5 minute read 5 Mar 2021
Technology in health and social care services

How embracing digital transformation in healthcare can help improve citizen health post pandemic

By Gaurav Taneja

EY India Government and Public Sector Leader and AIM Advisory Government and Public Sector Leader.

At the intersection of public policy, private sector and citizen service. Avid traveler. Football enthusiast.

5 minute read 5 Mar 2021

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  • Embracing digital: is COVID-19 the catalyst for lasting change?

The pandemic spurred many health and human service providers to embrace digital health solutions. Now action is needed to maintain progress. 

In brief

  • Pre-pandemic, many health and human services providers were slow to embrace digital due to lack of funds, regulatory restrictions and risk aversion.
  • COVID-19 swept away many of these barriers, leading to digital transformation of healthcare – from ways of working to service delivery.
  • To capture ongoing benefits for service users, organizations need to embed new technologies and practices for the future.

EY partnered with Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) and YouGov, to undertake a research into the use of digital technologies and data solutions in the Health and Social Sector (HSS) landscape. The research aims to understand how HSS providers have used digital solutions during the COVID-19 crisis and how they anticipate service delivery altering in the future. The objective of the study was also to gain insights on how several Health and Human Services (HHS) providers have unlocked the power of digital to redesign services and delivered effective and focused solutions, which led to better health outcomes for citizens and patients.

The report is based on a YouGov survey with responses from 2,243 health and human services professionals in six countries – India, Australia, Italy, UAE, UK, US. The number of respondents in India was 359.The findings reveal that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital solutions and brought about a substantial shift in the attitudes of HSS professionals with respect to using technology in their everyday work. Interestingly, India has witnessed one of the highest adoptions of digital technologies by HSS organizations among the countries surveyed.

India success story with digital technologies and data solutions


of the surveyed health and human services organizations (including public, private and voluntary/non-profit) in India increased their use of digital technologies during the pandemic


of respondents in India reported that digital technologies and data solutions have increased the productivity of staff


reported that digital solutions have been effective in delivering better outcomes for patients and service users


of respondents from India agreed that use of digital solutions have been effective in ensuring access to care when and where people need it


increase in the number of people using online consultations in India

  • Phone and video consultations have seen the greatest uptake across all tech solutions, with phone consultations being offered by 86% of HHS organizations and video consultations available from 83% of organizations.
  • The public sector organisations in India preferred digital tools for self-help (92% organisations) and online self-assessment tools (89% organisations) over phone consultation and video consultation.
  • 69% of respondents in India reported that their capability to deliver service had improved since the pandemic owing to employing a broader range of digital and analytical solutions
  • Three fourth of the respondents reported positive experiences with digital technologies and data solutions, leading to better collaboration and efficiency in the operating model.

Key challenges in HHS and barriers to technology adoption

According to the survey, organizations continue to face several challenges such as maintaining safety and wellbeing of staff, maintaining access to care, operating within the budget, and managing workforce capacity while they respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Privacy concerns, ethical concerns about using digital technology and loss of human interaction are some of the major barriers preventing rapid adoption of technologies in India. Nearly 40% of the respondents from India listed ethics and privacy concerns as one of the most prevalent barriers significantly higher than other countries in our sample, with only 11% of UK respondents and 20% of US respondents, respectively, citing this as a main barrier.

Widespread technology use will continue in the future

  • 75% of respondents from India indicated that they plan to further invest in digital solutions and technologies over the next 3 years and that the level of investment will be more than 50% as compared to the previous 3 years.
  • Regarding the future, mental health services are more likely to report planned investments in AI-powered diagnostic solutions over the next three years in India, at 81%, compared with 77% and 76% for physical health services and social services respectively.

The vital question now is, are we prepared to address the key pre-COVID and post-COVID barriers highlighted in the survey? Some of the pre-COVID barriers include the ability to protect an individual’s identity and personal information, ethical concerns about the use of technology, while post-COVID barriers include lack of adequate financial resources to acquire needed tools, technologies and equipment. Will we continue with the top enablers for digital adoption during the COVID period such as rapid development of strategic plan for digital adoption and improving service users’ proficiency to use the tools?

The focus now should be on putting in place the right processes, digital tools and skills that are required to meet the medical needs of a post-pandemic world, and to prepare for any future health crises.

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The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that data and technology can make a real difference to the work of health and human services professionals in India, who have worked tirelessly and heroically in the face of this dreadful disease. With adequate government support and incentives, India has truly set an example to the rest of the world that it can lead and pave the way for technology adoption in healthcare. The lessons learned during the pandemic must lead to continued technology investments in the healthcare sector.

About this article

By Gaurav Taneja

EY India Government and Public Sector Leader and AIM Advisory Government and Public Sector Leader.

At the intersection of public policy, private sector and citizen service. Avid traveler. Football enthusiast.