Healthcare in the Offering: From Early Detection to a Possible Cure

Sumit Singh, CIO & Business Head Digital, Wockhardt Hospitals Headquartered in Mumbai, Wockhardt Hospitals is one of India’s leading healthcare & hospital chain offering services mainly in the areas of Aesthetic Surgery, Bloodless Surgery, Interventional Radiology, Rheumatology, Brain & Spine Care, Bone & Joint Care, and many others.

Young Adults or Millennials, who have grown-up in a connected world, perceive,view and have expectations quite differently from the previous generations. Their comfort level and acceptability of technology in their day-to-day life is nearly seamless, their ability to process vast information through various technology-enabled platforms at their fingertips, their adaptability to change and quick gravitation to something new is well known. This independent minded generation,if not already, will soon be at the helm of affairs for major decision-making and will be the driving force for change for businesses as well. Healthcare, the way it is practiced and provided,is not going to be an exception. Therefore, the questions that begs an answer is, what we foresee the expectations from them and how some of them can be met?

Modern Medicine or Allopathy, as it is practiced today, has been reliant primarily on pharmaceutical drugs or some form of surgical interventions, which brought phenomenal improvement on quality of life and outcomes. This form of medicine will continue to serve well for the patients in times to come as well. However, a Pill for Every Ill has some proven limitations. In the past couple of decades, new approaches to healing have come in play, such as cell & gene therapy, and are showing real promise now. After decades of research, the human genome was first sequenced in the year 2003 and in the year 2007, one could have their genome sequenced for a cost of $350,000. Today, it can be done with the necessary analysis at $1000 only. With personal gene sequencing, it is now possible to know genetic disorders even before the onset of a disease/condition and even in
foetal stage. One can find the pre-disposition of certain diseases like autism, heart disease, diabetes,some form of cancers, to name a few along with ability to correctly choose drugs to manage disease based on the individual’s DNA profile. The next related exciting progress made more recently in the genome field is CRISPR or more recently, CRISPR/Cas9, which can edit human genes fast, accurately, and cheap to remove unwanted mutations. There is a good possibility that this could lead to cure or better quality of life.

"Healthcare as we know is poised for a new enriching chapter ahead and Patient Centricity is likely to be redefined in the coming decade"

Another variation of personalized medicine that is undergoing a revolution right in front of our eyes is in the field of wearables that are now monitoring a host of bio-parameters in real time. In a sense, we are already in the era of Bionic Man, and caught-up with popular culture and science fiction. Mind reading devices are already here and some very interesting ideas are being explored for the healthcare sector. While it sounds fantastic, a comfortable wearable headset reads EKG signals in real-time and based on certain personalized mapping of the brain signals is able to understand the thoughts and execute commands, including IoT devices automatically. Imagine the use cases in a smart healthcare facility and the kind of personalized care that could be provided to an incapacitated recuperating patient. Already so many parameters such as ECG, Heart Rate, Pulse, BP, Temperature, Fall Detection and Diabetes monitoring are happening on a single non-intrusive device. Some are in the form of a smartwatch or an IoT-enabled patch or even a ring. With some small sample even A1C, Thyroid, Lipid profiles and Basic Urine Routine can be reliably done at home on a compact easy to use device. All of them are paired with smart analytics leveraging massive data, both the individuals and a wide reference range. By using machine or deep learning, a new age of prevention, early detection and intervention is upon us. AI-based engines are monitoring constantly, determining the subject is normal along with any deviations and then based on multiple factors are alerting the subject of a possible oncoming illness even before the subject feels the conditions’ early effects. Recently the USFDA approved a hearing aid from Bose, which is a self-fitting device. This is a huge news, as it is the first device in its segment that is now available over the counter. A patient can use an app and make all adjustments required. Earlier, this required trained medical personnel to do the same task. Not only it proved disruptive to the incumbents and the entire eco-system behind, it also opens the possibilities of similar self-care for other chronic conditions. The Tricorder from the popular Hollywood movie Star Trek, it seems, is amongst us.

This transformation journey, which began recently, will only strengthen in the next 10 years, opening-up new opportunities for innovators. Care providers will also be able to leverage many of the same new technologies and those late in the game risk being left behind. The juggernaut of change is on the back many recent innovations that have taken centre stage, including Artificial Intelligence – Machine Learning & Deep Learning, Cloud Computing, Mobility & IoT, Miniaturization, RPA, Ubiquitous High Speed Connectivity, New Sensor Technologies, to name a few. To top it all, these are now at costs that can touch lives of the masses. Healthcare as we know is poised for a new enriching chapter ahead and Patient Centricity is likely to be redefined in the coming decade.