The next big thing in healthcare is Bots

|August 24, 2016 0
Image courtesy of rosezombie at freedigitalphotos
They are as big when it comes to potential hacking and theft of private and confidential patient records, and misuse of this information. But healthcare can take them on in a smart way, feels this player

Pratima H

INDIA: Automated nutrition tracking, Glucose monitoring, Asthma notification through wearables, devices that manage increased control of volume, base, and tone of the voices being heard – these are just glimpses of what’s happening out there where healthcare and technology are inching closer to each other.

Sanjay Govil, Founder and Chairman, Infinite Computer Solutions Ltd. is all upbeat and yet firmly on the ground as he considers the actual implications of exchange networks, virtual doctors, trackers, apps, hardware, wearables, and bots in the big and deep universe of healthcare. Here’s why and why not healthcare is ready for the next big spin?

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What would tech in healthcare look like in the next two to three years?

We believe that the cost of healthcare is going to increase, as the global population in the twenty-first century will be proportionally older than in the previous century. Wearables will be used to drive wellness, along with provisioning acute care, in an effort to manage cost while providing the highest quality of life. According to research firm Gartner,the healthcare IT spend in India alone is expected to rise 3.4 percent to $1.2 billion in 2016. Based on this trend, this might increase by 12-15 per cent in three years.

Would progress in India dovetail that in other parts of the globe?

Through 2020, India and other countries globally will make sure their healthcare industry is digital, focused intensely on implementing Electronic Health Record (EHR), Personal Health Record (PHR), and Mobile Health (mHealth) systems. These will ultimately be integrated via Health Information Exchange (HIE) networks.

mHealth technologies – including health trackers, doctor portals or insurance apps – are even forecasted to reach 1.158 billion users by 2020, and they will prove extremely valuable in preventing and treating a wide range of health conditions. The technology is evolving: new wearable body sensors that capture continuous physiological data streams will become widely available for use by 2020.

The increased use of health information technologies (HIT) and ‘open’ access to healthcare data will also contribute significantly to more affordable and better quality care over the coming decade.

How?

Personal health applications, fixed to the patient, will send back valuable streams of data to medical centers and allow for real-time alerts or diagnoses.

I also am seeing always-on mobile access providing a wide range of health and wellness communities to patients. Smart healthcare devices and home automation solutions will allow elderly people more health options, to stay at home longer.

India will continue to be a resource pool of educated talent that can help feed the need for continuous ‘around-the-clock’ care. Virtual doctors and virtual hospitals will thrive as people’s need for 24-hour availability increases.

Wearables have been facing many struggles around execution, scale, User Interface (UI) etc. despite their immense potential. How has healthcare taken their arrival?

The healthcare market has certainly been paying attention to wearables and the benefits they have. According to Gartner, the market for wearables is expected to go from $30 billion in 2016 to $100 billion in 2023.While there have been some issues with execution including connectivity, WiFi, failures and calculation errors, the industry is addressing the need to balance price, privacy, security, and consistency of ‘actionable’ information from such devices that impact user acceptance.

These UI and execution issues stem from the disconnect between professionals who develop themand consumers/hospitals/doctors who want to use them. Companies are overcoming this disconnect by bringing together healthcare professionals and IT professionals to embrace tech solutions like IoT (M2M) and provide an integrated design approach. This approach ensures a more efficient and accurate monitoring of the patient and brings in a simplified user experience.

What interesting applications or examples of healthcare and tech come to your mind as the best ones so far?

There are several interesting applications that come to mind:

• Automated nutrition tracking, whichautomatically counts calories
• Asthma notification–wearables that detect breathing patterns and can alert the user of an impending attack
• Audiology wearables – these provide increased control of volume, base, and tone of the voices being “heard”
• Glucose monitoring – monitors glucose levels all day instead of in intervals

The commonality in these tools is the ability of the user to take actions, based on feedback. It is the combination of technology and analytics that makes these wearables more useful.

Other interesting technologies are telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and diagnosis. For example, AI could be given data on illnesses, then given information on a patient. It would then be able to come back with treatment possibilities.

Is tech still struggling to align well with concerns like compliance (for instance HIPAA), privacy, security, scalability, homogeneity etc?

Yes and no. No, because technology can be secure and compliant. Yes, because we still have to balance that and scale with changing demands for both healthcare professionals and patients. Although the scalability issues can be managed, the tougher issues at hand are the speed at which technology evolves. Technology innovation is moving at a much faster pace than regulation that struggle to keep up. These can lead to security breaches.The industry as a whole is still figuring out how to achieve the balance between security and rapid innovation.

Reliability is very important, especially when global application of technology is being discussed. It’s vital that mobile healthcare applications are available at the endpoints and on devices that healthcare professionals and patients use regularly. However, this means contending with issues related to WiFi, 3G or 4G connections, including low bandwidth devices, or secure data transfers. Communication services need to be optimized to work reliably across a wide range of network conditions and environments – and I think the industry is prioritizing this currently.

So what top challenges does the industry need to navigate, in your assessment?

In addition to the balance I just mentioned, several other challenges come to mind, such as providing high performing healthcare application solutions with simplerUI and UX (User Experience). Technology companies are meeting that challenge by working directly with those who work in healthcare.

Ensuring healthcare professionals adhere to compliance regulations and data privacy, as well as integration and cost effectiveness, is another area the industry needs to effectively navigate.

We also need to focus on providing affordable wearable systems and applications, and to ensure communications (WiFi, 3G or 4G connections) are available and affordable. Like I said earlier, optimization of the communication service is key.

Lastly, when using advice provided by wearables, we have to understand the impact of someone following directions provided by a machine. What if the data being delivered to the machine is incomplete due to connectivity issues? There will always have to be a balance between what is being recommended by wearables vs. the user making the correct decision for themselves.

Would the future rest on progress of hardware or software or new tech like bots, AI, ML (Machine Learning) or their applications per se?

The healthcare industry’s future depends and rests on a combination of all of these technologies (Bots, AI, ML, Mobile Apps, etc). They have to be developed in tangent to ensure we are providing the very best healthcare facilities to patients and healthcare providers.

Are Bots good enough? What is scary and exciting about bots in healthcare?

Bots are the next big thing in technology, which will impact the healthcare industry like never before. This technology is going to create new milestones in patient-centric care and collaboration projects. With bots, patients will be able to access personalized diagnosis and physician’s advice without going through the hassle of physical travel and waiting for appointments. Prompt and effective healthcare will result in fewer patient complications and faster recovery.

We can see bots at work in our current healthcare system, too –chat bots in Facebook, Messenger, Skype, etc. can now provide physician-provided answers. Patients can ask about weight or age-specific dosing guidelines for over-the-counter drugs, like Paracetamol. There are healthcare bots for administrative duties, such as appointment scheduling, billing and processing payments. There are also ‘health-bots’ that provide early warning signals regarding diseases and epidemics.

On the flip side, the ‘scary’ aspect of bots would be potential hacking and theft of private and confidential patient records, as there are numerous ways this information could be misused. However, the healthcare industry is aware of this threat and is working towards making these interactions safe, secure, and almost impossible to steal. Every new change or revolution carries with it its own risk, but that does not mean we do not accept the change for the fear of this risk. We must learn to adapt to change and find more efficient ways to fight off these risks.

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