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Editorial of the Day: India is at a pivotal moment in its health-care journey (The Hindu)

Context: The article is talking about India’s increasing prominence and leadership in various critical global issues in recent years. It mentions India’s involvement and leadership in areas such as climate change, electrification, new age manufacturing, and space exploration. It highlights India’s achievements, such as being the first country to successfully land a mission near the south pole of the moon and its successful presidency of the G-20, where it worked to foster global alignment on important issues. Furthermore, the article suggests that India has the potential to become a powerhouse in AI-driven healthcare solutions and a leader in combating non-communicable diseases by reimagining its healthcare model.


About the Artificial Intelligence (AI)

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a simulation of human intelligence into a computer machine so that it can think and act like a human.
  • AI systems are designed to simulate or replicate human cognitive abilities, such as perception, reasoning, learning, and problem-solving.
  • AI rely on algorithms and computational models to process and analyze large amounts of data, extracting patterns and making predictions or decisions based on that information.
  • AI can be classified into two main categories:
    • Narrow AI or Weak AI: This type of AI is designed to perform specific tasks and is limited to a narrow domain. Examples include voice assistants like Siri and Alexa.
    • General AI or Strong AI: It refers to a system that possesses the ability to understand, learn, and apply its intelligence across a wide range of tasks and domains, similar to human intelligence.

Various Applications of AI in Healthcare

  • Disease Diagnosis: Machine learning algorithms can analyze patient data, including symptoms, medical records, and genetic information, to identify patterns and predict diseases.
  • Medical Imaging: AI can assist in the interpretation of medical images such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and mammograms to detect abnormalities, tumors, or other signs of diseases with high accuracy.
  • Personalized Treatment Plans: By considering a patient’s medical history, genetic information, and current condition, AI systems can recommend the most effective treatment options and dosages.
  • AI Powered Virtual Assistants and Chatbots: They can provide patients with 24/7 access to medical information, answer questions about symptoms, medications, and provide healthcare guidance.
  • Drug Discovery and Development: AI can accelerate the process of drug discovery by analyzing vast amounts of biological and chemical data.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring: AI-enabled devices can collect and analyze real-time patient data, such as vital signs, activity levels, and sleep patterns, allowing healthcare providers to remotely monitor patients.
  • Robotics and Surgery: AI-powered robots can assist surgeons during complex procedures by providing real-time feedback, precision, and enhanced visualization.

Current State of AI healthcare in India

  • India is one of the few developing countries leading the way on AI in health.
  • Data and AI in healthcare have the potential to add $25-$35 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.
  • As per the Indian AI Healthcare Market 2019-2025 report, AI in the Indian healthcare industry is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 50.9% during the forecast period.
  • Current scenario: Indian start-ups are continuing to refine and prioritise increased personalised medical care by using AI tools.
  • Some of the AI healthcare start-ups in India that are reshaping the industry are:
    • HealthifyMe: Harnesses AI to provide personalised diet and fitness information and coaching.
    • Dozee: Contactless health monitors that enable early detection of any health deterioration.
    • Niramai: Early-stage detection of breast cancer.
    • Tricog: Offer virtual cardiology services to distant clinics.

Decoding the Editorial

The article is discussing the healthcare challenges and opportunities in India.

  • India has been an ambitious and a potential  global leader, but it also faces serious health issues.
    • India has a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, respiratory issues, and depression among its population.
  • If these NCDs are not addressed, the economic burden on India will be significant, estimated to be about nearly $4 trillion by 2030.
    • This burden has been referred to as an “age tax” as the healthcare costs and lost productivity associated with NCDs will impact the country’s demographic dividend, which is its youthful population.
  • The author calls for urgent action to prevent this scenario and urges the healthcare industry to play a role by increasing awareness, promoting healthier lifestyles, and providing comprehensive health checks that go beyond simple blood tests to detect early signs of diseases.
  • Also, it has to be acknowledged that the progress India has made in healthcare over the years has been significant such as improvements in infant mortality, maternal mortality, and life expectancy.
  • With India’s healthcare infrastructure and clinical talent, the country has the potential to become a hub for medical value travel due to its quality healthcare services at a lower cost.

India’s growing prominence as an MVT hub:

The article discusses India’s growing prominence as a hub for medical value travel (MVT) and its potential in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare.

  • Medical Value Travel (MVT):
    • India has become a global destination for medical tourism, with patients from around the world seeking healthcare services in India.
    • The specific areas of expertise in India include oncology, orthopaedics, and robotic surgery, which attract international patients due to world-class medical expertise, advanced infrastructure, and cost-effective care.
    • MVT is also important for job creation and foreign exchange earnings.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare:
    • The article recognizes the transformative potential of AI in healthcare globally.
    • India has a significant talent pool of data scientists, engineers, and healthcare professionals who can contribute to the development of AI-driven healthcare solutions.
    • Also AI has a great role in improving medical diagnostics, predicting disease outbreaks, analysing healthcare data, optimizing treatment plans, and enhancing drug discovery.
    • India’s AI expenditure is expected to grow substantially by 2025, with the potential to contribute significantly to the country’s economy by 2035.
  • Vision for India’s Healthcare: The article presents a vision for India’s healthcare system.
    • It suggests that by reimagining its healthcare model, prioritizing community health, fostering public-private partnerships, investing in innovation and research, India can position itself as a global leader in AI-driven healthcare solutions and a destination for medical value travel.
    • The ultimate goal is to build a healthier and more prosperous India for future generations.

Beyond the Editorial

ICMR Guidelines for AI Use in the Health Sector

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued a guiding document- “The Ethical Guidelines for Application of AI in Biomedical Research and Health care”, which outlines 10 key patient-centric ethical principles for Artificial Intelligence (AI) application in the health sector.

  • Accountability and Liability Principle: It underlines the importance of regular internal and external audits to ensure optimum functioning of AI systems which must be made available to the public.
  • Autonomy Principle: It ensures human oversight of the functioning and performance of the AI system. Before initiating any process, it is also critical to attain consent of the patient who must also be informed of the physical, psychological and social risks involved.
  • Data Privacy Principle: It mandates AI-based technology should ensure privacy and personal data protection at all stages of development and deployment.
  • Collaboration Principle: This principle encourages interdisciplinary, international collaboration and assistance involving different stakeholders.
  • Safety and Risk Minimization Principle: This principle aimed at preventing “unintended or deliberate misuse”, anonymized data delinked from global technology to avoid cyber-attacks, and a favorable benefit-risk assessment by an ethical committee among a host of other areas.
  • Accessibility, Equity and Inclusiveness Principle: This acknowledge that the deployment of AI technology assumes widespread availability of appropriate infrastructure and thus aims to bridge the digital divide.
  • Data Optimization: Poor data quality, inappropriate and inadequate data representations may lead to biases, discrimination, errors and suboptimal functioning of the AI technology.
  • Non-Discrimination and Fairness Principles: In order to refrain from biases and inaccuracies in the algorithms and ensure quality AI technologies should be designed for universal usage.
  • Trustworthiness: In order to effectively use AI, clinicians and healthcare providers need to have a simple, systematic and trustworthy way to test the validity and reliability of AI technologies. In addition to providing accurate analysis of health data, a trustworthy AI-based solution should also be lawful, ethical, Reliable and valid.

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