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Indian Healthcare CIOs Join AI Bandwagon to tackle Covid-19

In the fight against COVID-19, healthcare firms across Asia-Pacific have been quick to apply their artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning expertise in several areas: scaling customer communications, understanding how COVID-19 spreads, diagnosis, treatment, patient care and speeding up research among others. While India’s healthcare firms were relatively slow to start, many of them are now looking at harnessing the power of AI in time of coronavirus and believe its impact will be even greater post the pandemic.

A new research by IDC Healthcare Insights reveals that more than 50% of healthcare firms expect an increase in demand for AI-based solutions during and after the pandemic in the Asia Pacific and India has joined the bandwagon in a big way.

Healthcare providers in the country that were already into EMR and AI-based imaging solutions tools were quick in deploying AI to tackle Covid-19. As the complexity of diseases increases and to ensure a value-based care system, physicians will look for support for a clinical decision support system (CDSS), leveraging the power of quality patient data and AI.

“The cost of the solution, lack of skilled personnel and trustworthiness of data are areas that need to be addressed by healthcare organisations in the country for the seamless adoption of AI solutions,” the report mentioned.

“We are seeing the demand for AI/ML bolster in the Indian Healthcare space primarily driven by use cases like diagnosis, drug discovery, patient monitoring, and others,” said Rishu Sharma, Principal Analyst, Cloud and Artificial Intelligence, IDC India.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, there has been a surge in the use of AI related technologies among healthcare sectors to fight the virus. For example, in China, Alibaba announced an AI algorithm that it says can diagnose suspected cases within 20 seconds (almost 45 times faster than human detection) with 96% accuracy. Autonomous vehicles were quickly put to use in scenarios that would have been too dangerous for humans. Robots in China’s Hubei and other provinces delivered food, medicine, and goods to patients in hospitals or quarantined families, many of whom had lost household breadwinners to the virus.

In some hospitals in South Korea, for instance, robots have been assisting with patient care in wards where resources were spread thin. Caregiver and medical robots can perform valuable tasks like taking temperatures and distributing hand sanitizer, freeing up hospital staff to deal with more critical patients and specialized tasks.

Hospital staff in Philippines are remotely monitoring the health of the elderly in their homes to provide alerts if they fall ill with Covid-19 or other conditions. Taipei’s Yonghe Cardinal Tien Hospital deployed a device at its main entrance that collects and analyzes data with AI and machine learning to scan individuals as they enter the hospital’s lobby. It sends out an alert if there are potential health concerns – such as a raised temperature.

In India too, more healthcare departments are deploying AI based technology in recent months to keep the virus in check. The Karnataka Government recently announced the launch of AI-driven movable hospital to contain the spread of the virus.

The Apollo Hospitals Group in India has deployed Zebra Medical Vision’s AI technology that identifies and quantifies suspected Covid-19 findings on conventional chest CTs and monitor disease progression.

Fortis Hospital is already using robot for COVID-19 screening. The initiative, introduced in Bangalore, has been taken to screen every visitor including doctors, nurses, medical and non- medical staff entering the hospital. The robot interacts using facial and speech recognition contextual help and autonomous navigation and screens the visitor for symptoms for COVID-19 such as fever, cough and cold.

The AI adoption numbers in healthcare are still low, but IDC research shows there are many more such examples to come up in the future, as Manoj Vallikkat, Research Manager for IDC Asia/Pacific Healthcare, suggests it is imperative for the healthcare organizations in India to drive human-machine collaboration and AI-driven interfaces to address the future care needs in the country.

“Although the cost, lack of skilled personnel, and data trustworthiness are among the top barriers in the adoption of AI solutions, digital patient data, access to resources, and expertise in selecting the right algorithms will gain priority for healthcare organizations in the country,” Sharma added.

“The pandemic has highlighted the potential of innovations in healthcare, especially MedTech. Digital technologies are increasingly transforming healthcare to make it more effective, efficient, and above all, more humane,” said Gerd Hoefner, Managing Director and President, Siemens Healthineers.

As the use of machine learning and other AI technologies in healthcare continue to increase, Siemens Healthineers is investing in training to enable our engineers to apply their digital skills to solve various real-world problems.

According to the report, CIOs of care providers will start prioritizing trusted data as their organizations migrate from a fee-for-service model (FFS) to value-based care. AI adoption in the country will gain momentum with the recently announced ‘Digital Health ID’ by the Indian government.

This will also tend to generate an increased number of digital assets, leading to enhanced AI-based solutions to augment physician efficiency in the Indian healthcare system, the IDC report said. However, Vallikkat suggests that while deploying AI solutions, CIOs will have to look beyond technology by ensuring strict adherence to regulatory compliance, along with data governance and ethics, to ensure public trust and scalability.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com