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GenAI opens up new avenues for healthcare in India, despite cyber risks

BY Rachel V Thomas

New Delhi, Dec 22 : From patient care to diagnostics, to aiding medical professionals in interpreting data, documentation and enhancing patient engagement — generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to reshape the healthcare industry, more than the traditional AI systems.

The technology has been making waves from crunching massive data sets for R&D breakthroughs to mimicking human speech for improved patient care.

A recent report by GlobalData, a data and analytics company showed that generative AI is being implemented across the medical value chain for applications ranging from R&D, imaging and diagnostics to patient care and support, leading to better patient outcomes.

“Generative AI with its advanced algorithms and forecasting behaviour has reshaped the healthcare delivery system. It has elevated patient care through diagnostic imaging (X-ray, CT & MRI scans), predictability of life-threatening scenarios, patient monitoring with advanced counselling, etc.,” Pavan Choudary, Chairman, MTaI, told IANS.

“The one area where Gen AI has contributed the most is in the field of Robotic Assisted Surgery (RAS) where it lessens the chance of human error,” he added.

According to a 2023 Gartner report, generative AI’s journey began in 2010. But the arrival of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in 2022, took the industry by storm.

The AI chatbot, which can write original prose and chat with human fluency, has also cleared several exams, including the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). It scored nearly 50 per cent on Canada’s board certification practice test for ophthalmology.

The best example of its potential in healthcare was seen, when the tech diagnosed the chronic pain condition of a 4-year-old boy in the US. ChatGPT could diagnose the boy’s condition as tethered cord syndrome, after 17 doctors could not in a span of three years.

GenAI tech has also shown potential in reviewing a patient’s symptoms and then recommending diagnostic advice and different options like virtual check-ins or face-to-face visits with a healthcare professional. This can reduce the workload for hospital staff, increase the efficiency of patient flow, and save healthcare costs.

A study published in JAMA showed that Chat-GPT 4 provided the correct diagnosis in its list of potential diagnoses in two-thirds of challenging cases. More recently, the tech also demonstrated the ability to generate doctors’ notes so well that two physicians couldn’t tell the difference.

“GenAI has demonstrated vital potential in preventing and treating chronic diseases by tailoring treatments through personalised medicine and accelerating diagnostics and innovation,” Nikhil Mathur, Managing Director – India, of the German market research company GfK, part of global consumer intelligence company NielsenIQ, told IANS.

“This illustrates that GenAI has the potential to reshape the healthcare and wellness industry,” Mathur said.

Dr. Rajendra Pratap Gupta, a public health expert and former advisor to the health minister of India said the technology is “truly exciting, transformative and the future of healthcare is bright for patients and providers”.

He noted that by 2024 and or latest by 2025 generative AI will be integrated in healthcare delivery in India. It can have a major role to play in the primary care sector in India, which is currently helmed by ASHA workers, and family physicians in terms of the basic information for common acute ailments.

“I think generative AI is more conversational, so AI can take care of that. And I believe that this will start happening in the end of 2024, early 2025,” he told IANS.

While the widespread implementation of the technology will bring down the cost of care, increase transparency and accountability, he called on healthcare workers to upgrade themselves about the technology for day to day use.

“Those who have not learned technology and still believe that it is far away, are doing a disservice to themselves, their profession and to the patients. Those organisations who deliver health care to those doctors who are still interfacing with patients need to leverage technology and deploy it in their medical practice and routine as they have a serious threat of being out of the profession by 2025,” Dr. Gupta said.

Even as AI tech is seeing rapid adoption by the healthcare systems all over the globe including in India, the risks associated with it are increasing, as seen in the most recent case of the theft of data at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the UK largest National Health Service (NHS) trust to name a few. This emphasises the urgent need for robust mechanisms to cyberthreats.

“As new technology emerges, we must be mindful of threats such as patient data safety, algorithm biases, ethical and legal concerns around AI’s human-centricity,” Choudary said.

“What happened recently with ICMR also is a flag that we need to be careful about. We need to invest at least one per cent for health budgets on security and privacy,” Dr. Gupta said.

In May, the World Health Organisation (WHO), while recognising the potential of AI in healthcare, emphasised the need for carefully examining the risks involved while using AI tools such as ChatGPT, Bard, Bert in healthcare.

WHO’s concerns against the AI tools include that data used to train the AI models may be biased, thus generating misleading or inaccurate information which could pose risks to health, equity and inclusiveness.

Mathur emphasised the need to strike a crucial balance between healthcare innovation and ensuring robust security measures.

“This is important to ensure that the positive impact GenAI brings to healthcare is not compromised by cyber threats. We need to protect patient information and privacy as we work towards a healthier future,” he said.


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