From unstructured data sets to interoperability issues, YourStory’s Health 360 decodes key challenges to AI-driven healthcare

Understanding India’s part in the health revolution, ‘Health 360’ deep-dived into the impact of AI on healthcare, its challenges, opportunities, and learnings.
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The post-pandemic world has seen a widespread adoption of technology in healthcare. The healthcare sector in India too has seen integration of AI across the healthcare value chain.

While experts say that AI adoption can possibly reduce costs without compromising the quality and accessibility of healthcare, it comes with its own set of challenges.

Helping India in its AI adoption journey is Suki AI, an AI-powered digital assistant for doctors and clinicians. Nitin Gupta, India Head, Suki, spoke about the 'Challenges of driving AI adoption in healthcare in India and the lessons it can learn from other markets in a discussion as part of Health 360, YourStory’s flagship event on healthcare and healthtech.

Challenges to healthcare in India

According to NASSCOM, the Indian health sector is expected to reach almost $370 billion by the end of 2022. With significant growth and a CAGR of over 16 percent, it has been in the spotlight over the last few years. However, accessibility, quality of care, and costs are the three major challenges plaguing the Indian healthcare system currently.

The doctor-to-patient ratio is extremely poor in India, owing to the country’s vast and diverse population. With statistics pointing at almost 1 doctor to 1,500 patients, accessibility to healthcare services is a critical challenge, especially in remote areas. As administrative work takes up a lot of time, it becomes almost impossible for doctors to be accessible to take on new patients.

Quality of care is another challenge that the country is battling. Lack of standardization in operating procedures and regulatory practices severely impacts the quality of care. “There is no standardization in terms of scale requirements for healthcare professionals, which leads to increased risk in diagnostic errors,” says Nitin.

Lastly, the penetration level for insurance in India is only about 20 percent across its population base, which translates into healthcare being extremely expensive and unaffordable for the majority. Initiatives focussing on quality of care enhancements are often expensive and accessible to very few people.

While healthcare organisations struggle to maintain a balance amongst these three core challenges, AI and ML-driven solutions can considerably help in addressing these systemic issues.

Technology: A game changer in healthcare

With powerful technologies like AI and ML being responsible for the quick transformation of a vast array of industries, the Indian healthcare sector is not far behind. Striving to solve the problem of doctor burnout, Suki is on a mission to make healthcare technology assistive and invisible, lifting the administrative burden from doctors so they can focus on patient care.

Suki provides voice-enabled solutions that can help in releasing the tremendous administrative burden of clinical documentation, entering orders of medications or lab tests, and answering various patient inquiries, thereby helping clinicians complete a lot of their tasks easily. “We've developed an AI-powered voice assistant that leverages the latest speech technologies and advanced natural language techniques to help doctors to just speak naturally to complete tedious administrative tasks,” explains Nitin.

Suki also offers its proprietary voice platform to other partners in the healthcare domain, who wish to create best-in-class voice experience for their own solutions. “We provide a global platform for tech talent in India to solve some of the most pertinent and complex problems which exist in the healthcare domain across the world,” adds Nitin.

Aided by government initiatives like Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission which is aimed at building a digital health ecosystem, healthcare organizations will continue to adopt healthcare technology solutions which are implemented through AI/ML techniques. This in turn will solve the three core challenges and help in making quality healthcare accessible and affordable to even the Tier III, IV cities of the country.

Importance of data analysis

The healthcare sector is an extremely regulated domain due to the health information data of patients. Healthcare organizations face a risk of significant criminal charges, fines, and loss of reputation if there are any breaches in this data. With strict regulations and high barriers on data sharing in place, along with the complex setup and involvement of various players like pharma companies, diagnostic centers, aftercare centers, medical device players and insurance companies, interoperability becomes a key challenge in healthcare.

“There is a need to build strategic alliances between healthcare organizations and technology providers so that they can come together to realize the full potential of AI-driven healthcare, tech solutions, and really allow for this partnership to thrive,” says Nitin.

Government initiatives like Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission are going to be of assistance in creating a national digital health infrastructure with an open network for exchange of data between providers and end users.

Global trends and the future of healthcare

India is bound to see significant traction in digitization and digital transformation in the healthcare domain. Fuelled by government initiatives focused on digitization, healthcare organizations are set to increasingly adopt technology solutions.

With the global markets also working towards finding more ways of making interoperability amongst data being allowed, the ecosystem will continue to be more open leading to complete healthcare technology solutions and leveraging AI/ML technology in this space.

While Suki is currently focused on providing solutions for administrative burden for doctors and healthcare professionals, there is also active research underway in areas like radiology and how AI/ML can be implemented to uncover issues based on the radiology scans. “I think a lot of these technology solutions will continue to find their way to markets like India as we continue to focus on more digitization and digital transformation,” says Nitin.

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