-Shweta Jaiswal, under the guidance of Prof DVR Seshadri
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined as applying advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including machine learning (ML), in inter preting events, supporting and automating decisions, and taking action.1 Today, AI is the most fast-paced disruption, impacting multiple sectors: banking, transport, education, insurance, and healthcare.
Utilizing the scope of predictive analytics, AI can detect diseases early and has a valuable impact on public health, especially in a resource-starved country like India, where rural health penetration is still lacking. AI-assisted solutions offer a chance to bridge the disparity in healthcare delivery and reach AI maturity in the healthcare market in India, which was expected to reach $372 billion in 2022.2
AI in healthcare diagnostics is growing by leaps and bounds in India. Branches like radiology have a large volume of digitalized data, making it amenable to developing AI-based applications. AI-based systems are being used for the early detection of tumors. For instance, NIRAMAI (Non-Invasive Risk Assessment with Machine Intelligence), a startup based in Bangalore, uses ‘Thermalytix,' which detects breast cancer early. Thermalytix is a computer-aided diagnostic engine that AI powers. The solution adopts a high-resolution thermal sensing device and a cloud-hosted analytics solution for analyzing thermal images.3 The advantage of this solution is that it helps in the early, easy, and non-invasive detection of breast tumors.
AI-based applications are also being developed and used to build systems that can analyze images of blood. SigTuple, another AI-based healthcare startup in Bangalore, is using an AI platform called Manthana for the automated analysis of blood smears and digitizing blood, urine, and semen samples.4 They aim to democratize microscopy by enabling AI-assisted remote review unhindered by geographical boundaries.5
Another AI healthcare startup based in Mumbai is Qure.ai, which taps deep learning technology to provide automated interpretation of radiology exams like X-rays, CTs, and Ultrasound scans for time and resource-strapped medical imaging professionals – enabling faster diagnosis and speed to treatment.6 Thus, AI-based healthcare applications are breaking the barriers to the accessibility and availability of healthcare services in a developing country like India.
Another promising field in which AI is showing tremendous inroads is Telemedicine, which helps meet the healthcare delivery challenges in rural and remote areas and performs other functions in education, training, and management in the health sector. mFine is a company using AI, called ‘Assistive Technology’ in Telemedicine, for better diagnosis. It also aids doctors in a more detailed investigation into a case for faster & more accurate diagnosis.7
In a step forward in public health, Microsoft teamed up with the Government of Telangana in 2017 to use cloud-based analytics for the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram program by adopting MINE (Microsoft Intelligent Network for Eyecare), an AI platform to reduce avoidable blindness in children.8 In other fields, Chatbots are increasingly used as conversational agents for patient interaction. In the case of mental health, chatbots are being used as the entry point of care for people who think they are lonely or feel that they might have some mental health issues or even for behavioral pattern recognition. Wysa, a Bangalore-based mental health startup, is a safe space in the ambit of AI, where instead of talking to another human being, the patient is anonymously guided by an “AI penguin," which listens to the person empathetically and allows people to depersonalize their stress. Its founder Jo Aggarwal said that people opened to AI much sooner than they opened to another human being.9
Machine Learning processes are constantly evolving to develop new resources for hospital operational processes like bed management and processing of insurance claims. Some online platforms that aid in simple processes like fixing doctor appointments storing a patient's health data, or getting medicines from the nearest pharmacy, are taking the help of ML to improve their operational efficiency. ML is also being developed for operational processes in a hospital, like bed management and planning, which involves predicting rates of patient arrival and waiting time and how to reduce the discharge time so that there can be optimal utilization of beds in the hospital. Karexpert, based in Gurgaon, is one such company that helps healthcare providers to digitize all the patient records and operational records by providing hyper-coordinated workflows so that later this data can be utilized by different Healthcare AI algorithms for better quality patient care.10
Clinical Decision Support or CDS tools help Doctors, Nurses, and other paramedical staff to make more guided decisions in delivering healthcare in a shorter time. The Apollo Hospitals group, in February 2023, announced the launch of the Apollo Clinical Intelligence Engine (CIE), a clinical decision support tool, to be open to all Indian doctors on the Apollo 24/7 platform. Developed using AI and ML technologies, Apollo CIE is designed to support clinical decisions and assist with primary care, condition management, home care, and wellness.11
Not only is AI revolutionizing healthcare delivery and services across India, but it also has a huge role to play in the healthcare sector’s growth. Data and AI in healthcare can potentially add $25-$30 billion to India's GDP by 2025, according to a recent NASSCOM Data and AI report.12
By the year 2030, AI is predicted to have access to a vast pool of data which will enable it to detect disease progression patterns and thereby be of tremendous value in enhancing the quality of patient care. Healthcare systems with AI guidance will become so advanced that they can predict individual and community's probability of developing a disease and advise preventive care accordingly. This means that healthcare systems could anticipate when a person is at risk of developing a chronic illness, for example, and suggest preventative measures before they get worse. Thus, we see that AI is already revolutionizing the healthcare sector and promising to improve healthcare delivery in the coming times.