Cancer, one of the deadliest diseases ever known to mankind, has proved to be extremely resilient, and is still one of the leading cause of deaths in the country. Data from ICMR released last year revealed that more than 1300 people succumb to cancer every day. Despite years of research and investments, there has been no definite cure to cancer. Can technology come to the rescue? While these are still early days, a ray of hope was exhibited when press reports recently stated how IBM’s artificial intelligence machine, Watson, could correctly diagnose a 60-year old woman’s rare form of cancer within ten minutes – a task that had stumped doctors as the original diagnosis did not work.
Human beings cannot process huge volumes of data, a task that can be achieved with ease by supercomputers like Watson. For example, for the above diagnosis, Watson sifted through 20 million cancer research papers. Additionally, the machine looked up several medical cases and millions of research papers. Through the ability to look at multiple sources of data and arrive at an inference is a complicated task for humans, but a machine equipped with AI capabilities can only improve over time. As one can see, artificial intelligence is just one of the most exciting technologies that are set to transform healthcare.
Another exciting trend is the usage of wearables. For example, Manipal Hospitals has given pregnant women a wearable device that allows doctors to monitor key parameters via a mobile app. Portea, a home healthcare services provider, is using a health monitoring device that can remotely monitor and capture details about a patient’s vital health parameters such as blood pressure, pulse rate and temperature. Apollo Hospitals, too has a health monitoring device which provides users with information about their health by using a compact portable device and then sending it to the cloud, where this data is available to Apollo’s network of doctors and physicians.
The healthcare industry is on the cusp of a huge digital transformation. Startup firms like Practo have acquired iconic status as they have scaled quickly. Practo today is the world’s largest healthcare appointment booking platform with nearly 40 million appointments managed every year and has more than 2 lakh healthcare practitioners, 10,000 hospitals and over 5000 diagnostic centers across 50 cities and 15 countries across the world. Similarly, Bangalore-based startup Daily Rounds, has created a doctor network app which serves as India’s largest doctor network app with more than 1,60,000 doctors on its network. As the industry matures, there are new business models emerging. DoctorInsta, is trying to address the lack of specialty doctors in villages by setting up health ATMs. Patients can simply drop in and consult specialist doctors over a video link.
Using technology, India has a big opportunity to correct the dismal doctor-patient ratio. Healthcare in India is a huge opportunity, and as more startups enter the fray, they will start challenging and disrupting existing business models, and force traditional firms to relook at the way they provide services.
For example, in the future, you will not probably call the doctor. The doctor will call you proactively before you get a disease, based on the alerts that your wearable is sending to a cloud. Proactive monitoring of health, just as we do for machines, will be a new reality!