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Indian healthcare needs to be tech-driven solution-focused

The future of healthcare is one with an increased emphasis on primary and preventive healthcare and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for early diagnosis and treatment, said Dr H Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals, on Saturday.

“We envision that the future of healthcare will be very different from what we know now- brick and mortar hospitals will be replaced by technology. It will be an era of smart hospitals and AI will play a major role in transforming healthcare,” said Dr Ballal in his keynote address at the 3rd edition of the DH Bengaluru 2040 Summit.

He highlighted that the root cause of healthcare issues lay in the inequality in society. The top 20 per cent of the society has about 83 per cent of world income, and the bottom 20 per cent has about 1.4 per cent of the chunk of world income, he said.

Noting that India is fast becoming the “capital of the world for NCDs (non-communicable diseases)”, he noted that healthcare expenditure was out-of-pocket for most of the population, and was thus unsustainable and inaccessible.

Thus, healthcare in the country needs to be solution-focused, with a focus on primary and preventive care, universal healthcare coverage, and increased use of technology. Referring to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s recent budget announcement, he acknowledged the emphasis on tech adoption and infrastructure in the healthcare sector. “We need to spend more on healthcare.”

Dr Ballal noted that while most of the healthcare innovation is restricted to metropolitan cities, the government and healthcare industry must focus on not just expanding innovation to districts and taluks but also on preventive care and upgrading public health infrastructure to meet the standards set by private players in the industry.

Sharing a very optimistic view of the future of healthcare, he said that the increased emphasis on technological innovation and AI will lead to a transformation in the sector by enabling society to move from illness to wellness care, hospital care to home care, and PHCs to E-clinics where robots will check and provide treatment.

He predicted a shift from conventional medicine to pharmacogenomic therapy based on a person’s genomic characteristics, smart devices implanted or attached to patients’ bodies for real-time health tracking, telomere testing, and stem cell therapies.

There will be an era of Smart and Intelligent Hospitals, he said, which will have application-based appointments and billing, robotic treatment, location tracking devices, tele-consultations, and more patient-centric innovation.

“Whatever technology we use, it needs to be affordable, accessible and provide better clinical outcomes and quality service,” he said. Deccan Herald

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