What is missing from the Indian healthcare system?
In healthcare, artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly sophisticated to do what humans do, but more cost-effectively and faster. The potential of AI in healthcare is enormous and is becoming an increasingly important part of the healthcare ecosystem. AI and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) are already helping people in a variety of ways, including consumer health applications. AI empowers patients to take charge of their health and well-being, at the same timetoo helps health care providers better understand patient needs. This gives practitioners the right patient records and access to the right information, improving the ability to provide accurate feedback, advice and support to help them stay healthy.
Impact of AI in India’s Healthcare Sector
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being leveraged in the healthcare industry due to large datasets and the complexities that come with it. Physicians and life science providers are already using various AI-powered tools to equip themselves with the most relevant and up-to-date information about their customers’ needs. According to the Indian AI Healthcare Market 2019-2025 report, Indian AI in healthcare is expected to grow significantly at a CAGR of 50.9% during the forecast period. Based on this growth of AI applications in healthcare, India’s doctor-to-patient ratio is expected to reach ~6.9:1,000 by 2023, up from its 2017 ratio of ~4.8 : 1000.
Artificial intelligence has led to significant breakthroughs in all aspects of healthcare, from diagnosis to therapy. AI-based healthcare services, such as automated analysis of medical tests, predictive healthcare diagnosis, automation of healthcare diagnosis using monitoring equipment, and medical devices sensor-based wearables, are expected to revolutionize medical treatment processes in the country. The healthcare ecosystem recognizes the value of AI-powered tools as next-generation healthcare technology.
The potential for refocusing and improving patient care is central to any transformation. AI can help eliminate or reduce time spent on administrative activities, which account for up to 70% of a healthcare professional’s work. The most significant change will be the requirement to embed digital and AI skills across all healthcare enterprises, not only for physicians to change the nature of consultations, but also for all frontline staff to integrate digital technology. ‘AI in their workflow. This massive shift in ways of working and capabilities requires concerted efforts by practitioners, organizations and systems to change the healthcare landscape.
What is missing from the Indian healthcare system?
In India, health systems face significant issues of quality, accessibility, affordability and gender parity. Disparities in medical services between urban and rural areas are a serious problem, with a shortage of qualified medical professionals. The trajectory of introducing AI solutions into healthcare could be promising if we infuse technology, expand infrastructure, and gain efficiencies through process changes. This could be partially achieved by focusing on the three core areas:
Blind spots in data access and data collection often lead to long-term barriers to the development of an AI-based healthcare infrastructure. AI systems always require extensive access to medical history, records, etc. of the patient, which is a huge challenge in India, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, where these records and data are not well managed. Nearly 70% of the country’s health infrastructure is built and maintained in cities that only serve 30% of its population. As a result, we are witnessing caste, gender and class gaps in many parts of the country (especially rural areas).
Privacy issues and misuse of data also hamper the development of the necessary infrastructure. A successful, AI-centric ecosystem will need to have a central repository of health data for all individuals. This will enable faster integration of all health records from various sources on a single platform, helping doctors to establish an accurate prognosis in a shorter time. The downside to this seamless integration is that it could pose a significant risk if proper data security measures fail, leading to fraudulent practices/commercial exploitation of confidential patient data.
Another obstacle comes in the form of regulatory ambiguity. Vagueness around regulations further leads to various problems such as lack of infrastructure for designing AI applications, lack of public-private partnerships, and limited scope of solutions. Existing or newly created AI companies are mostly startups, not recognized by any national or international governing body. As a result, the penetration of AI in the Indian healthcare sector has remained low due to difficulties in implementing solutions by new companies and
With new-age startups and established information and communications technology (ICT) companies offering AI solutions, the healthcare industry is growing in delivering high-quality, personalized healthcare to areas rural. AI technologies are helping to overcome many of these issues, enabling the delivery of tailored treatments at scale. AI tools are extracting insights from patient data to improve treatment thanks to a government-led campaign to convince healthcare professionals to embrace electronic medical records.
Technological interventions that need rethinking in the country
India has started to grasp the surface of understanding AI and all its promises in healthcare, especially personalization. The pandemic has catalyzed this seismic shift in several ways, forcing major healthcare players across the country to harness the true potential of AI solutions in the industry.
Recent (pandemic-induced) developments like reaching patients in need even in the most remote corners of the country, making vaccines available in rural areas, have opened the door to good opportunities for speed up data collection, integrating into central repositories and synthesizing information in a way that results in the maximum benefit for patients. Centrally governed programs like the National Digital Health Mission can reap great benefits for industry, dramatically increasing data accessibility.
Another opportunity lies in formalize data privacy laws around data access and control. Our existing systems are fraught with challenges regarding even common problems such as anemia, diabetes, etc. These problems can be brought under control by applying key principles such as Pareto or the 80/20 principle which states that for many outcomes, approximately 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. Organizations working in healthcare should adhere to fundamental data protection principles such as informed consent and ‘data minimization’ (i.e. personal health data should be adequate, relevant and limited to the purpose of the data collection). This should be supported by data protection laws that are flexible to include changing technologies where a range of digital interventions are tested
One of the still largely untapped potentials lies in the facilitation of a partnerships between new age healthtech startups and public bodies. Accelerated partnerships, stimulated by strict but less time-consuming policies, in areas such as drug manufacturing, insurers and hospital chains, will lead to much wider and qualitative coverage of more and more people in need of health care. . A good example in this context is the Niramay project which was launched in 2022. It is an initiative to digitize health services in Assam which aims to strengthen the digital infrastructure by enabling telemedicine interactions, diagnostics rapid, patient health records and grassroots level data collection. Introduced by NHM in partnership with healthcare tech startup Piramal Swasthya and Cisco, it is based on Piramal Swasthya’s integrated technology platform called Accessible Medical Records. Currently, Niramay provides real-time data accessibility to relevant stakeholders to make informed decisions in the state
As patients gain more control over their treatment, AI solutions will ease the transition from hospital care to home care and remote monitoring. AI-powered alert systems and virtual assistants have fueled technological improvements, cultural transformation, and organizational capacity growth. Telemedicine and computer-assisted medical procedures in rural areas have already begun to improve health care outcomes and last-mile accessibility. While adoption of these solutions at the grassroots will take time and policy shifts, recent trends have shown that a minimal push will trigger big changes in how we see AI in healthcare transforming the whole landscape.
This convergence of healthcare and technology is already paving the way for big breakthroughs in how we seamlessly respond to diverse demographics. The foundation has been built and with more measured, forward-looking and comprehensive actions, we will soon reach a place of hassle-free provider delivery and patient service.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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