Virtual diagnostics: Digital health in the fast lane in times of Covid

June 8, 2020 12:50 AM

Usage of AI, robotics and Big Data in healthcare will grow exponentially

We also expect to see a see a major leap in terms of adoption of futuristic digital technology, automation and AI-backed tools in healthcare.

By Vikram Thaploo

The sudden jolt brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak has unexpectedly changed the world in many ways. With the world found grossly unprepared to fight this kind of war, we can expect several policy recasts and resets in the near future. We also expect to see a see a major leap in terms of adoption of futuristic digital technology, automation and AI-backed tools in healthcare. Automated disease screening kiosks, face recognition tech and unmanned reception facilities are some elements of this futuristic global design.

Healthcare will get its due
The crisis will also have long-ranging impacts on policy decisions cutting across governments and countries. With overwhelmed hospitals, burnt out healthcare workers, and shortage of intensive care facilities highlighting the shortcomings of healthcare systems, the need to have a more robust healthcare infrastructure has been the most important learning.

This experience should propel us towards a future where universal healthcare is not just a slogan but a reality. The need to have more doctors and specialists per 1,000 population, more eICUs and more equitable distribution of healthcare facilities are what we must aim for. Policy makers must also start using predictive analysis reports for both infectious and non communicable diseases to have more robust and well-delienated healthcare budgets.

It’s time for digital health
Digital healthcare and telehealth services have been thrust to the forefront in recent times. Telehealth services have suddenly turned mainstream as hospitals suspend non-emergency OPDs and promote remote consultations. Responding to this trend, the Indian government lent statutory backing to telehealth by issuing and notifying the first ever official guidelines governing telemedicine practice.

Digitisation will also redefine several other facets of healthcare. Increased usage of digital tools such as medical kiosks and face recognition systems will allow people to walk in and discuss their health parameters with a medical chatbot anywhere. Already, some hospitals have installed such kiosks at their entrances to check the health conditions of visitors before allowing them in. Increased adoption of themal screening systems at airports, railways stations, etc., is also expected to become common.

Tech at the forefront
The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the need to strengthen our disease prediction and prevention systems by leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. It is noteworthy to mention here that a Canadian predictive analysis startup that uses an AI backed platform had successfully predicted the Covid-19 outbreak in late December itself, a whole nine days before WHO first warned about its emergence. The platform spotted a cluster of “unusual pneumonia” cases around in Wuhan and alerted its clients about an impending outbreak. This is the way to the future.

Greater use of AI-backed technology with data analytics to analyse, predict and even manage such outbreaks is also likely to be put into greater use.

Robotic surgery will become the new normal as hospitals look to invest in technology which minimises risks of infection and enables greater precision, faster recovery and shorter duration of patient stays. Use of drones in healthcare is another futuristic leap on the anvil. Drones can be used to carry emergency equipment or medication, transport organs for transplant, collect samples for diagnosis and reach remote patients in medical need.

The writer is CEO, Apollo TeleHealth

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