Role of digital technologies in transforming Indian healthcare

The use of digital technologies has a significant impact on improving medical diagnosis and treatment accuracy, writes Pritika Singh, CEO at Prayag Hospitals Group

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About the Author: Pritika Singh, CEO at Prayag Hospitals Group. Pritika Singh is an award-winning and game-changer leader in the healthcare sector. Her business interests vary across many fields, from healthcare business, beauty, mental health, yoga, meditation and the pharma industry. She is actively pursuing women’s rights and philosophy.

Over the years, the healthcare system in India has undergone significant transformation in terms of technology, infrastructure, and medical advancements. The government has allocated a budget of Rs 89,155 crore to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in the Union Budget 2023-24. Additionally, a credit incentive program worth Rs 500 billion is being planned to boost healthcare infrastructure in the country.
However, despite these efforts, India’s healthcare system still faces a number of challenges. One major issue is the shortage of healthcare professionals. Additionally, lack of awareness among people often leads to misconceptions about expensive hospital care. Another pressing challenge is the rapidly growing population of the country. Nevertheless, digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) are expected to bring about significant changes in the healthcare landscape of India
Talking about AI, it is a branch of computer science that involves the development of algorithms that can learn and make decisions based on data. In healthcare, AI can be used to analyze vast amounts of patient data, identify patterns, and make predictions about a patient’s health. It can also be used to improve the efficiency of healthcare operations, enhance patient outcomes, and reduce costs. The use of digital technologies in healthcare system is not limited. There are several other ways in which digital technologies like AI will transform the Indian healthcare system which includes:
Improved Diagnosis and Treatment
The use of digital technologies has a significant impact on improving medical diagnosis and treatment accuracy. With the help of patient medical history, symptoms, and other relevant data, digital technologies can identify potential health risks or illnesses. This leads to timely diagnosis and more effective treatment plans, resulting in better patient outcomes and reducing the burden on the healthcare system. One of the notable applications of digital technology in healthcare is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can analyse medical images like X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans to detect abnormalities that may be missed by human doctors.
The prevalence of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension in India, causing 60% of all deaths (according to WHO) can also be managed and prevented through digital technologies such as AI. By analysing patient data, healthcare providers can identify individuals at high risk of developing these diseases and implement targeted interventions to prevent their onset. Moreover, AI can help healthcare providers to remotely monitor patients with such conditions and provide real-time feedback and support to improve patient outcomes.
Better Access to Healthcare
India has a large rural population that lacks access to quality healthcare services. Digital technologies like telemedicine and AI-powered chatbots can help bridge this gap by providing remote healthcare services to patients in remote areas. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide basic healthcare services, such as symptom triage and appointment scheduling, answering basic medical queries, and providing personalised health advice to patients who may not have access to traditional healthcare services. This can be particularly beneficial in rural areas where healthcare facilities are scarce. Additionally, telemedicine platforms can allow patients to receive consultations from healthcare professionals remotely, further increasing access to care. This can significantly improve access to healthcare services and reduce the burden on healthcare facilities.
Enhancing Healthcare Operations
Digital technologies like AI can also be used to enhance healthcare operations. For instance, AI-powered systems can help hospitals and clinics manage their resources more efficiently by predicting patient demand, optimising staff schedules, and reducing wait times. Moreover, AI-powered supply chain management systems can also be used to improve the supply chain for medical equipment and drugs, ensuring that they are distributed efficiently and healthcare facilities have access to the supplies they need to deliver quality care.
Improved Public Health
Digital technologies can play a crucial role in improving public health in India. AI-powered tools and machine learning algorithms can analyse vast amounts of health data to identify disease outbreaks and monitor the spread of infectious diseases and identify high-risk populations. This can allow healthcare providers to respond quickly and effectively to public health emergencies. Such technologies can also be used to develop predictive models to identify patients who are at high risk of developing certain diseases, allowing for earlier intervention and prevention. For instance, AI-powered systems can analyse social media and search engine data to identify areas where disease outbreaks are likely to occur. This can help public health officials take proactive measures to prevent the spread of diseases and protect the health of the population.
More Efficient Drug Development
AI can also be used to improve the efficiency of drug development in India. By analysing large amounts of medical data, AI-powered systems can identify potential drug targets, predict the efficacy of new drugs, and reduce the time and cost of clinical trials. This can lead to faster drug development, lower costs, and improved access to new treatments for patients.
Enhanced Patient Engagement and Education
Finally, AI can improve patient engagement and education. Chatbots and virtual assistants can provide patients with personalised health information and reminders about appointments and medications. AI-powered health coaches can help patients manage chronic conditions by providing personalised guidance and support.
Digital technologies like AI have the potential to transform the Indian healthcare system in numerous ways. By improving diagnosis and treatment, enhancing healthcare operations, and improving public health, AI can help improve patient outcomes, increase access to healthcare services, and reduce the burden on the healthcare system. As such, it is essential that healthcare providers and policymakers in India embrace these technologies and work together to develop innovative solutions that can help improve the health and wellbeing of the population.

**The views expressed by the author are her own.