- Overview of the Indian healthcare ecosystem and its technological infrastructure?
“According to Nasscom, the Indian healthcare sector is expected to reach $372 billion by 2022 (a CAGR of over 16%)”. Though the sector has been growing significantly over the last few years, significant challenges remain in increasing coverage and quality of care.
These challenges include:
- In a diverse and vast country like India, accessibility to remote areas is very difficult
- There is a poor doctor to patient ratio of 1 :1500
- No standardization in operating procedures, skill requirements, and regulation results in variability in care and increases risk of diagnostic errors
- Low insurance penetration of only about 20% across our population
While trying to solve these challenges, healthcare organizations in India today are struggling to maintain a balance among 3 interlocking factors i.e. cost, accessibility and quality that are at odds with one another. For example, initiatives that focus on quality of care enhancement often are expensive and accessible to few.
However, AI driven healthcare technology solutions have the potential to deliver high quality care in a low cost, accessible manner.. For example, remote monitoring can help more patients get high quality care and ultimately help drive costs reductions by reducing complications.
Also, while there is active innovation in the sector today (NASSCOM recently reported that about 18% of all AI patents filed in India have been from the healthcare domain); one of the biggest challenges that the ecosystem faces is the absence of an AI community that specializes in healthcare. As a consequence, there is no cohesive learning, case studies, or best practices that can be adopted and learnt from. There is a dearth of skilled mentors who understand both the healthcare domain and technological capabilities. In addition, AI research specifically focused on healthcare across academic institutions which can help the larger ecosystem is very minimal. Entrepreneurs must fall back on trial and error when working in the industry, which is suboptimal given the importance of healthcare to every individual. In fact, we at Suki are evaluating how we can work collaboratively with some of the premier academic institutions in India to propel more AI driven research in the healthcare domain.
- How is healthcare data being created and used? How does data privacy play an important role in managing healthcare data?
Data across the healthcare systems still exists in silos and adds friction as well as leads to duplicative work for clinicians. For example, nurses spend a significant amount of time entering data from devices into the EHR. Allowing this data to flow automatically to the relevant systems would be a huge benefit that tech intervention can bring in.
The healthcare industry is very complex as it brings together many varied players such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, retail, medical devices, diagnostics centers, after care centers, insurance companies, etc. And while they all can benefit significantly through collaboration and data sharing with each other to achieve best results, there is very little focus on the same since they don’t see immediate value.
Another challenge is that AI-generated solutions and models are usually difficult to explain and there is a lack of understanding on what is possible with respect to AI. Hence, it’s difficult for stakeholders to see value in sharing data which can lead to more beneficial AI driven solutions and one of the biggest reasons is data privacy requirements.
Healthcare is a very regulated domain because health information data of patients is among the most sensitive of data types. Healthcare organizations face the risk of significant criminal charges, fines and loss of reputation in case of data breaches. So, there are high barriers to data sharing. This is true for developed markets as well. The US healthcare system has seen massive adoption of EHRs and other technology solutions yet interoperability remains a challenge.
In order to overcome these challenges, there is a need to build strategic alliances and win-win partnerships between healthcare organizations and technology providers, so that they can come together to realize the full potential of AI driven healthcare tech solutions. Government initiatives like Ayushman Bharat Digital mission should help, where there is intent to create a nation digital health infrastructure and an open network for exchange of data between different providers and users.
- How is Suki bridging the technology gap in healthcare using AI/ML?
Suki is striving to solve one of the major global problems in the healthcare industry: doctor burnout. Doctors and other healthcare professionals today face a tremendous amount of administrative burden when it comes to tasks like clinical documentation, entering orders of medications or lab tests, answering patient messages etc. wherein they are spending two hours on these tasks for every hour spent on patient care.
Suki’s mission is to make healthcare technology assistive and invisible, lifting the administrative burden from doctors so they can focus on what they love to do, which is to take care of patients. We believe voice is a more natural and fast way to interact, and voice-enabled solutions can help clinicians complete their tasks more quickly and easily. And keeping that at the core of what we do, we have developed our flagship AI powered voice enabled digital assistant which leverages the latest in speech technologies and advanced natural language processing algorithms. With this, doctors speak naturally to complete tedious administrative tasks, like clinical documentation or pulling information from the EHR.
We also offer our proprietary voice platform, Suki Speech Platform, to partners in the healthcare domain who wish to create a best-in-class voice experience for their own solutions. This way, we stay true to our mission of making healthcare technology assistive and invisible through our partner solutions as well.
- Challenges faced by Suki and steps taken to overcome the same
There have been several major challenges throughout the journey and growth. The first challenge was to really understand the issues and pain points our users face. The culture of healthcare clinicians is very different from technologists, so customer empathy is very critical. One way we have addressed this is by having practicing physicians be a core part of our team. The other way we instill customer focus is by making customer visits and interactions a top priority for every person in the company, so they can directly understand the issues, and concerns that clinicians have.
The second challenge is that healthcare is a conservative, slow-moving industry that is somewhat at odds with startup culture, which is fast-moving and typically operating under shorter time horizons. Building a healthcare startup requires a team that understands our vision, longer term view of what we are building and what we are trying to accomplish and has the patience to endure through lengthy sales cycles. We reinforce this with our team on an ongoing basis.
Finally, another key challenge is building a high-performance, fun culture through the ups and downs of startup life where the team is empowered to deliver their best, move with agility and can grow in their careers. In the end it’s about the people and if they can find a great environment, they can thrive and accomplish anything. We have a well-defined set of company values, and we ensure that starting with our hiring process to regular day to day work, employees showcase these values on an ongoing basis.
- Future of integrating technology in healthcare and Suki’s future map to contribute in technological advancements of global healthcare ecosystem?
Suki aspires to help every doctor, clinician, practice, and health system across the world with their administrative burden. We are rapidly expanding our user base and are focused on growing our footprint. To do so, increasing the capabilities of our solutions is key.
Suki Assistant will continue to expand its abilities to include other administrative tasks, such as billing and orders. Our goal is to make Suki a true digital assistant that can help with any administrative task a clinician might have to tackle. With the Suki Speech platform, we have massive opportunities in front of us in terms of enabling voice experiences through a variety of use cases which our partners deliver on. We will continue to expand our partner base and strive to build the Suki brand as analogous to voice in healthcare.
While most of our market is currently in the US, India is turning out to be a very exciting market too. With further digitization in healthcare through government initiatives like Ayushman Bharat digital mission, we believe Suki will be able to add tremendous value in the lives of doctors and healthcare professionals in India. We expect India to be a significant market for us in the coming years. Meanwhile, the Suki India team will continue to grow and provide a global platform for the tech talent in India to solve some of the most pertinent and complex problems in the healthcare domain across the world.