AWS CTO Roundtable: The disruptions that are transforming healthtech in India

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The increasing ubiquity of technologies like telemedicine, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and wearable tech, have permanently altered the way doctors and patients interact. With over $3 billion invested in over 600 Indian startups, a significant number of cloud- first startups are developing technologies such as healthcare booking platforms, hospital tech, Pharmacy IT, and physical and mental wellness apps.

To understand some of the key trends in the healthtech space, gather insights on data privacy, and how healthcare has evolved in a post-COVID world, YourStory, in association with Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently hosted the AWS Startup CTO Virtual Roundtable panel – Disruption in the Indian Healthtech & Wellness Ecosystem. This virtual roundtable featured 16 leading healthtech business and technology leaders.

The session began with a fireside chat with Ankit Gupta, CTO, CureFit, and Abhinav Yajurvedi, Chief Technology and Product Officer, Pharmeasy; moderated by Amitabh Nagpal , Head of Startup Ecosystem, India, Amazon Internet Services. This was followed by an open panel discussion jointly moderated by Amitabh and Guru Bala, Head of Technology and Solutions, AWS Specialized Services.

The participants were: Abdur Rub, CEO and CTO, Xcode Life Sciences; Ajay Tiwari, CTO, HealthKart; Ajit Narayanan, Chief Technology and Product Officer, mfine; Amit Gupta, CTO, Healthians; Bala Pesala, CTO, Adiuvo Diagnostics; Dr. Geetha Manjunath, Co-Founder and CEO, Niramai; Enbasekar D, CTO and Co-Founder, DocsApp; Nidhi Jain, Founder and CEO, KareXpert; Prasad Basavaraj, Co-Founder and CTO, HealthPlix Technologies; Rahul Narang, Co-founder, Lybrate; Ranga Shetty, CTO, Attune Live; Ravi Gupta, Chief Scientist – Bioinformatics R&D, MEDGENOME; and Richeek Arya, Co-Founder, Remedo.

Here are the key takeaways from the session:

1. India’s fragmented pharmaceutical system needs a technology fix

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, 10 lakh registered medical practitioners, 8.5 lakh retailers, and 1 lakh distributors and 2,000 pharma companies, there is a significant supply-demand mismatch and fill-rates for prescriptions are at 55- 60 percent. Unlike countries like the US, where the market is controlled by three major players, in India, the space is highly fragmented, which means you may have demand in one place and supply in another. That is because distributors and retailers are highly disconnected from each other. Technology enables the building of an integrated supply chain of distributors as well as retailers to fill this gap, both in the B2C and B2B space.

2. Healthcare needs to be personalised

Comprehensive healthcare is a combination of multiple factors such as nutrition, getting enough sleep, following a regular physical fitness regime, and access to diagnostic and medical capabilities. However, not everyone needs to follow the same regime to achieve good health. This is where data insights and technology help create personalised solutions to health issues.

3. Technology penetration has to pick up

While the pandemic has accelerated the pace of technology penetration, India still has a lot of ground to cover. One of the key reasons why is that healthcare is a highly regulated space. While regulations are essential, it has made it very difficult to bring in the latest technologies that have come about in the last 15-20 years, which is when the most innovation in the space has occurred. While other areas such as general retail, transportation, education, etc., have all adapted to the new way of functioning, we still have a long way to go before software penetrates all aspects of healthcare.

4. Telemedicine could lead the way

After the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a sudden dip in the number of people going to visit the doctor for fear of catching the virus. Telemedicine platforms have helped bridge this gap by connecting patients to doctors in this time of crisis. These platforms have particular significance in India where the ratio of medical professionals to the population is so low. It is also an advantage for people in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, who have limited or no access to medical specialists.

"To build our platform, we integrated with IoT devices and hosted on AWS for analytics workload. We use Amazon Kinesis for realtime streaming, Amazon Redshift for Machine Learning algorithm." Ajay Tiwari, CTO, HealthKart

5. Focus on patient experience and engagement

While there have been significant advances in medical technology, customer engagement is one area where healthtech is still to catch up with other sectors like banking and retail. Few things have changed in the last few decades and people are still forced to wait for hours in waiting rooms with all their documents. There is an urgent need to bring about change in the medical industry and impact the patient experience at scale.

6. Delivery mechanisms have to improve

There is an urgent need to bring about changes in healthcare delivery mechanisms. The medical industry has not stayed stagnant. There have been amazing advancements in technology like stem cell therapy and radiation oncology surgery, genomics and so on. But while medical technology is in the Space Age, the delivery mechanisms in the healthcare industry are still in the Stone Age.

"Thanks to AWS for their wonderful tool - Amazon Redshift. Without investing too much into technology from the development or operational perspective, we were able to scale things pretty fast. We were able to build the model around patient profiles really fast and solve our problem." Rahul Narang, Co-founder, Lybrate

7. Debunking the myth that software slow us down

Five years ago, there were barely 400 doctors using any kind of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) in India. This was barely 0.4 percent compared with 90 percent of doctors in the US, where it is compulsory. The primary challenge was proving that software was not going to slow doctors down, but make them more productive. Today, software ensures that EMRs are so highly personalised that he or she can give the patient a prescription in under 30 seconds.

8. Data and AI are driving personalisation

Data is now being referred to as the new oil or gold. Different types of data have different values assigned to them, and some types of data are more valuable than others. DNA data is arguably the most personal data about a person. While some data like shopping behaviour, consumption behaviour and even your health data can change, DNA data is unchangeable. Today, technology is using data to enable personalisation, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is driving that personalisation. Today, data is driving the change from averaging to treating an individual.

9. AI is transforming imaging

Thermal and multi-spectral imaging has completely transformed the way doctors can diagnose ailments from breast cancer to understanding infections in a patient’s body. Imaging has reduced the time to diagnosis from days to seconds and with close to 90 percent accuracy. AI comes into picture because the doctor doesn't have the expertise to analyse multispectral images. AI interprets the images so that the doctor can make faster decisions and prescribe the right kind of treatment. The data generated also helps in creating learnings for future diagnoses.

10. Data belongs to the patient

While India’s growing digital healthcare market is bringing in impressive new medical technologies and generating new job opportunities and improving access to personalised medical care, one of the risks has been the access to and disclosure of personally identifiable patient information. India’s healthcare data privacy and security bill, being drafted since 2018, is yet to come into effect yet. However, there is little doubt that a stringent data protection law is needed to maintain patient privacy.

So, while agreeing that greater access to data would accelerate the pace of innovation, the panel was unanimously of the view that the data, ultimately, belonged to the individual and they should have the control over what should happen with it.

For more insights on disruption and innovation in the healthcare space, watch the complete session here.


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