India's Perspective On AI Abilities In Healthcare - Current & Future Possibilities
Rising disease burden, 70 percent out of pocket expenses, paucity of clinical talent and metro-based healthcare infrastructure! What an odd concoction where the issue is not demand but supply of quality healthcare services. Unfortunately, none of the challenges can be comprehensively addressed with a traditional mindset!
New models leveraging technology will have to be explored to address the key issues of affordability and accessibility. A spectrum of possibilities exist; from scientific innovations to cure rare disorders, to point of care diagnostics, to medical devices, to using AI and ML as decision support systems to perhaps using tech based solutions to address critical points of failure which impact patient safety.
Healthcare practitioners and organisations have started to accept the role of emerging technologies including `Uberisation' of services/talent through centralised command centers. However the first step is to digitize and organise patient data across the network. Implementing a strong and integrated technology architecture hold the key to adoption of solutions which impact safety and efficiency. In India, we have perhaps taken baby steps to harness the potential of healthcare technologies. However wide disparity exists because fundamentally it's a very fragmented sector, 85 percent of the services are provided by small to medium sized nursing homes, 12 percent of the demand is serviced by public institutions and three percent by large private networks. Another dimension of this disparity is the urban and rural divide. It's ironical that 60-70 percent of the demand comes from Tier-2/Tier-3 and rural areas whereas 60-70 percent of the healthcare infra is in Tier- towns/cities. AL, ML, wearable's, screening devices, remote monitoring systems (robotics, virtual reality) and a myriad of applications are now available which will enable a paradigm shift in healthcare delivery.
AI is breaking the silos by using the huge amount of data generated to create digital health records of individuals to provide real-time and targeted mobile health solutions
At Max Healthcare, we have followed a tri-modal approach. First and foremost, strengthening technology infrastructure to ensure cleansed & harmonised patient data, 24x7 availability of core systems & applications, enabling remote access & monitoring, and leveraging mobility to the hilt.
Secondly, exploring and adopting technologies which improve patient safety. Remote monitoring devices which facilitate faster shift from ICUs to wards, thereby impacting cost without compromising safety. Anti-microbial stewardship application to reduce antibiotic usage, digital monitoring of hospital acquired infections to reduce incidence rate and a ER command centre to monitor patients while being transported to the hospital in an ambulance, are some examples of our endeavour in this regard.
Thirdly, keep exploring new technologies like AI applications in Radiology, developing algorithms to predict reoccurrence of MI/stroke, self-service kiosks and digital tools to engage customers.
Another way to look at our approach is technologies that can sense, think and act like humans. AI is capable of solving various challenges our healthcare system is currently facing. The technological innovation is proving to be beneficial in diagnosis procedure, monitoring of chronic conditions, assisting in robotic surgery, drug discovery, and other use cases. Several companies are exploring various uses of AI in the healthcare segment to heighten its implementation in several healthcare segments like cardiology, eye-care, diseases like Tuberculosis, HIV and others.
Slowly but interestingly, AI is making inroads into the Indian healthcare system and is breaking the silos by using the huge amount of data generated to create digital health records of individuals to provide real-time and targeted mobile health solutions. As a country, India should definitely look at investing in such technologies. And with the startup ecosystem getting stronger, the future will see new disruptive innovations and experiences driving this change.