IoT and AI to Ameliorate Rural Healthcare

September 18, 2017 12:00 AM
  • IoT and AI to Ameliorate Rural Healthcare logo
Healthcare is one of the most significant systems across the world. Although, in India healthcare is majorly associated with the urban population, leaving the rural or semi-urban communities as a less explored territory in comparison. The reason for this gap can be drawn from the fact that rural areas do not have accessibility to healthcare facilities and technologies that exist in the urban healthcare centers and corporate hospitals. The objective of creating a nation with healthy population has always been pursued, but the lack of reach and technology has been a major setback in achieving better and affordable healthcare for rural India.

The GOI has employed many surveillance methods to collect data via health camps, hospitals, military camps etc. But, the data collected often loses relevance by the time the schemes are implemented.To ensure the existence of a healthy population, surveillance check is a necessity. Healthcare surveillance is not a new term- it is the constant monitoring and collection of data of children, students, elderly people and patients from health camps, hospitals, elderly homes, military camps etc., which is currently being done manually. The data is used for meting out better treatment. Currently, it is a time-consuming process with drawbacks.

As per the details provided by MCI, 9.8 lakh allopathic doctors are currently registered with the state medical council or MCI (as on June 30, 2016) and 80% of these doctors may be actually available for active service. Going by the numbers we can say that, there is only 1 doctor available for 1668 people. According to a KPMG report, 74% of these doctors cater to only a third of the urban residents leaving only about 2.63 lakh doctors catering to the majority of Indians residing in rural areas and others in the marginal parts of urban settlements.

Here comes in the picture the concept of the Internet of things, which primarily deals with connecting any device having an on and off switch, with the Internet and/or to each other and to a private or public cloud, enabling them to automatically sync with each other and trigger certain events. The number of devices connected to the Internet in 2008 was more than the number of people on Earth and according to IoT forecasts the number of connected devices is set to reach 50 billion connected devices by 2020. India has more than 1 billion active mobile phone connections today owing to the ever-expanding reach of broadband, Internet, and smartphones.

IoT technology will enable different devices to gather, analyze and communicate real-time medical information to open, private or hybrid clouds, making it possible to collect, store and analyze big data streams in several new forms, and actuate alarms depending on the context. Healthcare surveillance with IoT would reap many benefits. It will help in early detection of major and minor health problems, swift integration of data gathered from tests, tracking the condition of the patient, and real-time circulation of information to doctors and staff. On a macro level, it will result in a healthier population and better policy formulation with constant surveillance using IoT. Health demographic maps can be created to identify the prevalence of various diseases across the country, detect disease outbreak in the early stages and set up standards based on actual medical records rather than prevailing statistical models.

The healthcare industry is in its growth phase and has long been awaiting an upgrade. The development in this field is being propelled by some factors like lifestyle changes, an aging population, rising income levels, increasing access to insurance and growing health awareness. Though it is understood that technology cannot be a substitute for doctors. However, it can help medical professionals to reach out to patients in less-developed areas, where access to quality healthcare remains a concern. The game-changer will be the inclusion of Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the existing system. Remote clinical monitoring, chronic disease management, and preventive care become feasible when IoT and AI join hands in the healthcare landscape.

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