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AI set to revolutionise medical device technology and distribution

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Sanjay Jha, Director, ColMed, gives his opinion on how AI and related technologies have the potential to transform patient acre as well as administrative processes by automating tasks and achieving faster results

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are evolving at a breakneck pace, and have already made remarkable advances in successfully replicating repetitive and complex tasks, offering unique insights making it possible for product developers to focus on the more nuanced aspects. AI-based programmes can acquire information, sort and process the data logically, use known variables to form solutions, recognise the mistakes and correct them, improving the quality of product design.

AI and related technologies have already become a major draw in healthcare industry with the potential to transform patient care as well as administrative processes by automating tasks and achieving faster results. According to a report by Zion Market Research, Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare Market is likely to reach $17.8 billion by 2025.

Algorithms in disease diagnosis, clinical trials and predictive analysis for disease outbreaks have the potential to dramatically change the way healthcare is planned, executed and delivered. The medical device industry is no exception. AI can not only be used to design and test new devices, but also for diagnostics, surgery and as a therapeutic aid.

Diagnosis: AI already has a considerable presence in diagnostic medicine. The technologies reduce the diagnostic workload for physicians, most of whom are overworked to the point of complete exhaustion. It helps bring down the rates of wrong diagnosis. If algorithms can diagnose medical maladies with complete accuracy in just half of the patients, professionals can end up saving a lot of time. Medical device manufacturers should keep up with the integration of AI in diagnostics. Wearable devices powered by AI have a wide variety of applications from medical imaging and gene sequencing to studying drug interaction and pre-surgical planning. The better patients are able to monitor their vitals and have the information delivered to doctors and specialists, the more it eliminates the need to visit a clinic or hospital. This will help bring down overhead healthcare costs and reduce the load on overburdened healthcare facilities.

Invention: Technologies that are built using AI can help refine the development process of medical devices. The software can solve complicated equations, help refine modeling and improve product testing. Algorithms can help generate hundreds of product designs based on parameters such as weight and size, raw materials and the intended functionality. From there, it can provide suitable candidates for the purposes of testing. Add 3-D printing into the mix and the possibilities become more obvious. The entire product pipeline can be AI-driven, beginning with building multiple models, rapid prototyping using a 3-D printer and testing multiple variants at the same time. Device manufacturers can also embed sensors and trackers into the 3-D printed devices, broadening the durability, ergonomics and usefulness of these designs.

Robotics and monitoring: Automated surgery is also fast becoming a ubiquitous reality. It might be a little difficult to convince the public at large to hand over the surgical duties to a robot, but once they are made to understand how much more efficient it is, they will be more than convinced. AI has a big role to play in next-generation robotic surgery. They can help augment the perception capabilities and dexterity of surgeons using machine-learning algorithms. Surgeons will be able to make use of such systems to make more well-informed decisions. AI-based surgical systems will also reduce surgical variations, eliminate inefficiencies and improve the patient outcomes.

Disruption of distribution

Let us also take a broad look at how AI will impact the distribution of medical devices. It allows device manufacturers from becoming order takers to order makers. Demand forecasting will be significantly better due to disease state forecasting. Based on the pattern of disease state and previous purchases, AI software can be used to suggest medical supplies before the end user runs out of stock. Even distributors stand to gain from the use of AI due to availability for consumption forecast. AI will help identify when products need to be sent to distribution centres and when the products with low shelf life need to be promoted to reduce inventory waste. In short, an AI-equipped distribution manager can help optimise the inventory as well as the supply chain management.

The future looks bright

With the government signalling its intention to institute a separate body for the regulation of medical devices, the competition in the industry is only set to go up. The quality of manufacturing is only set to go up and device manufacturers will have to do everything they can to stay ahead of their peers. If they fail to embrace technologies like artificial intelligence that improve the state of healthcare delivery, then they are going to find it difficult to stay relevant in the market.

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