The Indian Health care industry has been tested and found wanting. There is a dearth of trained doctors and clinicians, insufficient infrastructure and not enough government spending. And that is why artificial intelligence is the need of the hour. It can iron out the problems that currently plague the health sector.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence or Machine Intelligence created a stir when it was invented in the 1950s. The purpose was to make computers perform the same cognitive tasks as humans. Ever since then, AI has been revolutionizing every aspect of human life. And only recently has it forayed into healthcare and is already becoming indispensable.
How is Artificial Intelligence Deployed in Health Care?
Health Care has already adopted AI in the following capacities-
AI can come up with new drugs by sifting through vast databases of existing medicines, illnesses, pathogens, how they react with each other and the symptoms they produce in people. It can create numerous chemical combinations to see which can target particular pathogens. And it can do so in remarkably little time. And time is of the essence every time a hitherto unknown disease crops up and challenges the very existence of humanity.
Identification of Patient Risk
Hospitals maintain an extensive record of every patient’s medical history. Some hospitals field AI to trawl through the records to understand patterns of admissions, procedures, and complications. This helps them zero in on the areas where hospitals can improve their services. Patients gain from it as well, not only because they can access services that are more intensive but because AI can also predict all possibilities of likely future complications that may arise from their current ailment. So, doctors can advise them on preventive measures.
Some reputed healthcare bigwigs are experimenting with the concept of AI chatbots communicating with people on their social media pages. When people have come down with minor ailments like common cough and cold, allergies, seasonal flu, they can simply explain their symptoms to the chatbot who will then recommend over-the-counter medicines. This abolishes the need to go to the Out Patient Department for insignificant illnesses. And it also saves a lot of money because many people do not opt for health insurance policies with OPD coverage.
AI in radiology can eliminate human errors and analyze images and scans with precision. When Machine Intelligence helps radiologists with diagnosis, there is no room for inaccuracy. It can draw the radiologist’s attention to all relevant points of interest that a human could have missed. Efforts are on to develop fully automated AI that does not require a human’s guidance to make a diagnosis.
Why Is India Primed For An AI Revolution In Health Care?
Unique problems encumber India. It’s vast expanse and federal structure means not everyone can access the same qualitative or quantitative health care services. The rural and urban gap runs deep and the demographics gap widens when per capita income is factored in. The skewed doctor to patient ratio stands at 1:1000, which is 10 times the number that WHO recommends. Therefore, there is an urgent need for extending health care services to those who are being deprived of it and the technology that can facilitate it already exists – smartphones. India can boast of extensive smartphone penetration with 37 crore people using one in 2019. So, a huge chunk of the Indian population can access AI medical health care.
What Challenges Might Artificial Intelligence Face In India?
The real impediment to rolling out AI-powered health care is the slow pace at which digitization is proceeding. In rural India, most of the records are maintained in paper and stowed away in folders.
The other challenge is ethical. The health care industry revolves around the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement. To implement AI, there needs to be sharing of patient data between health service providers and AI companies which becomes a breach of medical ethics. That is why some human rights monitors may throw up roadblocks.
The sky is hardly the limit when it comes to how Healthcare AI can usher in dramatic innovations in the field of medical science.