Ajit Ashok Shenvi, Head, Data & AI CoE, Philips Innovation Campus, spoke to ETHealthworld’s Prathiba Raju on how cloud technology and AI can play a transformative role in improving public health in India. Edited Excerpts.
How many healthcare organisations are opting for cloud technology. How do you see the cloud contributing to the sector’s growth? How are embedded technologies like AI and ML incorporated into cloud providers’ new product launches?
Many healthcare organisations are embarking on the cloud journey, although they are cautiously treading the path today. They are not yet going all out either due to perceived security or privacy concerns and huge investments done in the recent past on their on-premise infrastructure, like data centres. The latent and perpetual costs associated with the cloud also seem to be a detractor. But as cloud providers continue to optimise costs and allay fears associated with data breaches and privacy concerns, it is a matter of time before the cloud starts becoming de facto mode due to its sheer flexibility, scalability, agility, reliability, and ease of administration.
Like other sectors, cloud technology offers several benefits to the healthcare industry, contributing to its growth and transformation. By leveraging the cloud, healthcare organisations can securely store and access vast amounts of patient data, enabling seamless collaboration and information exchange between healthcare providers. This facilitates improved care coordination, enhances clinical decision-making, and ultimately leads to better patient outcomes. Moreover, cloud-based solutions provide scalability and flexibility, allowing healthcare organisations to easily expand their infrastructure and accommodate growing data demands. This is especially crucial in the era of big data, where healthcare systems generate massive amounts of information that need to be efficiently managed and analysed.Embedded technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly being incorporated into cloud-based solutions by providers. These technologies have the potential to revolutionise healthcare by automating routine tasks, identifying patterns and trends in data, and assisting in clinical decision-making. Cloud platforms provide the computational power and storage capabilities required to process and analyse large datasets, making them an ideal environment for AI and ML applications. Cloud providers actively integrate AI and ML capabilities into their product launches, offering advanced analytics, predictive modelling, and personalised medicine solutions that enhance diagnostics, support early disease detection, and enable precision medicine tailored to individual patients.How AI can streamline healthcare data both in the private and public healthcare domains? What kind of impact is AI bringing in the healthcare ecosystem, how is it going to be transformational when it comes to public health in India?
AI has the potential to streamline healthcare data management in both private and public healthcare domains. In its simplest form, in both sectors, AI can automate data entry and analysis processes, reducing administrative burden and enabling healthcare providers to focus more on patient care. The next big opportunity is to ensure uninterrupted operations using AI-based predictive and proactive maintenance. Downtime of equipment like MR, US, CT etc amplifies the woes of the already choked healthcare system. AI-based maintenance systems can ensure uptime so that care is not denied to needy patients. Moving further in the value chain, AI algorithms can efficiently extract relevant information from medical records, enabling faster and more accurate diagnoses. Additionally, AI-powered systems can monitor patients in real-time, alerting healthcare professionals to any changes in vital signs or health conditions, and allowing for early intervention and preventive care.
In the public healthcare domain, AI can play a transformative role in improving public health in India. A few examples to mention are:-
Augmenting the expertise of HC providers: The high volume of cases in a government hospital like AIIMS can be very daunting for a scarce resource like the radiologist. One would have to go through all images with the same granularity to detect abnormalities although the majority of them would be normal. Fatigue and monotony could lead to mistakes. AI can be the ‘intelligent assistant’ here, when integrated into the workflow could already detect and flag abnormal cases which the radiologist can just confirm. The productivity of the radiologist would be greatly enhanced allowing them to cater to many more cases than what they would do normally.
Population health management: The burden of chronic diseases on the Indian healthcare ecosystem is enormous. Considering tuberculosis (TB) India has an ambitious Kshay Mukt Bharat programme (NTEP–National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme) that aims to make India TB-free by 2025 (five years before the WHO/SDG goal). A screening van or an Ayushman Bharat Health & Wellness Centre equipped with a Portable Digital X-ray can screen individuals with AI models integrated into the workflow indicating abnormalities. The high probable cases can then be directed to the nearest primary/community health centre for confirmatory tests and treatment. Similar workflows with integrated AI models can be implemented for cardiovascular and breast cancer screening – the next biggest challenge for our nation. AI can provide the first line of screening in places where the availability of radiologists can be extremely challenging.
Every year, India gets impacted by a number of communicable diseases like malaria, dengue etc that follow cyclical patterns. While there is a strong Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) run by the government, there is an opportunity to make it proactive by correlating it with historical data, social media data, and weather data (eg: rainfall, humidity etc). AI models based on these can predict the onset of these diseases and can help govt/private health infrastructure be prepared for such outbreaks.
The siloed/fragmented healthcare system in India makes it challenging for AI as data is not shared amongst healthcare providers making it difficult to get a longitudinal view of individuals. Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is developing the backbone necessary to support this integrated digital health infrastructure. AI is an indispensable piece in solving the universal health coverage (UHC) jigsaw puzzle in Digital India.
Healthcare is never going back to the way it was before the pandemic. How can cloud and AI revolutionise patient engagement with healthcare providers?
The pandemic was a nightmare, but it did help in alleviating the inhibitions of embracing digital technologies, especially in a highly regulated healthcare industry. The holy grail of any healthcare system is to ensure that people are kept outside hospitals – in other words focus on well-being and preventive healthcare. It is encouraging to see digitally savvy Indians engaged in their own health with wearables/trackers etc. AI technology is already helping mash up data from daily activities, sleep patterns etc to give personalised triggers for individuals to manage their health proactively.
The pandemic has also demonstrated the immense possibilities that exist to decentralise/democratise healthcare. This profound shift enabled by cloud/AI technology has/is redefining how patients engage with healthcare. Cloud technology allows for secure storage and sharing of patient health data, enabling healthcare providers to access patient information from anywhere, anytime. This seamless access to medical records facilitates efficient coordination and collaboration among healthcare teams, leading to better care coordination and reduced medical errors. Patients can also benefit from cloud-based platforms that provide them with easy access to their health records, appointment scheduling, and virtual consultations, empowering them to take a more active role in managing their health.
AI technology complements cloud technology by analysing vast amounts of patient data to generate actionable insights. With AI-powered algorithms, healthcare providers can identify patterns and trends in patient data, enabling early detection of diseases and personalised treatment plans. AI can also enhance patient engagement through virtual assistants and chatbots that provide personalised health recommendations, answer common health-related questions, and offer support in the self-management of chronic conditions.
Together, cloud and AI technology create a patient-centric approach where healthcare becomes more personalised, accessible, and efficient. Patients are no longer passive recipients of care but active participants in their health management.
How are technology players helping bridge the knowledge gap in the healthcare industry?
We are actively bridging the knowledge gap in the healthcare industry through innovative solutions and collaborations. Also, understand the importance of accessible and accurate information for healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers. We are addressing this gap through our digital health platforms and tools. Our cloud-based solutions enable secure storage and sharing of patient data, facilitating seamless collaboration and knowledge exchange among healthcare providers. This enhances care coordination and ensures that vital information is readily available to make informed decisions.
In addition, we leverage the power of AI to analyse large volumes of healthcare data and generate valuable insights. Our AI algorithms help healthcare professionals identify patterns, predict outcomes, and personalise treatment plans. This empowers them with evidence-based knowledge, enabling more precise diagnoses and targeted interventions.
Furthermore, we actively engage in partnerships and collaborations with healthcare organisations, research institutions, and academic centres. By working together, we can pool our expertise and resources to address knowledge gaps in specific areas of healthcare. These collaborations foster continuous learning and knowledge sharing, leading to advancements in healthcare delivery.