The healthcare industry is deploying a mix of traditional and disruptive technologies such as mobility, big data analytics, cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to ensure that the overall care process is effective as well as cost-efficient. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, m-health, telemedicine and cloud consulting have gained significant traction. Shuvankar Pramanick, CIO, Columbia Asia Hospitals, India, talks about the emerging ICT trends in the healthcare space, the status of technology adoption and the future outlook…

What are the technology trends dominating the healthcare space at present?

Digital transformation in healthcare is the most positive and upward trend in this spectrum. The digital way for patient interaction and consultation using mobile devices is one of the foremost trends. The psychological behaviour of patients is changing rapidly in terms of accepting this change.

The next important trend in healthcare is big data. Big data aggregates information about a business through formats such as social media, e-commerce, online transactions and financial transactions, and identifies patterns and trends for future use. For the healthcare industry, big data can provide several important benefits such as a lower rate of medical errors and facilitating preventive care. Virtual reality (VR) in healthcare for patient care is another prominent technological trend. Doctors and residents use VR simulations to hone their skills or to plan complicated surgeries.

Another digital transformation trend in healthcare is companies collecting their own health data from medical devices. Some of the most common devices are:

  • Heart rate sensors
  • Exercise trackers
  • Sweat meters – used for diabetics to monitor blood sugar levels.
  • Oximeters – monitors the amount of oxygen carried in the blood and is often used by patients with respiratory illnesses such as COPD or asthma.

The last and most accelerating trend in healthcare technology is the use of AI, BOT, NLP and RPA.

Could you highlight some immediate use cases of technologies such as AI, IoT, blockchain, cloud and AR/VR in the Indian healthcare sector?

AI is not a single technology but rather a collection of them. Most of these technologies have immediate relevance to the healthcare field, but the specific processes and tasks they support vary widely. AI offers several advantages over traditional analytics and clinical decision-making techniques. Learning algorithms can become more precise and accurate as they interact with training data, allowing humans to gain unprecedented insights into diagnostics, care processes, treatment variability and patient outcomes. The immediate use cases of AI in the healthcare domain are in radiology, electronic health records and chatbots.

AR/VR in healthcare for patient care is another prominent technological trend. Doctors and residents are using VR simulations to hone their skills or to plan complicated surgeries. It enables “virtual biopsies” and advances the innovative field of radiomics, which focuses on harnessing image-based algorithms to characterise phenotypes and genetic properties of tumours.

Cloud is a platform to execute all new technology/applications in any domain and particularly healthcare. The initial acceptance of cloud in this domain was conservative, but now it is the best, most cost-effective and efficient platform to deploy.

How has Covid-19 impacted your business and operations? How did ICT help you sail through the certain times?

Initially, there was a negative effect, but with a quick understanding of the technological deficiency in the system and introducing connecting technology between the consultant and the patient, it changed dramatically. We could plan for surgeries in a planned manner during the Covid era. Hence, ICT and other technologies played a significant role in sustaining business.

How are remote monitoring and virtual consultations expected to shape up in a post-Covid era? What are some of the other tech trends that are likely to emerge?

Remote monitoring and virtual consultations will be a channel of business in the healthcare domain, which itself is a business. Patient psyche towards the way care is given is changing. Other assisted technologies such as remote monitoring will help reach service to the patient’s doorstep. This includes online pharmacies and online ICU monitoring systems. Virtual consultations will be the way forward and probably be the last-mile connect with patients living in remote locations.