New Delhi: The healthcare industry has transformed significantly throughout the years and much of that change owes to technological advancements. To meet the nation’s demand for healthcare, digitisation has faced its own set of challenges especially in its adoption. At this juncture, the second edition of the Economic Times Healthcare Leaders Summit 2022 organised by ETHealthworld, held a panel discussion on the need for more digital healthcare solutions and its implementation for an effective healthcare delivery ecosystem.
The healthcare summit hosted a Tech Leaders Session on ‘Digital Health: Role of Tech & AI Leaders’. The discussion highlighted the challenges and opportunities in the transformation of healthcare and protecting patient privacy and data protection in the era of digital health. The panellists were the eminent CIOs to discuss their role in building the digital healthcare ecosystem, Sunil Kumar Bhushan, Deputy Director General, NIC; Dr Sushil K Meher, CIO, AIIMS Delhi; Vishal Gupta, Group CIO, Lifecare Hospitals & Bliss Medical Centres; Praveen Bist, CIO, Amrita Hospital, along with the moderator Rajiv Sikka, CIO, Medanta – The Medicity.
Sikka started the discussion with the question to Bhushan on the context of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare. Explaining from the governmental perspective and how NIC used AI in public health, Bhushan shared, “There was a problem of shortage of radiologists in Karnataka, so we came up with a product called eCollabDDS, a tele-radiology solution. They upload X-rays and diagnostic reports are prepared by radiologists at the district or state level. About 10,000 cases were evaluated using the software.”
He informed there are other AI models coming up where AI in public health will help in diagnoses. The model that helped improve the shortage of radiologists in Karnataka will be replicated across the country.
Although there is no doubt in the capabilities of AI in the healthcare domain, it still seems to face challenges in acceptance. Highlighting on this, Gupta said, “AI is defined as a system that can perform tasks where human intelligence and human intervention is required. This creates a perception in healthcare professionals and that becomes a challenge. We need to understand that AI is a technology which is going to augment the healthcare professionals, not replace them.”
Another challenge according to him is the EMR data. “If we do not have any meaningful EMR data, or if we do not have a good amount of adoption of the EMR data, then we are not going to use the good AI adoption in the country. And unfortunately, India as a country is still in very poor numbers in terms of the EMR adoption,” he added.
In healthcare, there is a concept of zero tolerance. Elucidating on the major risks in adoption of AI in the healthcare sector, Bist informed, “Healthcare sector cannot afford any miss diagnosis. Any tool/software can potentially have a bug or error, and this is the first deterrent in AI adoption.” Additionally, AI on its own cannot treat a patient, it can assist. There are concerns regarding the patient data privacy as well and there is a need to have strong guidelines, policies around it.
Sharing the governmental perspective, Dr Meher informed, “Government was not serious on digitisation of healthcare in the 90s. Each medical record had to be of standard, uniform, universally acceptable and meaningful. In 2016, EMR standard was modified with security, confidentiality etc. but the challenge was its acceptance. Then the government started the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). If the health record is placed in one place it can be meaningful so ABDM has come up and is playing a major role. People have started to think of the need for a single medical record in the country.” He emphasised on the success of ABDM and encouraged those who do not have any health ID, to make one free of cost.
Leading the discussion on ABDM, Sikka questioned the sudden growth of technology in healthcare in India. Bhushan informed that there are five building blocks of ABDM, which are ABHA ID, Health Facility ID, Professional ID, Consent Management and Unified Health Interface.
Adding to this, Sikka said, “ABDM is going to bring doctor portability and hospital portability which is part of accessibility.”
Commenting on the role of technology in affordability in the healthcare delivery ecosystem, Gupta said, “The tools like AI doctors, chatbots, telehealth are few which are going to reduce the burden of traditional healthcare delivery ecosystem. eSanjeevni, largest telehealth platform, is the best example, where almost 11,000 consultations are happening free of cost.”
Sikka concluded the discussion on the note that in order to scale, technology is the only solution. “We have a serious shortage of healthcare workers and technology can play a vital role,” he added.