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‘AI Bringing Sea Change in Healthcare Research and Services’

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has transformative promise across the healthcare landscape, from empowering personalised medicine to improving operational efficiency and predictive cost management. It assists clinicians in making better decisions or even replace human judgement in certain functional areas, says Dr B R Das, Advisor and Mentor, SRL Diagnostics in an interview with Elets News Network (ENN).

Q: How do you look at 2018 – the year gone by – in terms of new technology or innovative initiatives in healthcare space?

Despite a range of challenges, it is encouraging to note that innovations are happening in healthcare. It will be difficult to provide a comprehensive recap of all new technological innovations in healthcare space.

2018 remarkably focused on precision medicine, non-invasive technologies and harnessing the power of digital technologies and data analytics. The advent of precision medicine is a result of countless innovations in an array of fields, including genomic sequencing, big data and analytics, bioinformatics, bioengineering etc.

Precision medicine and immunotherapy are changing the landscape of cancer treatment. Liquid biopsy provides attractive investment opportunities for diagnostic companies. The focus on blood biomarkers, such as ctDNA and CTCs, has unleashed the potential to now track and monitor tumours in a non-invasive manner.

In around two years, most likely, liquid biopsy will become adjunct to tissue biopsy. In healthcare, today data is the “new gold” and managing and converting that into valuable insight continues to be a major focus.

Turning data into action is proving to be a new source of innovation and service-oriented future revenue streams for healthcare players.

Integrating these innovations seamlessly into clinical workflows and care pathways still remains distant future. However, the roles of digital technologies, big data, and precision medicine in healthcare are rapidly shifting from drivers of marginal efficiency to enablers of fundamental innovation.

Q: How do you perceive growth of Indian healthcare market in 2019?

The Indian healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing sectors and expected to reach $280 billion by 2020. India has also become one of the leading destinations for high-end diagnostic services with tremendous capital investment for advanced diagnostic facilities, thus catering to a greater proportion of population.

With the digital revolution, telemedicine has also evolved enhancing patient care in remote areas. The Central Government has shown a great interest in the development of telemedicine and started investing in this segment to provide better healthcare facilities.

Single speciality hospital and clinics are trending in India. I can clearly envisage genomics revolution in the next few years. India and China will take a leading role in Asia’s genomics space.

Q: Shed some light on your major focus areas on adoption of recent innovations and technologies.

Adopting right innovations at right time is necessary for an organisation’s success and survival. Microfluidics, Liquid biopsies, Next Generation Sequencing, and Digital Technologies will continue to be our major focus. Considering India’s health priorities and affordability, infectious diseases and oncology, remain our centre of focus for adopting the technological advancements.

Q: Technologies have enhanced patient care in unprecedented manner. Can you list out some technologies which will transform healthcare industry in 2019?

As we enter into the era of innovations in precision medicine, tailored therapeutics, wearables, and artificial intelligence, the importance of diagnostics’ role in medicine will continue to emerge and the definition of what constitutes a diagnostic test will continue to evolve. New technologies power some of these innovations.

Lab automation tools, for example, are bringing efficiencies to countries wherein workforce shortages and skills gaps are chronic issues. Pointof-care diagnostics is increasing access to testing in remote/rural areas.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to play a major role in the future of medical imaging by automating processes, improving workflow productivity, and increasing diagnostic accuracy.

It is difficult to predict the timeline when some of these technologies will be mature enough for routine healthcare applications.

Q: Artificial Intelligence has become a big-league in the healthcare industry with the change in technologies and healthcare delivery methods. How does the future of AI look like?

The need for analysis of a huge amount of data and quick decisionmaking has put artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled solutions at the forefront of the current wave of healthcare revolution.

It is bringing a sea change in healthcare research and services. The goal of AI is to emulate human cognitive functions, reducing human efforts in repetitive and analytical tasks.

Already, there is evidence of substantial progress being made by AI techniques in radiology. It assists clinicians in making better decisions or even replace human judgement in certain functional areas.

Guided by relevant clinical questions, AI techniques can unlock clinically relevant information hidden in the massive database, which in turn can assist in clinical decision-making.

By 2020, 40 percent of the Internet of Things (IoT)-related technology is expected to be health-related, more than any other category, making up a $117 billion market. The convergence of medicine and information technologies such as medical informatics will transform healthcare, curbing costs, reducing inefficiencies, and saving lives.

Q: AI’s role in healthcare is well-established. At the same time, diagnostics is probably the first and a major element in the medical landscape. Is the shift that AI is creating in the diagnostic industry promising enough?

AI has transformative promise across the healthcare landscape, from empowering personalised medicine to improving operational efficiency and predictive cost management.

It is currently supporting clinical diagnostics industry in the following arenas:

  • By using carefully crafted algorithms, AI can learn patterns from a large volume of healthcare data, and then use the obtained insights to aid clinical decision making. It can also be equipped with learning and self-correcting abilities to improve its accuracy based on human feedback.
  • AI systems can help clinicians by providing up-to-date medical information from journals, textbooks, and that available from ongoing or past clinical trials for appropriate patient care
  • By automating the pre analytical process for laboratory diagnostics, an AI system can help to reduce diagnostic and therapeutic errors that are quite common in human clinical practice.
  • An AI system extracts useful information from a large human population to assist in making health risk and health outcome predictions possible.
  • An AI system can interpret an individual’s health status based on clinical history, vital statistics and diagnostic test results.
  • AI has been instrumental in diagnosing disorders viz. multiple sclerosis, developmental delays, eye defects, tumors, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s, respiratory infections and other critical illness etc.
  • AI algorithms assist to suggest diet, physical activity and lifestyle modifications recommended as per the risk status of an individual.

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