GenAI’s transformative promise for India’s public health and GDP

Rahul Garg, Founder and CEO, DigioMed HealthTech highlights that for the Indian public health system, GenAI can bridge gaps in accessibility to quality healthcare in its remote and underserved rural and semi-urban areas

From the moment Open AI launched its ChatGPT 3 language model in 2020, Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) has become the essential must-have that none of us knew we needed. The GenAI tool now receives over 1.5 billion visits per month, according to a BCG Report, and is being used to write emails, social media posts, cover letters, and resumes, among a variety of other content.

GenAI tools create authentic and new text, images, code, and other varieties of content by analysing large amounts of human communication data and mimicking their patterns. This ability makes it especially useful in sectors that rely on swift and precise decision-making, use large amounts of data, and have immense administrative requirements. Public Healthcare is one such sector that GenAI has the potential to completely revolutionise, solving challenges of healthcare accessibility, disease prediction, and prevention, among others. 

For the Indian public health system, GenAI can bridge gaps in accessibility to quality healthcare in its remote and underserved rural and semi-urban areas. It also can potentially improve diagnostics and treatment and drive administrative efficiency. Moreover, it aligns with government measures toward healthcare digitization and enhanced public health services. This article discusses the many use cases for GenAI’s implementation in India’s public healthcare system and the outcomes that one can anticipate. 

Alleviate issues surrounding the shortage of healthcare professionals 

India faces a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals and non-uniform accessibility to healthcare. As per available statistics, India faces a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals especially trained nurses and non-uniform accessibility to healthcare workers. While India’s doctor patient ratio at an overall level may be marginally better than the WHO recommended norms, the distribution of doctors is heavily skewed in favor of urban areas. Moreover, due to her large and dense population, India faces a unique challenge with infectious diseases like tuberculosis, dengue, and chikungunya which spread more swiftly here. This intensifies the urgent need to improve diagnosis and treatment and streamline administrative tasks for more efficient healthcare delivery. 

GenAI is hence especially advantageous in the Indian healthcare context for its ability to assist medical professionals with clinical decision-making. GenAI can analyse large amounts of patient data in real-time helping doctors make accurate and timely diagnosis based on deeper patient insights and AI recommendations. It can  complement human medical expertise, to improve efficiency and ensures that even in resource-constrained environments, patients receive the best possible care. 

Access and affordability 

Private healthcare is fragmented and largely out of pocket. Many times it is unaffordable to most of the population. The lack of uniformity in healthcare access in tier 2, 3 and rural areas of the country, presents further hurdles in the Indian government’s efforts towards creating robust healthcare infrastructure.

India is largely rural, hence most areas remain remote with access to only public healthcare infrastructure, which is already overburdened and resource constrained. In such a scenario, the role of GenAI in private healthcare expansion is transformative. GenAI can significantly enhance existing technologies like telemedicine and remote diagnostics, to help private hospitals extend quality medical services beyond urban centers. For example, remote consultations with GenAI-powered virtual healthcare systems and AI-driven interpretation of medical imaging can potentially alleviate the burden on public facilities and democratise healthcare, ensuring quality private and public healthcare access in the farthest corners of India. 

Precision medicine and access to updated medical research

India ranks 10th on the global Medical Tourism Index (MTI) according to Press Information Bureau (PIB) data. In order to maintain and strengthen our global recognition as a destination for quality and cost-effective treatments and pharmaceuticals, India must become an early adopter of GenAI. GenAI will be instrumental in the continuous education of medical professionals in the latest medical research, and in the advancement of groundbreaking medical technologies such as Precision Medicine.

Precision medicine, rooted in molecular biology, uses insights from human genome sequencing. When incorporated into the healthcare system, it can deliver exceptionally accurate diagnoses and anticipate disease susceptibility prior to the manifestation of symptoms. When combined with GenAI systems we can analyze even more vast genomic datasets, receive deeper insights into individual health profiles and enhance personalized treatment plans. This synergy also opens medical research and innovation avenues, leading to more patient-centered healthcare solutions.

Digitisation of health records

The Indian government has long been taking strides towards solving the challenges in its public healthcare system through the development of a national digital health infrastructure. This digital infrastructure covers the electronic storage of health data at a single source, a coverage and claims platform that would support large health protection schemes, a national health analytics platform and a unique digital health ID for each citizen. 

Encouraging the adoption of GenAI in India’s private and public healthcare systems will aid the government’s ongoing efforts towards digitisation and systematically break down the barriers that have traditionally fragmented healthcare data and processes. The healthcare sector has long grappled with fragmented, unstructured data scattered across various facilities and institutions. 

GenAI can consolidate and help make sense of this information, unlocking insights that experts can leverage for precision diagnosis and patient care.

An EY report projects GenAI’s potential to contribute an impressive $1.2-1.5 trillion to India’s GDP over the next seven years. Notably, the healthcare sector is a high-potential beneficiary of this transformative technology. To harness GenAI’s immense potential, the Indian government should take proactive steps by initiating pilot projects to implement Healthcare GenAI models within government hospitals. These pilot initiatives should prioritise the development of systems aimed at reducing misdiagnosis rates and significantly enhancing diagnostic accuracy, thereby bolstering the quality of healthcare services. Given India’s diversity, GenAI models also offer a unique opportunity to surmount language and geographical barriers, ensuring that specialised medical expertise becomes readily accessible, even in the country’s remotest corners.

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