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Unlocking the potential of AI in revolutionizing healthcare in India, especially for the underserved

Mar 18,2024

Nestled somewhere remote in the western Indian state of Maharashtra is the district of Gadchiroli. Today home to 10,72,942 residents, the district faces many daunting healthcare-related challenges – scarce resources, high patient loads, overwhelmed systems, and prolonged waits, aggravated by the absence of local radiologists or X-ray machines.

Cut to 2047, a Viksit Bharat, where after facing two weeks of consistent cough, a large language model-trained app directs a patient directly to their nearest primary healthcare facility using guidance in Marathi. A mobile van awaits them with a semi-portable X-ray, guided by an AI-based app that automatically analyses their X-Ray. Within two minutes, at no cost to the patient, a healthcare worker with limited technical training diagnoses TB with unmatched accuracy and seamlessly logs the case on the Nikshay TB platform. The patient is immediately linked to effective treatment, is handed a digital pillbox that will support them with adherence to treatment over the next several weeks. Another software offers them personalized care including nutritional guidance, addressing their unique need and medical profile.

In another faraway village hidden in Himalayas, ASHA workers employ an app for door-to-door TB screening using a simple mobile phone and a software that can detect the disease from cough sounds. The AI-driven solution is analysing vast amounts of medical data swiftly and precisely, leading to earlier and more accurate diagnoses, and improved patient outcomes. AI-driven healthcare is more cost-effective and is being deployed widely in remote and underserved areas, ensuring access to quality care.

Right at this time, in another tribal district deep in the forests of Orissa, an AI and machine learning (ML)-based algorithm automatically analyses blood smear slides testing the presence of malaria parasite, identifying subtle patterns and anomalies in medical imaging and patient data. The patient from an underserved community, once diagnosed, is being linked right away to an expert using telepathology.

The integration of AI, machine learning, and Internet of Things (IoT), terms previously confined to other sectors, are now acting as a force for good in healthcare. Access to Universal Health Care enabled by science and tech is a reality.

While the above are hypothetical glimpses from 2047, they illustrate a reality that is increasingly feasible and not too far from being true. In a multi-layered and complex healthcare sector like India, ripe for disruption from emerging technologies, AI-driven solutions present the most intuitive and obvious use case for intervention.

The increasing activity from both large corporates and start-ups in developing AI-focused healthcare solutions serves as evidence of the sector’s readiness for transformation. The adoption of AI for healthcare applications is expected to witness an exponential increase in the next few years, with the global healthcare market driven by AI projected to register an explosive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40% through 2021 to 2029.

Source: Healthworld

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