How Is Fortis Hospital Combating COVID-19 Using AI?

As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus mount in India, AL chatbox for self-assessment comes with solutions for self assessing the symptoms while self isolating at home
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Using AI tools can help citizens assess their risk of contracting the virus and figure out if they need to get tested. This can be helpful in curbing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the country through early detection. The tool is a self-assessment that has questions and help users gauge the risk of getting the coronavirus infection. Fortis Hospital’s Mumbai has also launched AI Chatbox services on their website.

Rinku Mavani, Business Partner-Sales, Fortis Hospitals, Mulund, tells us how can technology help in battling the pandemic amid such challenging times.

Edited excerpts.

How is AI Chatbox function helping patients at a time when COVID cases are increasing at an alarming rate?

AI powered digital triage and virtual assistants are far more important now and in future, than they were before Coronavirus pandemic struck the world, and here are the reasons why

– Walk-ins are no more allowed at most hospitals, and it has been mandated to book prior appointments before stepping into the hospital and/ or to only step-in if there’s a medical emergency. With more and more non-tech savvy patients starting to book appointments online or on call, it is essential to have a medical triaging technology in place to navigate patients to the right hospital, right specialty and the doctor.

– With increase in such appointment requests, and more enquiries about the safety and precautions in the hospital premises, the call centers are not able to keep-up the pace; even more because of shortage of workforce willing to work in medical setups during the pandemic.

– During the current crisis, and post the COVID crisis, the other burning question in a typical patient’s mind is whether to visit the hospital now, or to postpone, or consult a doctor through Tele-Consultation. Patients are looking at hospitals for helping them make this decision, which can sometimes be life changing. This is where the unique medical triaging ability comes in play, the health tech tool can help identify, which of the above 3 choices the patient should make, based on their current medical condition.

How AI tool help citizens asses their risk of contracting the virus and figure out if they need to get tested?

– To add to the expertise of risk assessment tools like in Arogya Setup app, risk assessment based on both symptoms, and other factors based on the exact location patient is present in, and the lifestyle or social factors. Risk assessment tools evaluate the risk of a patient who could contract the virus or has already contracted the virus. And can guide the patients to undergo a COVID test in the nearest authorized testing facility.

– In case of moderate risk, but potential complications arising out of other diseases, the health tech assistant can guide patients to undergo a tele-consultation with the right doctor, who can guide the patient about getting tested or prescribe medication.

Does this help in curbing the spread of the disease?

Definitely, this would help in curbing the spread of the diseases. AI Assistant helps screen patients before they reach the hospital, and recommends the patient to reach out to COVID helpline numbers issued by the State or Central Health Ministry in case they are found to be high risk. Thus helping cease the flow of high risk patients from entering the hospital, and to reduce possible transmission to the caregivers and other patients of the hospital.

How much do you think would a concept like telemedicine be successful in India?

– With a sudden need for switching from in-person consultations to tele-consultations, hospitals had to rather abruptly adapt Tele-consultation as the most high-engagement bridge between caregivers and the patients. This helped hospitals and patients make the plunge and overcome all perceived challenges about Tele-consultation.

– With Indian government recognizing Tele-medicine as a mainstream healthcare channel, more hospital and patient friendly policies being rolled-out, and with more insurance companies starting to work on tele-health plans, Tele-medicine is no more a concept, it is already gaining ground.

– Moreover, with the emergence of Tele-medicine, finest doctors in India can effectively offer their services to patients living hundreds of kilometers away. By leveraging the vast number of expert doctors in India to aid a large number of people across the country, Tele-medicine bridges the gaps that makes physical distance a hindrance to accessing quality medical care. Recent Tele-medicine practices reduce travel expenses, save time, reduce medical costs, and provides a bridge between the patient and the specialist doctors, without disrupting their daily responsibilities. It also works as a plus for the healthcare providers by decreasing the load of missed appointments and cancellations, and by improving follow up and health outcomes.

How can we have rural areas have access to the latest forms of health tech?

– With the widespread usage of smartphones even in rural areas, and newer technologies that enable video consult even in low-end low bandwidth devices, rural areas can have a very similar form of Tele-consultation practices. 

– Even when it comes to other digital health tech tools like patient navigation through AI powered virtual assistants, it has been proven that the completion rate of a medical conversation from the tier 2, tier 3 and small town population has been comparable or even better compared to metro cities. With advancements like multi-lingual or vernacular conversations, that do not entail a steep learning curve of complex mobile apps, it becomes far easier for patients in rural areas to access the latest forms of health technology in a language of their choice.

Has there been any faltering in technology while automating things?

– There is a negligible scope of faltering in the technology if we follow good integration practices, and use secured & efficient platforms for the communication. While enabling a digital health technology tool like Tele-medicine or virtual assistants, if the platform can recognize each patient touch point through the lens of a clinical pathway and bring in medical relevance, the chance of errors would be far negligible.

– The technology however has to be built ground up and focuses for healthcare, unlike an industry agnostic platform which does is not mandated to have an understanding of the healthcare operations.

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