such as Doctor Anywhere and Halodoc, as well as brick-and-mortar places in the region, are a testament to the growing demand for such services.

Despite the demand, Partha believes that digital healthcare cannot entirely displace physical services in the foreseeable future and will instead simply play a “complementary role.” As such, he noted that it is important for healthcare providers to continuously innovate and see how digital innovation in care delivery can help in creating a competitive advantage, either through patient experience enhancement or efficiency in operations.

Addressing ethical and legal concerns

The rise of AI, particularly generative AI like Chat-GPT, was described by Partha as something that can be “truly transformative.” As a recent use case, he noted that generative AI could identify a novel drug candidate within a very short period of time, a process that usually takes many years in a traditional R&D set-up. 

He also acknowledged that such technologies can be used to help the healthcare industry by improving productivity, efficiency, and innovation. On the other hand, Partha believes that there is an increased risk of legal and ethical concerns such as plagiarism, security issues, fake profiles, and impersonations, amongst others, if these kinds of technologies are not controlled. Additionally, copyright infringement and using biased outputs to make strategic decisions may also happen.

To address these risks, Partha stressed that industry players need to do the following: enact the right processes and governance internally to assess the holistic impact of AI use cases on the organisation, industry, and society; create clear AI use policies and communicate them to employees; protect confidential data from AI training models; and improve internal risk assessment capabilities.

As one of the judges in the recently concluded Healthcare Asia Awards, Partha considered organisations and projects’ innovation in care delivery, sustainable financing models amidst resource constraints, and their adoption of digital tools and technologies.

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