AI has the potential to change the way healthcare is delivered. It can sustain and support advances in patient experience and access to health services. It can increase healthcare productivity and efficiency, enabling healthcare systems to bring better care to people, collectively Prof. SN SarbadhikariProfessor and Director, Department of Digital Health Research, Santiniketan Medical College Kaanchi Chawla from Elets News Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:
In which segments of healthcare is AI increasingly being used to provide efficient healthcare?
Leading areas of AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) applications in healthcare include diagnosis and treatment recommendations, patient retention and compliance, and administrative activities. There are many cases where AI applications can perform better healthcare tasks than humans. However, implementation factors will prevent large-scale automation of healthcare workplaces before long.
In addition to medical diagnostics, AI is actively used for drug (and vaccine) discovery. Clinical trials can be better managed with automated systems that can track drug trial progress, data collection, and results. For pain management and palliative care, the use of virtual reality (VR) / augmented reality (AR) in combination with AI can create simulated realities that can distract patients from the current source of their pain. Patient health outcomes can be improved through a variety of strategies and outcomes powered by AI.
AI has the potential to change the way healthcare is delivered. It can support improvements in patient outcomes, patient experience and access to health services. It can increase the productivity and efficiency of care delivery and enable health systems to better serve people. AI can help improve the healthcare physician experience by allowing them to spend more time in direct patient care and reduce burnout.
Ethical issues when using AI in healthcare are also important, and new or revised data protection law can ensure the safe and ethical use of such applications. Many AI-based systems are already improving the accuracy and efficiency of diagnosis and treatment in various specialties. This raises the question of whether AI-based systems will eventually replace doctors in some specialties or expand the role of doctors without replacing them.
AI-based systems will complement physicians and are unlikely to replace the traditional doctor-patient relationship. In addition, these can replace doctors who do not use such systems. It’s important to note that computers (AI) plus brains (clinical acumen) together are definitely better than either alone.
What do you think could be the growing potential of AI-based healthcare tools?
The growth potential is enormous. I discussed a case study at our Santiniketan Medical College. We have provided a health kiosk – hPod by India Health Link (IHL): https://indiahealthlink.com/hpod/
We are currently trying to integrate it in a standards-compliant manner with our in-house developed telemedicine platform eDocSMC: https://edocsmc.in/
Healthcare in India is in a evolving phase where consumer-centric and digitally-focused solutions are being rolled out. The shift is to break away from traditional providers like hospitals/government/employers and insurance coverage is driving the decisions for patients.
IHL’s hPod is a standalone health kiosk that provides non-invasive (automated) screening of more than 20 essential vital parameters including blood pressure, heart rate, 6-lead ECG, temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, height, weight, BMI, body Mass composition under five minutes. Everything is done without help and in the local language. After these automated measurements, all users receive personalized health tips, lifestyle/nutrition advice and regular risk-based doctor consultations directly from the hPod and via the mobile app. Hopefully the collaboration between SMC and IHL Digital Health will expand to every corner of India.
Our cooperation focuses on:
- Bring about a culture shift in people’s health perceptions to move from reactive to preventative.
- Build a digital backbone to bring healthcare to all of India without exception.
- Build a standard for interoperability and compliance with the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) without requiring heavy infrastructure investments.
- Bring a paradigm shift to the clinical research ecosystem for Indians
- And most importantly, reduce the burden of NCDs in India.
And this collaboration will result in more data-driven (AI/ML) clinical solutions based on the collected and integrated data from both the kiosk and the telemedicine platform.
The growing digital footprint and technology trends have improved healthcare systems, but there is still a need for a human workforce. Where are the gaps in health data curation?
Absolutely, there are different ways to address the needs. We need a lot of training and retraining (refresher courses) in Digital Health for all human resources in healthcare. Aside from the formal curricula required by regulators for health profession education, we need to design and deliver tailored courses for them. We currently offer a three-year BSc (Telemedicine and Digital Health) degree program affiliated with MAKAUT.
Also, the NCAHP Act 2021 (National Commission on Allied Health Professionals Act 2021) will likely set guidelines. There are ten national councils under this law – the tenth of which is the National Council for Health Information Management and Health Informatics Professionals. We will likely see more activity in this area very soon.
As technology advances at a rapid pace, healthcare providers are moving towards more digital care options to improve their treatment and patient experience. Her thoughts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption and mainstreaming of digital health, primarily through telemedicine. The current Telemedicine Practice Guidelines (TPG 2020) of India were a welcome starting point. As patients also find tele-homecare safer and more convenient, adoption is likely to accelerate in the near future. People, especially in the larger cities, are already using some wearable devices (Fitbit/Apple Watch) to track various health parameters. Soon, they will demand that their healthcare provider use this data to make decisions about the best treatment for their conditions.
Where do you see healthcare in 5 years?
I would like to address an interesting topic of how Digital Health/Health Informatics is influencing the education of health professionals in India.
While the National Medical Commission (NMC) has yet to take note, the Indian Nursing Council (INC) has added Health/Nursing Informatics to the second semester BSc Nursing curriculum in 2022.
Here, at Santiniketan Medical College, we apply Metaverse technology (VR headsets/ Smart Goggles) to our regular classes.
There is no doubt that five years from now, healthcare will be using technology on a much larger scale than it is today. Currently, medical knowledge doubles in 72 days and it is not possible for any human to keep track of all current developments. Therefore, AI-enabled tools must be used regularly for healthcare. Now we are entering the era of healthcare 4.0. We would very soon be ushering in the era of healthcare 5.0, and then we can’t let technology out of healthcare in any way.
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