India’s digital healthcare system has a built-in advantage and unmatched opportunity. In order to address the country’s current healthcare difficulties, a technology-enabled healthcare ecosystem is urgently needed to meet the demands of the developing market, shares Niraj Garg, Head of Digital and Automation, Siemens Healthineers, India with Kaanchi Chawla of Elets News Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:
Your take on the current state of digital health infrastructure in the country.
India is one of the few countries that has seen drastic change and adoption of digital technologies within the last few years. According to the IBEF report, the digital healthcare market is expected to grow to US$ 485.43 billion by 2024 with a rise of CAGR of 27.41 per cent from US$ 116.61 billion in 2018. Digital health comprises of telehealth, mhealth, electronic health records (EHR, EMR), and other remote diagnostics and healthcare analytics systems. The rapid penetration of smartphones and the internet backed by supportive government policies have boosted the growth of the digital healthcare market in India.
There is an inherent strength and unparalleled opportunity in India’s digital healthcare system. With the emerging market demand, there is a great need to supply a technology-enabled healthcare ecosystem to address the existing healthcare challenges in the country. India is in a process of developing an ecosystem of Health IoT, AI, 3D printing, and robotics that will help intelligent patient monitoring by reducing human errors and making decisions faster enabling patient cure and safety. Digital technologies have also been proving beneficial for medical experts in critical decision-making and mitigating risks. At Siemens Healthineers, digitalising healthcare, enabled by digital technologies is at the core of our efforts to improve patient experience, expand precision medicine, and in transforming healthcare delivery from a macro perspective. Further, Robotics combined with enablement by remote assistance will help improve access to care by making experts available for complex interventional procedures. We believe Artificial Intelligence, coupled with all these technologies would improve the outcomes for patients and healthcare delivery overall.
How is AI adoption in the diagnostic space helping in improving diagnostic services?
Post-pandemic, the adoption of AI in the diagnostic space has risen at a fast pace. Technologies like AI help in extracting clinically relevant health insights by analysing vast data. They also help in the early-stage diagnosis of diseases for healthcare professionals and enable better clinical decisions to improve the quality of care.
We incorporate AI in various ways to benefit both healthcare practitioners and ultimately the patients. AI is helping in improving image recognition in diagnostic systems. For example, Siemens Healthineers imaging devices like CT and, MRI scanners, etc are enabled with AI-led technologies which not only aid precision medicine but also help patients receive timely care, speeding up the overall process and improving the quality of life for the patients.
Image reconstruction is another area where AI is being used to provide pristine images even in challenging patient situations. Further, AI-based reconstructions using deep learning are also resulting in shorter scan times in MRI procedures that help improve the patient experience without compromising the image quality. AI is helping in image interpretation as well. AI tools have been strategically automated to present the reading of the report to physicians with the appropriate measurements and annotations, mitigating the risk of any errors. Technologies to standardise image acquisition in the scanners, irrespective of the patients undergoing, the scans is another area that is being addressed using AI-based workflows. This brings consistency in the quality of the images needed to diagnose the condition, that the patient is being scanned for.
Our cloud-based AI service, AI-RAD companion help doctors with imaging-based indications suggestive of lung ailments like cancer, and emphysema besides imaging solutions for Coronary Artery Disease, Cardiomegaly, etc. Our AI apps map different grey and white matter segments of the human brain that can help doctors to diagnose neurodegenerative disorders, multiple sclerosis, etc. Moreover, another technology of ours, myExam Companion uses the new possibilities of digitalisation and it turns data into built-in expertise to help make CT scan procedures easier and less complex.
What is the present lacuna in the diagnostic sector and how do you see technology providing a solution to address these?
Despite a lot of technological developments, there is a lot of disparity in the accessibility of healthcare between metro cities and rural India. Apart from the lack of qualified professionals and quality staff like pathologists, technicians, or other medical practitioners, this gap is also due to outdated and inefficient technologies at diagnostic labs to give proper data, and diagnostics leading to delayed or wrong outcomes. This is one of the key reasons people move to cities for access to better treatment and facilities. However, the high travel cost, diagnostics, and treatment in cities add a burden on the rural population. Technology can be a game changer in bridging the gap by making diagnostics easily available and accessible.
We provide comprehensive digital diagnostic solutions across healthcare systems in India ranging from a broad spectrum of immunoassay, chemistry, hematology, molecular, urinalysis, and blood gas testing systems, in conjunction with automation, informatics, and services, which can serve the needs of laboratories of any size for today and future.
How do you see your organisation’s present positioning and future outlook in the digitally driven diagnostic ecosystem?
We at Siemens Healthineers are continuously innovating in key areas of patient centricity, safety, and access to care for one and all. We have been developing digital health solutions for more than a decade, based on three pillars:
The first pillar is the improvement of workflows within the healthcare system (digital analysis of processes, workloads, etc., and subsequent suggestions for improvements).
The second pillar is the support of diagnostic and therapeutic decisions, including through AI-supported algorithms (for example highlighting abnormalities on X-ray images).
The third pillar relies on connecting patients and treatment teams – including telemedicine solutions for monitoring (Teamplay myCare Companion) and teleconsultations (eHealth Virtual Visit).
These products enable direct and indirect communication between doctors and patients via digital channels. Through our portfolio of hardware and digital products – consisting of advanced imaging, laboratory diagnostics, and therapy solutions – we generate a large amount of clinical and operational data that is important for patient care. Across all three pillars, this generated data is intended to help improve overall efficiency and productivity within a healthcare system.