Author- Prayank Khandelwal
Someone on TV has to only say, ‘Alexa,’ and she lights up. She is always ready for action, the perfect woman, never says, ‘Not tonight, dear.’ marked Sybil Sage, in his New York Times article. Unlike technologies that only complement human skills, artificial intelligence can prominently expand the scope of the human activity and achieve desirable outcomes. Artificial intelligence (AI) is truly one of the finest examples of human intelligence which in turn is transforming the industrial scope and the healthcare sector is not out of its bounds. AI has made telemedicine and tele surgeries a reality and steadily the dynamics in the healthcare sector are evolving. There is a significant increase in the number of patents filed in the healthcare sector over the last 8 years(Refer figure 1).
Figure 1 : Worldwide Published Patents on AI and healthcare (2011-19)
The adoption of AI in India is increasing with the new startups and large ICT companies offering AI solutions for healthcare challenges in the country. According to a report by CIS (Centre of Internet and Security) published in 2018, AI could help add USD 957 billion to the Indian economy by 2035. After the IT revolution in India, now is the time for the AI revolution. With the government’s growing interest around AI applications in India, Deepak Garg the Director at ‘NVIDIA-Bennett Center of Research in Artificial Intelligence’ (and Director leadingindia.ai) believes that there has been significant growth in interest levels across all the industry sectors in India. Among several companies that are exploring various applications of AI in the healthcare segment, Microsoft is taking a major initiative along with Apollo hospitals to expand its usage in cardiology, eye-care, and diseases like tuberculosis, and HIV.
Government of India along with many state governments is taking efforts to facilitate start-ups in the healthcare industry. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (GoI) has launched a task force since 2017. The state government of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and many other states have set similar efforts in motion to attract talent. They have set up venture capital funds to support AI startups. Some of the promising startups are mentioned here, as follows:
- ‘Niramai’ – NIRAMAI Health Analytix is a Bangalore-based deep-tech start-up addressing the problem of breast cancer which is prevalent amongst many women globally. The core offering of this company is an Artificial Intelligence led diagnostic platform that uses patented thermal image processing and machine learning algorithms for early-stage, reliable, and accurate breast cancer screening. This is much faster than the conventional way of screening or self-examination.
- ‘Artelus’ – a start-up founded in 2017 which is focused on detecting diabetic retinopathy (DR) uses deep learning algorithms. With their patented computer-aided screening tools, they have saved over 5000 lives in less than a year.
- ‘ChironX’- ChironX is an AI-enabled platform that works for the detection of retinal abnormality and acute respiratory infections. The software detects if the fundus image steers away from the normal, indicating whether one has any cardiovascular conditions, hypertension or diabetes.
- ‘Advancells’ – is a start-up that uses AI for wider research on subjects and analyses the data recorded in the tests. Advancells specializes in regenerative medicine.
Patient data storage and analysis is a key component in the healthcare technology segment. This requires innovation management, to ensure the data is smartly built, stored, and consumed without affecting the subject’s privacy. ‘LiveHealth’ is a Pune based startup that provides diagnostics to customers through automation. It works as an MIS for healthcare providers. Using AI-based visualization tools, this startup is able to equip doctors, hospitals, and researchers with deeper insights into each patient’s health.
Figure 2 : Distribution of Patents under AI and Healthcare
A deep dive into the healthcare tech segment has led to innovations in the personalized healthcare segment with many products and services getting developed. These innovations use the internet, machine learning, natural language processing, artificial intelligence to process health signals and track vitals of an individual in a non-intrusive manner. Several patents have been filed in this segment, which use chatbots, virtual robots, smartwatches, telehealth, electronic records to deliver the expected health measurement outcome to the user. Businesses see a lot of scope for innovation and are into a patent frenzy to capture the market.
Companies like Google, Nike, Jawbone, Fitbit, Amazon are all filing patents under fitness mechanisms as a category. Since fitness monitoring technology is incorporated into health care, these companies are gearing up to transform the conventional established medical device market.
Figure 2 is a clear indication of how general electronics have shaped the health management facilities through various sensors and different health tracking mechanisms.
Artificial intelligence has propelled the industry towards evolving preventive healthcare products and services. These range from predicting suicidal tendencies to cancer spread. Machines can process multiple and diverse datasets at a time and generate patterns which help the medical practitioners with great accuracy and details. Technology companies like Apple, Xiaomi, Nokia have launched products which once worn by the consumer can continuously study the vitals and raise an alert if there is a sudden spike in the readings. These devices track vitals like heart rate, blood pressure, calories with complete standard measurement.
AI has also solved the problem of medical access and last-mile connectivity by being an integral part of the entire medical distribution value chain in the country. AI also helps detect fake medicines and does a great duty to society by helping avoid mass fatalities. With the wider application, AI has also led to sustained jobs and employment in the segment for the working population.
Figure 3 : Top 10 Inventor countries in Medical Ventilator
Today the whole world is in the grasp of the pandemic of COVID – 19. India seems to be slightly better off than most of the peers because of many pro-active manual and technology interventions taken by the citizens, hospitals, and the government. As it is popularly said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, Indian businesses have responded very innovatively by re-purposing the products and services they offer. For example, Mahindra and Maruti who are conventionally known for quality automobiles have developed low-cost ventilators which is an essential medical commodity in the fight against COVID-19. Many organizations, medical labs, and research centers are scaling researching 10X to find the vaccine and some institutions have already progressed to the human trial stage.
According to the statistical information (referring figure 3), currently, the US leads with 390 patents filed under Medial Ventilators. According to Acharya, conventionally, the ventilators manufactured in India costs Rs 5-7 lakh, while a foreign machine with the same features will cost between Rs 11 lakh and Rs 18 lakh. The ventilators developed by the DRDO, Mahindra, Maruti, etc will be costing less than Rs. 10000 per ventilator and can be mass-produced as well. This is a significant power if innovation which much is protected with intellectual property laws. With the increasing victim numbers, the experts predict that the number of ventilators required in India might switch from thousands to several lakhs soon. This calls for accelerated patent filing and granting so that such innovations which have a positive effect on humanity as a whole, can be quickly taken to production and the ideators get due credit in terms of recognition and revenue.
During pandemics at scale, misinformation is a greater threat to life. Haptik has developed the “MyGov Corona Helpdesk” which is a chatbot deployed on WhatsApp to answer queries and provide authentic information. AI helps to pass on this information in a conversational manner.
As the number of infected persons rose drastically in India, it is clear that only social distancing and self-isolation are not helping. Another important task is contact tracing to find out the perimeter of the spread of the virus, unknowingly caused by the infected persons.
The Indian government, with the guidance from National Informatics Centre (NIC), has launched the ‘Arogya Setu’ app on 2nd April to trace the potential victims and alert individuals and the government regarding the potential number of patients and their locations. The app uses Bluetooth, location tracking and artificial intelligence to predict the possible COVID-19 cases. In case the person is positive for coronavirus, the app calculates the risk of user’s infection based on recency and proximity of their interactions and recommends suitable action. While all this information is handled, the government has ensured the complete privacy of the individual’s data. Using AI, the application has a self-assessment test which captures the user’s vulnerability and recommends contextually.
As the new normal sets in our professional working style would need a 180-degree shift. It is time for innovators to revolutionize how human interactions can be strengthened and business can be sustained. Don’t let this lockdown, lock your innovation, make the lockdown work for your business!
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Data and Graph Source- PatSeer Platform