Application of AI for digital Transformation in Indian Healthcare industry

Praveen is with Amrita Hospitals since 2004, serves as EVP at Amrita Technologies and is a Guest Professor at Amrita University. Previously he worked at i2 Technologies, Dallas, US. He holds an MS from The Ohio State University and a B.Tech from IIT Delhi.

In a conversation with Charulatha, a correspondent in Siliconindia magazine, Praveen discussed AI's role in healthcare transformation, addressing challenges in adoption, emphasizing cost reduction, enhanced re- source utilization, and predicting a tech-driven health- care future. How does AI contribute to digital transformation in healthcare, and what challenges hinder its adoption in the healthcare sector?

AI is already contributing significantly to digital transformation in Healthcare, by improving patient service, while reducing costs and increasing the operational efficiency. Some of the areas where AI is currently being used very effectively, are:
1.Analysis of medical images for finding any abnormality much more accurately and quickly then we have done in the past
2.Ability to look at the trends in the patient bio-markers to aid in early detection of diseases and warning/ alerting the clinician
3.Predict disease outbreak and patient outcome by analysing huge population health data
4.Chatbot and health assistants are very effective in answering basic patient queries and provide them with immediate access to information including guidance on healthcare issues
5.Basic administrative tasks are getting automated like appointment booking as well as resource scheduling
6.Remote patient monitoring where the data is tracked by AI to observe any abnormalities

Some of the challenges for its adoption in Healthcare sector is unavailability of good dataset to train on Indian context in order for the tool to not have any bias. Also, investment involved, including infrastructure requirement is a major hindrance. And non-availability of good trained resources is always a big challenge. Lack of regulatory framework and policy along with the uncertainty around ethical and responsible use of AI is still not fully addressed.

"Having a comprehensive EMR (Electronic Medical Record) data is very beneficial for AI analysis and there can now even be unstructured data including scanned hand-written notes"

What types of healthcare data are suitable for AI analysis, and how can they be effectively utilized in digital transformation initiatives?
Having a comprehensive EMR (Electronic Medical Record) data is very beneficial for AI analysis and there can now even be unstructured data including scanned hand-written notes. Ensuring that the various parameters are captured is essential and they can be categorized based on the importance. The data element with highest priority should be captured in structured format and ones not very critical can be given lower priority, thereby defining our digital transformation strategy and help in decision making when the entire workflow processes are under review and optimization.

Explain the concept of interoperability in the context of AI-driven digital transformation in healthcare
As mentioned above, the comprehensive EMR is important, and since patient can possibly be visiting different healthcare clinicians and availing services, its of prime importance that the data is exchanged, shared and is interoperable, otherwise, the AI predictions will be made with limited data available, thereby making it less effective and sometimes inaccurate. Also, digital transformation involves all the functions of an organization so that makes it all the more important that there is no duplicity or data redundancy.

Discuss the potential impact of AI on reducing healthcare costs and improving resource utilization
AI, just like any other machine, does not fatigue and can do tasks repeatedly and consistently. Therefore AI tools can be excellent smart assistants to clinicians (for example, image recognition and analysis in Radiology, speech recognition and transcription for clinicians) so the most constraint resources (Doctors) are focused on value generation (not having to worry about other mundane tasks which eats up their valuable time). AI is also used to automate administrative tasks (RPA – Robotic Process Automation is a proven technology now for automating repetitive tasks, low hanging fruits).

The use of AI will be evident like in case of chatbot and smart assistants, but might be inconspicuous in other, like in case of predictive analytics for public health

As tasks are automated, the resources can be reassigned to other critical tasks and AI is very effective in scheduling and preparing staff roster, it can improve resource utilization across the organization. The resources are optimally utilized further by streamlining processes and focusing on high-priority and urgent cases first.

Examine the role of telemedicine and AI in providing remote healthcare services
Telemedicine has been there for some time, but with the technological advances made in the field of healthcare devices (wearables) coupled with AI, it is going to play a pivotal role in bringing healthcare services to patient doorsteps. So the role of Telemedicine and AI is not restricted only to increased access and cost effectiveness, but also to improve patient engagement as well as timely interventions with the help of continuous monitoring by these AI tools.

How do you foresee the future of AI in healthcare, and what emerging technologies might shape it further?
AI is already making headways into healthcare, and its only going to have a much deeper and significant impact. Sometimes the use of AI will be evident like in case of chatbot and smart assistants, but might be inconspicuous in other, like in case of predictive analytics for public health. As NLP (Natural Language Processing) continues to make advancements, our clinical documentation will become like a gold-mine as it will have precious health data which can be used to extract valuable insights. With the devices becoming smaller and long-lasting (lower power consumption) and having ability to monitor more and more health parameters noninvasively, the use of AI on this humungous amount of data, will allow for continuous monitoring and proactive alerts. AI will also play crucial roles in research, esp in the area of Drug discovery process where it will be expedited and requiring lesser resources. Also, the vision of personalized medicine and treatment plan will very soon become a reality.

I will like to conclude that AI is here to stay and will have significant impact in Healthcare as well, so we have to be preparing ourselves and be open, the technology is still making dramatic advancement, and our imagination will limit its application.