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How AI Is Transforming Healthcare AI has been prevalent in several industries and healthcare is the latest addition to the list. With a population of 1.4 billion, India has just 64 doctors per 100,000 against the world average of 150 doctors per 100,000 people. AI is going to facilitate the healthcare process by lending a helping hand to medical professionals.

By Paromita Gupta

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It was during the COVID-19 lockdown, that Courtney's four-year-old son Alex began experiencing excruciating pain and eventually stunted growth. What began was a battle of three years and 17 doctors to figure out what was truly going on with the boy. With no clarity on her boy's condition, Courtney turned to one unlikely option for her answers- ChatGPT. "I went line by line of everything that was in his MRI notes and plugged it into Chat- GPT," shared the mother. In response, the AI suggested that Alex might be suffering from a rare neurological condition called tethered cord syndrome. The boy has undergone surgery to fix his spine and is now recovering.

Yes, the generative conversational AI tool is no doctor, but this shows that artificial intelligence in healthcare can go a long way in helping people in distress. Back in October 2022, the World Economic Forum reported that India's AI expenditure is expected to reach USD 11.78 billion by 2025 and will push around USD 1 trillion to the Indian economy by 2035. AI has been prevalent in several industries and healthcare is the latest addition to the list. With a population of 1.4 billion, India has just 64 doctors per 100,000 against the world average of 150 doctors per 100,000 people. AI is going to facilitate the healthcare process by lending a helping hand to medical professionals.

ROLE OF AI IN HEALTHCARE:

While the opportunities are endless, AI in the healthcare sector is largely being utilized in mining medical records, designing health treatment plans, predicting early detection of various life-threatening diseases, cancer and diabetes screening, AI-based tools for eyes and other related treatments, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Diagnosis and management.

AI STARTUPS IN INDIA:

The COVID-19 pandemic crippled healthcare system in India and around the world. Since then, governments and start-ups collectively have been working towards a more resilient model for sustaining any unforeseeable occurrences. While existing earlier, contactless medication and monitoring became of indispensable nature in and post-2020. The 2015-founded Dozee is one such start-up working in the AI-based 'contactless' remote patient monitoring space. Its backbone is built upon Ballistocardiography technology, a non-invasive method based on the measurement of the body motion generated by the ejection of the blood at each cardiac cycle.

"Our AI-powered system can effectively convert these signals generated by the BCG method into valuable biomarkers. This includes capturing vital indicators such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory patterns, and sleep stages with medical-grade accuracy," shares Gaurav Parchani, Co-Founder and CTO, Dozee.

According to an EY report of October 2022, India has a poor rate of 29 per cent when it comes to cancer detection. Only about 15 per cent and 33 per cent of breast cancer and lung cancers are detected. In times like this, players like Niramai, Neura Health, and OncoStem come into play. For instance, Niramai's patent portable device 'Thermalytix' uses AI for the detection of earlystage breast cancer. The device is safe, radiation-free, and non-contact which measures the temperature for diagnosis.

Augnito, founded by Rustom Lawyer and Shiraz Austin, was initially developed to facilitate the internal transcription process of the duo's previous start-up. Soon they realized the pain points of the healthcare sectors globally. The start-up provides clinical documentation powered by voice AI and provides real-time speech-to-text software in healthcare.

"One of the most exciting things in our own R&D pipeline for Medical Voice AI—it would be the use of Voice Biomarkers. Leveraging over 2,500 biomarkers that are present in the sub-language elements of the human voice alone—we hope to be able to identify neurological ailments such as Alzheimer's, mental health diseases such as depression, and pulmonary diseases such as Covid 19, just by hearing a patient speak! These biomarkers essentially work as a diagnostic tool for the AI—scanning for voice patterns in the speech that will help in the detection of disease via a database of linguistic intonations, inflections, cadence, and more," shares Rustom Lawyer, Co-Founder and CEO, Augnito. The use of AI is also prevalent in the detection of the early presence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The 2014-founded Tricog is providing remote cardiac diagnosis with an aim to "Change the 80% chance that a heart attack will take one's life to an 80% chance that the patient survives."

TWO SIDES OF A COIN:

AI is aiding medical professionals in multiple tasks and processes. The biggest one is cutting lag time by automating mundane-routine tasks such as extracting, organizing, and updating patient records, streamlining the medical billing processes, and AI-driven chatbots helping the scheduling systems. This lets the professionals prioritize other tasks such as critical decision-making and delivering quality healthcare.

While they may be not directly related to medicine, AI-assisted robotic surgery, dosage error reduction, and image analysis are. Robot-assisted surgery is largely considered "minimally invasive" hence tends to have a shorter recovery period, lower post-surgery pain, and fewer post-surgery complications. This can help relieve medical professionals of cognitive stress and focus on a larger volume where outcomes are more favourable. Grand View Research predicts that the global surgical robots market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18 per cent from 2023 to 2030.

AI can help in a better self-administration of medicines for patients by identifying errors leading to better patient health, reduced healthcare costs, and hospitalizations. Image analysis is a very tedious and time-consuming task for healthcare providers, but start-ups like Deeptek.ai are helping radiology be optimized. "Healthcare is a very conservative space. But I see a huge opportunity to bring AI to transform healthcare workflows, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs. We have a humongous and rich repository of medical imaging data and the core of any AI solution is data," shares Ajit Patil Co-Founder and Managing Director, DeepTek.ai. AI image analysis and dosage monitoring could support patients in remote locations.

The Indian healthcare sector has been struggling to maintain a fine balance between cost, high-tech R&D equipment, data privacy and quality and accessibility of healthcare services. AI is still learning on a very large data set and sometimes it can be biased. To fully harness AI for the betterment of patients at a large scale, the data needs to be updated and errorfree. Lastly, the cost of hospitals and medical procedures is high for a majority of the Indian population. And adoption of AI, a very expensive tech equipment or service, can push the affordability factor away from the masses. Furthermore, AI is a new technology and many may not be open to AI-assisted medical interventions due to lack of awareness.

YES FROM THE GOVERNMENT:

The Indian government has been vocal about AI potential across industries in the country. A case in point is NITI Aayog, the apex think tank in the country, partnered with Microsoft and Forus Health in 2018 to develop solutions for the early detection of diabetic retinopathy. Apart from this, various state governments are keen about it. Maharashtra government partnered with NITI Aayog for International Centre for Transformational Artificial Intelligence which will focus on rural healthcare; Karnataka government launched 'Healthcare Pods' with Vevra, which are portable hospitals integrated with AI; and Telangana government launched live monitoring apps during the pandemic.

WHAT'S NEXT?:

AI is being adopted by big names with optimism to change lives worldwide. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan talked about a virtual cell modelling system, powered by AI. This will help scientists and eventually, doctors predict how cells can respond to specific conditions and stimuli. With correct hands leading the revolution and unbiased data being fed to the AI, the world can become a healthier place, where healthcare is accessible to everyone.

Paromita Gupta

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer with Entrepreneur India

Covering news and trends in AI and Metaverse segments. An avid book reader running her personal blog on the side. You may reach me at paromita@entrepreneurindia.com. 
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