Of late there have been innumerable technological advancements which have transformed peoples' lives and led to entirely new products and services. In healthcare, technological innovations such mobile apps, wearables, and chatbots have helped people to be in-charge of their health. Today they have become more health savvy. From microscopes in the past to adoption of electronic medical records, technology has driven the success of healthcare in many ways. Though there are many drivers of technology, the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has led to applications which are now having a profound impact on peoples' lives. With its ability to process data in a speedy fashion, AI is revolutionizing the healthcare sector world over. According to experts, AI will be a key enabler for both the transformation and the disruption of the healthcare ecosystem.
In August, at least 386 children were reported to have died at a public hospital in the north Indian city of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. This sudden rise in fatalities at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Hospital placed India's healthcare system under scrutiny. Authorities attributed the increase to a seasonal encephalitis outbreak, but others have placed the blame on corruption within India's public healthcare system. According to the United Nations, in India, about 48 out of every 1,000 newborns die before reaching the age of five. It is one of the highest under-five child mortality rates in South Asia (behind Afghanistan at 91 and Pakistan at 81).
Digital disruptions have changed the course of the healthcare industry in India and over the years, improved the operational challenges in the system. However, with a large population to address, the healthcare infrastructure is plagued by shortage of healthcare professionals and this is particularly acute in rural India. According to the McKinsey Digital India Report 2019, there are about 2.2 medical professionals (like doctors, nurses, midwives etc.) for every 1000 persons. Out of which 60% of healthcare facilities are centered in the cities. Another report cited that in India, there is 1 government doctor for every 10,189 people.
The public and private sector in the country have become more aware of the potential of AI. And the Government has established several committees to study the implications of AI technologies in the country. India has witnessed a significant increase in the number of job applicants for artificial-intelligence related job in the IT sector. According to a report by a business analyst firm, by 2025, artificial intelligence and cognitive-computing are likely to generate savings of around US $150 billion for the healthcare sector. Firms in India are adopting a technology-forward approach.
After decades of low government expenditure on health, the Covid pandemic created a societal consensus on the need to strengthen our health system. The recommended priorities varied, depending on whether they came from super-specialist doctors arguing for more hospitals and specialists or public health votaries pleading for the expansion and quality enhancement of primary healthcare services and disease surveillance systems. The Fifteenth Finance Commission accepted both viewpoints and recommended greater investment in rural and urban primary care, a nationwide disease surveillance system extending from the block-level to national institutes, a larger health workforce and the augmentation of critical care capacity of hospitals. The Union budget of 2021 reflected these priorities in a proposed Pradhan Mantri Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PMASBY) to be made operational over six years, with a budget of Rs 64,180 crore. The Finance Minister also projected a broader vision of health beyond healthcare by merging allocations to water, sanitation, nutrition and air pollution control with the health budget.