Your evaluation of current trends in tech driven initiatives in healthcare and life sciences sectors
Covid-19 has become an unprecedented disruption to all facets of the healthcare industry in a very short amount of time. Although the healthcare technology industry has been growing in the past, but innovation is needed to deal with the pandemic.
The two main themes that has been shaped by technology in the healthcare and life sciences sectors during Covid are:
- Remote Care: As Telehealth solutions are seen mainstream for healthcare due to Covid, remote care looks to be a change that is going to stay. Considering increasing cost of healthcare, supply and demand mismatch especially outside cities, technology has become the pathway to bridge the gaps and ensure affordable and quality care to the masses. In India especially, where the larger population live in rural areas and specialist doctors are mostly located in the cities, Telehealth can play a major role in healthcare in a wide range of cases such as primary diagnosis, managing Covid like infectious diseases, even helping to monitor patients with chronic conditions and post-surgical rehabilitation.
- Digital and AI applications in Life Sciences: For a sector that was mostly research oriented and timelines were counted in years, 2020 marked a very different picture for Life Sciences. With the use of AI especially machine learning and advanced analytics that help in breakthrough innovation, companies have been successful in accelerating development, validation and launch of products all in matter of weeks and months as the recent vaccines present. Without IoT and Connectivity, Cloud, the world may have been far from this.
The other key role of AI will be in aiding clinicians and doctors with some preliminary steps in diagnosis. Two areas where we are working on are making image recognition in X-rays, ultrasounds, CT Scans more robust for AI and AI based on other forms of data that will help towards diagnosis on triaging cases. Eventually we see AI playing a major role in precision medicine for targeted disease management. What is the impact of digitalisation including moving to cloud and adoption of emerging technologies on overall Indian healthcare ecosystem?
Covid-19 impact has accelerated the digitalization in the healthcare industry. Cloud has become an integral part of business. More so with Covid-19 considerations, where virtual environments and agility are a norm, development to hosting are designed on- and for- cloud. We are also seeing newer use cases for emerging technologies such as AR/VR/MR in healthcare.
In India we can already see e-commerce platforms for online sale of medicines, medical supplies, renting of expensive lifesaving equipment, and now even video-based consultations with doctors. While these have seen good response in primary cities, with our internet penetration these services are set to expand. However, transformation through digital needs to be very carefully managed. As digital health solutions often involve personal information, privacy and data security is paramount to the stakeholders. For instance, storing patients’ data on an unsecured cloud server is a big cybersecurity risk that has been many times been missed from priorities in real world implementation in healthcare systems.
Will Telemedicine solutions, connected home care/remote clinic solutions, mobile emergency services, Chatbots/Cobots/ Robots for basic clinical support find acceptance in overall Indian healthcare ecosystem?
Tele medicine solutions and other home care services have started to gain widespread acceptance in the healthcare ecosystem, not just India but across the world. What is unique in India is the versatility of services that we now utilize. We have adopted new ways to manage – from monitoring vitals through wearables every day and increased use of personal medical devices, online consultation in real time with doctors through telehealth apps, to even robotic surgeries that are on the rise. India offers a lot of scope for thriving startups too and a lot of companies today provide personalized healthcare services enabled through mobile apps, home based diagnostics and therapy, even on-demand ambulances. We have seen increasing use of Cobots and Robots in hospitals especially deployed for COVID wards. Chatbots can help to triage patients seeking treatment for symptoms. Automation and technology are playing a big part in identifying potential COVID cases thereby leading to effective treatment and reducing the burden on a weak healthcare infrastructure.
We will soon see solutions like Soft Robots/ Software-as-a-Medical Device to help with lifestyle management to compliment drug therapy for chronic and lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions. Reduction in routine follow up visits to hospitals and doctors and to also enable a sense of wellbeing will drive the acceptance of such solutions.
On the flip side, India lacks a clear medico-legal framework that takes into consideration both patient and clinical ecosystem aspects. As India is a very value-based market, a critical consideration required is to have zero compromise on safety while we adopt cost effective solutions leveraging digital technologies.
Opportunities and challenges in realising the potential of digitalisation in healthcare including use of advanced analytics
- Lowering the high cost barriers of quality care to serve a large segment of new consumers who require affordable medical care
- Enabling healthcare solutions through SaaS platform-based solutions
- A lot of companies take the wrong approach to digitalization and are struggling to scale beyond Proof of Concept projects
- Regulatory processes are complex and time consuming in the healthcare space and is not conducive to harnessing the power of Digital.
- The rigorous regulations must be contextual to India with ability to oversee the development and approval of products faster
- Challenges brought on by Covid-19 that accelerated digitalisation across healthcare sector and how did Capgemini support its clients through this challenging time?
At Capgemini we are working on bringing two evolving technologies together – Augmented and Virtual Reality, and 5G. AR/ VR with the power of 5G will revolutionize access of quality healthcare in rural areas. The primary care giver and remote health centers will have real-time access to specialist doctors and even support on emergency procedures. This will save lives in the near future. On an ongoing basis, these technologies will facilitate training clinicians and care givers in rural and semi urban areas. Such a tech medium for training will be invaluable in outbreaks like what we saw with COVID.
Couple of challenges became key to acceleration of Digital. We were forced in the new normal to interact virtually most of the time. This led to use of digital applications from online shopping of medicines to virtual clinical diagnostics and treatment. The disruption also created critical shortage of medical equipment including personal protection equipment.
Capgemini has been at the centre stage of supporting our clients and the community through this difficult time. Our team developed an AI based solution to analyze chest X-rays to help detect Covid symptoms such as pneumonia. We work with a lot of government clients and healthcare customers where our applications helped them for effective decision making with use of data and analytics. Our teams built an app that mobilizes former health professionals to register to help, and another app that helps remote monitoring of COVID-19 cases and suspected cases. Apart from organizing the donation and delivery of hundreds of thousands of pieces of personal protection and medical equipment, our teams utilized 3D printing to create parts for masks that proved helpful for use during a critical time of its unavailability.