Technology can transform healthcare system in India by bringing about advances in medicine and improving the quality and affordability of healthcare which will ultimately improve patient outcomes, according to Dr. S. Ramadorai, advisor to the Prime Minister of India and chairman of the National Skill Development Agency. He was delivering the 23rd Convocation of the Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai.
Virtual reality and immersive technologies are now increasingly used to train surgeons and even to help neurological patients. Today several researchers are able to 3D print biological tissue. Soon 3D printing of living organs will be practical. Highprecision robots allow for minimally invasive surgery and drastically reduce chances of error. Genetics and advances in molecular biology have given a new dimension to life science and healthcare with the world famous human GENOME project.
A whole new field of bioinformatics has come into being, intertwining the disciplines of genetics and computing. Genomics is also shifting the pharmaceutical industry from the blockbuster drug model to a personalized medicine model. The rapid progress made by CRISPR techniques (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is heralding profound changes, the way we cure genetic disorders, he said.
With increasing usage of telemedicine ‘specialist doctors’ can now connect to remote places and help save lives like in Sri Ramachandra Hospital. Thanks to high speed broadband and the internet, telemedicine is slowly but surely gaining traction in rural India, especially where accessibility is a problem. With digitization OPD management can be improved like in AIIMS, New Delhi where waiting time of OPD patients has been reduced from 6 to less than 2 hours, benefitting 30 lakh patients who visit AIIMS every year. With the emergence of Big Data and Machine Learning Algorithms predictive healthcare can become a reality. With simple android phones and fitness trackers we may be able to predict diabetes and encourage people to get tested early.
Wearable devices like fitbit or smart watches like the iWatch are capturing basic data related to walking and sleep patterns. There are also devices to monitor clinical data like blood glucose or heart rate and adherence data like taking medications as prescribed. Biosense, an IIM-Ahmadabad incubation company has introduced ToucHb, a hand held non invasive battery operated device that enables screening for anemia and simplifies monitoring of basic parameters on a regular basis. The ‘Swasthya slate’ is another innovation where 33 diagnostic tests are made available on a low cost mobile device. Thus the information generated by the health sensors and technology further transforms medicine from an art to a precision science, Dr.Ramadorai said.
Given India’s infrastructure woes, we are now looking at innovative means to ensure speedy transportation of human organs using aerial drones. A feasibility project is underway in Bengaluru. Quality improvement techniques like ‘ishikawa diagrams’ can be used for root cause analysis in healthcare. Information technology can play a powerful role by creating software records of patients that can be shared across doctors and hospitals to bring increased transparency, efficiency and convenience like in the west. Many of these technologies can be good start-up opportunities. Telemedicine and intelligent diagnostic support systems are two opportunities for ambitious and talented young doctors to collaborate with engineers and entrepreneurs. Many of these innovations and medical equipments can be made in India at a low cost like a bright researcher from IIT Bombay who has made progress in a low cost MRI machine, he added.
Stressing the need for quality and skills in healthcare he said government has formed a healthcare sector skill council with active participation of the industry and leading healthcare providers. It will identify skill gap across the healthcare domain, frame national occupation standards, develop high quality course and training modules, implement quality checks and build accreditation and certification for the training providers and the students and enable employment by organizing employment fairs across the country, he said.
Dr. Ramadorai presented gold medals to meritorious students and for best research papers and patents. Dr.Abilashini Manoharan received five gold medals in MBBS for her various achievements as the best outgoing student.
V.R. Venkataachalam, chancellor conferred the degrees and gave away certificates to 238 students. 23 students received Ph.D. degrees.