India’s healthcare industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors and is slated to reach USD 372 billion by 2022. The key drivers of this growth include rising income, the prevalence of lifestyle diseases, increased health awareness, and greater access to insurance. Besides, there is an increased infusion of private equity and foreign investments that have led to the creation of a more solid infrastructure by private players. The article is in the context of “How Technology is Impacting Healthcare in India”.
Leading private equity firm in healthcare, Quadria Capital’s MD, Sunil Thakur says,“Innovation is disrupting and transforming the landscape of healthcare business in India. The technology adoption in India is driven largely by the need for convenience, awareness, efficiency, resource augmentation and precision. This is manifested in models such as telemedicine (solving for resources and access), medical e-commerce (convenience and efficiency), medical concierge (awareness and convenience), genetic tests (precision), robotics (resource augmentation and precision), DIY ( awareness and convenience).”
According to a 15-country Future Health Index report released by Royal Philips, India takes the lead with 76% of healthcare professionals already using Digital Health Records, as part of their practice. According to Bhavdeep Singh, former CEO – Fortis Healthcare – “To maximize the benefits of technology, the industry should be prepared to invest in training to ensure that all stakeholders can maximize the benefits associated with any investment in technology.”
How should technology steer healthcare in India?
According to a PwC report, it is important for technology to act as a lever and break the silos for the tight coupling of data with providers and caregivers.
Another gap observed is the underuse of telehealth as a medium. According to the Phillips report, 39% of respondents do not currently use telehealth in their practice or hospital. Telehealth, as the name suggests, is the use of digital information and communication technologies to enable remote access of healthcare services .
Largely, the idea is to gradually make a transition from hospital-based care to the more economical tech-based home care. Inclusion of Internet of things(IoT)-enabled wearables to monitor health on the go, adoption of AI-enabled predictive analytics to predict diseases will help catalyse the home care industry.
Innovations in Healthcare
The adoption of technology is the best way to realise the dream of a connected healthcare ecosystem. ‘And by adding an analytics layer, caregivers can provide a much better analysis of the condition and recommendations to the patient (PwC)’.
“With the rise of non-communicable diseases in India along with ailments like diabetes, the Indian healthcare industry is bringing in new and innovative technology to effectively counter the present and future threats. The Government of India, too, plans to establish a Centre of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence,” says Vivek Tiwari, CEO – Medikabazaar.
“Artificial Intelligence is helping to mine medical records, design treatment plans or create drugs much faster. Virtual reality is changing the lives of patients and physicians alike. AR is helping patients to describe their symptoms more accurately, and 3D-printing is helping with more customized and accurate treatments ranging from printing tissues with blood vessels until bones and synthetic skin. Nano-particles and Nano-devices are helping with precise drug delivery systems and treatment tools and Robotics is improving both healthcare professionals’ and patient’s life enormously. Technology improvements in the Supply Chain are helping in faster, accurate and timely deliveries leading to overall reduction in supply chain management cost,” said Sanjay Bhutani, MD – India and SAARC, Bausch & Lomb, in an exclusive chat with TBC.
Vipul Jain, CEO – Advancells adds,“Innovation has been driving the pace of transformation in medical research and medicinal technology. One of the central explanations for this development is the move from hospital care to home care and afterwards to personal care services. This is evident in the transition from lab-based tests and settled medicinal frameworks to lightweight, purpose-of-mind therapeutic gadgets and IVDs.”
Success stories: How technology has transformed healthcare
Though India is still a long way from large-scale adoption of technology, some of the success stories listed below hold a promise for the future.
The Manipal Group of Hospitals has collaborated with IBM’s Watson for Oncology to aid doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of 7 types of cancer. Using Watson’s AI technology, medical literature is extensively evaluated to suggest the best treatment and improve the patient experience.
Several healthcare companies are using AI in the area of diagnostics. Niramai Health Analytix uses thermal analytics for early-stage breast cancer detection, while Advenio Tecnosys detects TB from chest X-rays and acute infections from ultrasound images. Qure.Ai uses deep learning technology to help diagnose the disease as well as recommend personalised treatment plans from healthcare imaging data.
Orbuculum uses AI to predict diseases such as cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, and cardiovascular diseases through genomic data. Cureskin diagnoses six types of common skin conditions – pimples, acne, scars, dark spots, pigmentation, and dark circles – and recommends treatment through a mobile app, using deep learning algorithms.
The Philips Innovation Campus (PIC) in Bengaluru is working towards making healthcare more affordable. The company offers solutions for TB detection, as well as software that can identify high-risk pregnancies. Ten3T has developed a wireless patch that can be used by heart patients; it continuously monitors vitals and transmits this data via the cloud. These results can then be tracked by doctors in real-time.
Ravi Gaur, COO – Oncquest Labs, says, “Patients now have access to advanced cutting-edge treatments and robotic driven minimally invasive procedures resulting in less pain and quicker healing. Needless to say, “AI”, both Artificial and Augmented intelligence, is playing a very leading role in improving health care.”
Vipul Jain too makes an interesting point. “Patients and society progressively expect that regenerative medicine will fix infected organs, harmed tissues, or intrinsic oddities in their bodies. From spearheading accomplishment with bone marrow transplants for selecting hematological issues to the latest advances in bio-engineered stem cell stages, scientists perceive regenerative medicine as the most encouraging center segment of present medical practice.”
Currently, telehealth is still at a developing stage and faces several infrastructural challenges. Yet, some companies have done wonders in this field. SigTuple analyses blood slides and generates a pathology report without assistance from a pathologist. This is especially beneficial in rural areas.
Microsoft has collaborated with the Government of Telangana to use cloud-based analytics for an eye-care program.
Through the use of machine learning, insurance companies can easily automate claims by analysing large volumes of data in less time. What’s more, it also helps to identify fraudulent claims and process genuine claims quickly. Also,insurers can identify the lifestyle habits of customers to enhance their offerings.
On the customer support side, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance uses Boing, a chatbot that takes care of customer queries on health insurance. ICICI Lombard uses its chatbot, MyRA, to sell insurance policies. HDFC Life’s email bot Spok is said to be the first in India to automatically read, understand, prioritise and respond to customer email.
The future of healthcare
The healthcare ecosystem in India is inclined towards the adoption of digital technology, and those who already have, have witnessed a positive impact. Gradually, the changing environment will also give rise to patients who are digitally-empowered. It will also foster better relationships between patients and healthcare professionals. With AI and ML becoming an important part of healthcare, challenges that healthcare industry has been grappling with, are more likely to be resolved. Affordability and accessibility to quality healthcare will no longer be a distant dream if we harness the potential of technology in the right manner.