India has a miserable ratio of health care staff, with one doctor per 1,404 persons and one nurse per 675 persons. This is dangerously less than the one doctor and three nurses per 1,000 people average prescribed by WHO.The daily admission of thousands of COVID-19 patients is straining the already deteriorating healthcare system of India.On the contrary a vast majority of the healthcare resources of the country are directed towards the care of COVID-19 patients and to control the pandemic, which leaves non-COVID patients vulnerable and helpless. The need of India’s non-COVID patients is a question of importance amid the global crisis.
Non-COVID patients are those people with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, cardiac ailments, cancer etc who require regular medical consultation and caring. And other non-COVID patients who are injured or have infections, burns, eye , skin or ear problems and need urgent care from doctors. But due to most doctors re-assigned to treat COVID patients and instances of entire hospitals turning into dedicated COVID care centres and private practitioners and nursing homes closing down, the needs of India’s non-COVID patients are neglected. If cancellation and delays in medical care of such patients continues, it could further deteriorate their health and give rise to increase in deaths.
During such times when healthcare delivery is exhausted, there is an urgent need to push digital tools and devices backed by smartphones and AI to provide care not only to COVID patients but also tend to the needs of India’s non-COVID patients.Technology can help the healthcare sector to provide medical services to all the people at once without straining the system and healthcare workers:
Remote monitoring via AI
Remote monitoring of patients via devices where data is monitored by sensors such as blood glucose monitors, ECGs, heart rate monitors, pulse oximeter, etc. in conjunction with telemedicine may be a lifesaver for patients with comorbidity. Many groundbreaking AI-enhanced products on the Indian market today allow remote patient monitoring at home. Bangalore-based ‘ten3T’ has created a wearable patch for remote patient monitoring that collects vital signs such as ECG, pulse, oxygen saturation, respiration, and blood pressure. Its AI-based algorithms analyse data for signs of early deterioration and send caregivers warnings.By taking on some of the diagnostic duties, AI-enhanced technology will help eliminate manual tasks for an excessively stressed workforce. For example, AI imaging software based on apps can help patients with suspected pneumonia , tuberculosis, etc., diagnose the disease by screening x-rays in the chest. Hospitals in India have begun using the algorithms and machine learning technology used by Google and Microsoft to detect diabetic retinopathy.
Help from Smartphones
Photos taken from smartphones may be an important addition to photography of clinical quality. Over the past few years the number of smartphone users in the country has risen significantly. With the quality of mobile cameras increasingly increasing, smartphones are able to generate images that are viable to AI algorithms for analysis. For example, the Cureskin app analyses skin pictures to diagnose skin problems, and suggests treatment through a mobile application.
At a period when many hospitals have closed non-emergency services, telemedicine practise would provide all sides with access to medications without the needless risk of infection. Telemedicine allows medical professionals to visit remotely, may be used by patients to diagnose and manage their illnesses, or follow-up updates on ongoing therapies. In the telemedicine market, mobile apps such as Practo, mfine and DocsApp have also made significant progress. Telemedicine is one of the best ways to relieve the workload of frontline care workers during this crisis, while meeting the needs of patients at the same time. It is also helpful for populations that do not have physical access to qualified practitioners, especially the rural areas.
The need for investment in such technologies
The costs to the non-COVID patients just weren’t limited to their wellbeing alone. Owing to the increased costs of logistics and other sanitation initiatives, healthcare costs have shot through the roof in these days. Costs in private hospitals across procedures have risen by 10-25%, with non-COVID patients being paid for personal protective equipment ( PPE) and other basic operating measures. In the current circumstances, telehealth and telemedicine could prove to be the cheapest and fastest way not only to reduce the divide between rural and urban health, but also to solve the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID has created a number of opportunities to promote Indian healthcare startups. In our pandemic-hit world , technology can address the immediate demands of health care. The leveraging of technology-based healthcare technologies and converting them from transitional arrangements to mainstream approaches is critical. During the current crisis , the government needs to completely leverage the power of technology to make the AI-enhanced goods available for mass use. Hospital and human resources expenditure will still be the best way to achieve ‘Healthcare for All’ efficiency.