It's 2024 and we are officially in the AI-era. Artificial Intelligence is making waves across industries transforming various aspects of our lives- how we eat, shop and connect. Healthcare industry too is not immune to the AI bull run. The new emerging technologies in healthcare have shifted their focus to AI integration.
At its core, the idea of Healthcare-AI integration is revolutionary, for an industry that essentially requires empathetic human touch is aligning with a technology that seems to do away with the ‘human intelligence’. However, it is the dynamic blend of these two, that is expected to usher in a new era in the healthcare industry that accounts for 11% of global GDP or $9 trillion annually.
According to FMI data, the global artificial intelligence in healthcare market was valued at around US$ 7.0 billion at the end of 2021. The market is projected to register a 38.5% CAGR and top a valuation of US$ 181.8 billion by 2032.
From drug development to diagnostic, from disease detection to patient monitoring, Artificial Intelligence is rapidly transforming the healthcare landscape promising an efficient system.
Although AI in Healthcare has been in the spotlight in the post pandemic world, the groundwork for the same was laid by scientists in the 1970s itself. In 1971, scientists created INTERNIST-1, which used a powerful ranking algorithm to reach diagnoses.
In the following two decades, AI was widely used for faster data collection and processing, assisting in more precise surgical procedures, in–depth DBA research and mapping and more comprehensive implementation of electronic health records, etc.
The first known use of AI in India was in radiology, particularly for the treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis (TB). In recent times, AI has emerged as the cornerstone of technological advancement in the healthcare sphere. India, with a population of over 1.4 billion people is still lagging behind in health infra. India has just 64 doctors per 100,000 against the world average of 150 doctors per 100,000 people. This puts massive strain on the hospitals. AI and automation can help in reducing the pressure significantly and fasten the turnaround time for diagnosis.
Even though AI in healthcare is still in a relatively nascent stage in India, the market share is rather growing rapidly. As per NASSCOM, data and AI in healthcare have the potential to add about 25 billion dollars to India’s GDP by 2025. AI in Healthcare Market itself is predicted to grow from $14.6 billion in 2023 to $102.7 billion by 2028.
Covid-19 pandemic came as a reality check for the global Healthcare industry. In India, the government sought public-private partnership for AI-driven transformation in building more robust systems that can sustain future eventualities. Slightly different from that direction, we have a host of HealthTech startups that have been at the forefront of HealthTech innovations using AI.
Qure.ai uses Artificial Intelligence to expedite the diagnosis pathway. It enables chest X-ray screening and claims to produce reports in less than a minute. “In absence of AI technology, it would take hours to weeks for TB diagnosis. So, AI has enabled faster diagnosis. On the disease planning front, we use AI to help patients with TB, Pneumonia etc to get on the care pathway. Our AI module segregates the cases based on priority and enables management of cases at peripheral level avoiding unnecessary higher reference,” Dr Shibu Vijayan, global director, Medical Health at Qure.AI told DHN.
Dozee, with its 'Made In India' technology platform, enables remote patient monitoring. Its device provides a contactless health tracker that monitors vital signs and sleep quality. The device is placed under a patient's mattress and can monitor vital signs such as heart and respiration rate, and blood pressure without direct contact.
Another name, Bengaluru-based deep-tech startup Niramai is using AI to provide non-invasive breast cancer screening solution, Thermalytix. It has developed a novel test for detecting early breast cancer. Niramai uses AI over thermal scans to detect abnormal tissue activity and asymmetric vascularity.
“While thermal imaging is not new, the accuracy of thermal scans was a major issue so far due to limitations of the human eye to interpret a thermal/ colour image. Use of AI to detect abnormal thermal patterns and enable quantification of interpretations is the key value and differentiation that AI provides in our solution,” Dr Geetha Manjunath, founder & CEO of Niramai told DHN.
HealthifyMe, another renowned name in the HealthTech industry in India uses a virtual assistant named Ria to converse with users and solve their queries around fitness in real-time. It uses AI to track calorie intake and also provides tailor-made dietary plans. The best part? The app provides these services in 10 different languages.
PharmEasy, a medical delivery platform enables doorstep delivery of medicines. It connects users with pharmacies around them to cut down the time and effort spent on physically visiting a medical store. The platform uses Machine Learning and Big Data tools for data crunching and analytics solutions for the app
Artificial Intelligence provides low-cost solutions and faster turnaround time for diagnosis. It can be implemented to take care of daily tedious processes including billing, medical record management, etc that will leave the medical staff with more time to focus on patient care.
Girish Koppar, CIO, Wockhardt Hospital explains how AI has clinical and non-clinical application as it captures a lot of data on a granular level.
Some of the healthcare areas where AI is getting implemented include:
Medical intervention is most effective in earlier stages of the disease. Advanced AI Algorithms and Machine Learning can help in accurate and precise analysis of medical images, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans which can aid early detection of disease. Dr Manjunathan believes AI will be an efficient assistant to a doctor and help in more accurate and precise diagnosis as well as enable them to choose the right treatment pathway.
In the past few years, the focus has shifted from reactive health measures to proactive health measures. Artificial Intelligence can help identify and analyse patterns and trends from a vast set of patient data. It can help in prediction of onset of a disease enabling healthcare professionals to decide appropriate courses of treatment.
“AI can be used to predict the health of a patient based on the historic data like whether a person is prone to be diabetic, develop hypertension or cardiac issues. This can be lifesaving,” Girish Koppar said.
Medical records serve as a logbook of a patient's medical history. It is a crucial document that helps doctors understand past ailments, health conditions and observations made by previous doctors, suggested treatment courses for a patient, etc. Countries around the world have made it mandatory to collect and story these medical records in electronic form. However, most of the EHR data is underutilised. AI helps transform this unstructured information into organised, interpretable data that can be used for medical and clinical research.
There is no denying that AI is already disrupting the conventional approach to medicine and patient care. However, with increasing AI penetration ensuring data privacy and cybersecurity has become an integral part of modern healthcare. Non-disclosure of patient data is the cornerstone of medical ethics. With AI accessing and using private health records of patients, it becomes all the more important to safeguard patient data by deploying robust cybersecurity measures.
Even with the positive outlook, the major challenge is how to make the benefits of AI reach the least common denominator. It is often remarked that most people in India are one health crisis away from poverty. A considerable chunk of the Indian population is still unable to access healthcare services. The challenge becomes severe with the added barrier of affordability.
Niramai's Dr Geetha Manjunath is positive about the future of AI in the healthcare industry. As she said, “When used as a clinical decision support system, it can be a great tool to bridge the healthcare divide that exists in most countries between rural and urban ecosystems or haves and the have nots,” she added.
In a rapidly transforming world hinged on technological advancement, Artificial Intelligence will play a key role. Countries around the world are reckoned with the speed of AI adoption in various industries. The Indian government is already in the process of preparing regulations for Artificial Intelligence along with other global stakeholders.
Qure.ai’s Dr Vijayan is optimistic about the future of AI in India, thanks to the govt policies. He believes that India’s policy atmosphere around AI and digital technologies is in the right direction.
“There is an enabling ecosystem in the country and infrastructure development is much more comprehensive and integrated. Platforms like Ayushman Bharat Digital have created mechanisms and systems for AI to be working on it. 2023 was a breakthrough year for the medical fraternity. Generative AI makes the technology democratic and conversational. 2024 will see much more meaningful tools pivoted on AI advancement. There will be a value addition to the sector in the next 5 years and we will see a boom in healthcare AI. There is evolving global conversation and frameworks around that. This is an interesting space to watch,” Dr. Vijayan said.
One of the ways in which Artificial Intelligence has revolutionised the Healthcare industry is by enabling a personalised approach to treatment. No two patients suffering the same disease are the same. Their genetic structure, lifestyle choices and how they respond to particular courses of treatment could differ. AI algorithms can identify these factors and suggest personalised therapies. It can also minimise adverse effects.
With the advent of generative AI, several Health startups have begun rolling out Chatbots aiming to bring behavioral change in users. Recently, Fitterfly- a healthtech company working in the area of metabolic health launched JEDi-an AI enabled chatbot that will provide users with reliable and empathetic assistance in managing their nutrition, fitness, and overall well-being.
Some Mental Health startups such as Wysa are pioneering in using AI for better understanding of the emotional state of a patient/user and provide support.
Hospitals, too, are not far behind in hopping on the AI-train. Many hospitals have turned to AI-powered robotic surgeries that tend to be minimally invasive and have faster recovery time.
Leading hospital chain in India-Apollo Hospital, has launched ProHealth. It uses a Predictive AI algorithm to capture a patient's health status and predict potential risks. It has also entered into collaboration with Google Cloud to develop the Clinical Intelligence Engine (CIE) using VertexAI and Generative AI.
Bengaluru-based Columbia Asia hospital, too focused on critical care and bariatric surgery is already using AI to automate processes in the hospital.
The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org