Mr. Nitin Gupta, India Head, Sukirecently talked to CXOT today on the challenges we face in integrating AI/ML in Health and how data privacy plays an important role in healthcare data management to create a national digital health infrastructure and an open data exchange network between different providers and users. It also discusses in detail Suki’s support in bridging the technology gap in healthcare using AI/ML.
- An overview of the Indian healthcare ecosystem and its technology infrastructure?
“According to Nasscom, the Indian healthcare sector is expected to reach $372 billion by 2022 (a CAGR of over 16%).” Although the sector has been growing significantly in recent years, there are still significant challenges in increasing coverage and quality of care.
These challenges include:
- In a diverse and vast country like India, access to remote areas is very difficult
- There is a poor doctor to patient ratio of 1:1500
- No standardization in operating procedures, skill requirements and regulations results in variability in care and increases the risk of diagnostic errors
- Low insurance penetration of only about 20% in our entire population
While trying to solve these challenges, healthcare organizations in India today are struggling to maintain a balance between 3 interrelated factors namely cost, accessibility and quality that are in conflict with each other. For example, initiatives focused on improving the quality of care are often expensive and accessible to few.
However, AI-driven healthcare technology solutions have the potential to deliver high-quality care at a low cost and in an accessible manner. For example, remote monitoring can help more patients receive high-quality care and ultimately help reduce costs by reducing complications.
Also, while there is active innovation in the field today (NASSCOM recently reported that about 18% of all AI patents filed in India are from the healthcare sector). One of the biggest challenges facing the ecosystem is the absence of an AI community that specializes in healthcare. Consequently, there is no coherent learning, case studies or best practices that can be adopted and taught. There is a shortage of skilled mentors who understand both the healthcare field and the technological possibilities. Furthermore, AI research specifically focused on healthcare at academic institutions that can help the larger ecosystem is very minimal. Entrepreneurs have to repeat trial and error when working in the industry, which is not optimal given the importance of healthcare to every individual. In fact, we at Suki are evaluating how we can partner with some of the leading academic institutions in India to drive more AI-driven research in healthcare.
- How is healthcare data created and used? How does data privacy play an important role in healthcare data management?
Data across healthcare systems still exists in silos and adds friction as well as duplication of work for clinicians. For example, nurses spend a significant amount of time entering data from devices into the EHR. Allowing this data to flow automatically into the relevant systems would be a huge benefit that technological intervention can bring.
The healthcare industry is very complex as it brings together many different actors such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, retail, medical devices, diagnostic centers, aftercare centers, insurance companies, etc. each other to achieve the best results, there is very little focus on the same as they see no immediate value.
Another challenge is that AI-generated solutions and models are often difficult to explain, and there is a lack of understanding about what is possible with AI. Therefore, it is difficult for stakeholders to see value in sharing data that can lead to more beneficial AI-based solutions, and one of the biggest reasons is data privacy requirements.
Healthcare is a highly regulated field because patient health information data is among the most sensitive types of data. Healthcare organizations face the risk of significant criminal charges, fines and reputational damage in the event of a data breach. Thus, there are high barriers to data sharing. This also applies to developed markets. The US healthcare system has seen massive adoption of EHRs and other technology solutions, yet interoperability remains a challenge.
In order to overcome these challenges, there is a need to build strategic alliances and win-win partnerships between healthcare organizations and technology providers so that they can come together to fully realize the potential of AI-driven healthcare technology solutions. Government initiatives such as the Ayushman Bharat Digital mission should help, where there is an intention to create a national digital health infrastructure and an open network for sharing data between different providers and users.
- How is Suki bridging the technology gap in healthcare using AI/ML?
Suki is trying to solve one of the biggest global problems in the healthcare industry: physician burnout. Doctors and other healthcare professionals today face a huge administrative burden when it comes to tasks such as clinical documentation, entering drug or lab orders, responding to patient messages, and more. where they spend two hours on these tasks for every hour they spend on patient Care.
Suki’s mission is to make healthcare technology assistive and invisible, removing the administrative burden from doctors so they can focus on what they love to do, which is patient care. We believe that voice is a more natural and faster way to interact, and voice-enabled solutions can help clinicians complete their tasks faster and easier. And keeping this at the core of what we do, we’ve developed our flagship AI voice-enabled digital assistant that leverages the latest speech technologies and advanced natural language processing algorithms. With it, doctors speak naturally to complete tedious administrative tasks, such as clinical documentation or extracting information from the EHR.
We also offer our proprietary voice platform, Suki Speech Platform, to healthcare partners looking to build a best-in-class voice experience for their own solutions. In doing so, we stay true to our mission of making healthcare technology assistive and invisible through our partner solutions as well.
- Challenges faced by Suki and steps taken to overcome them
There have been many significant challenges throughout the journey and development. The first challenge was to really understand the problems and pain points our users face. The culture of health clinicians is very different from that of technologists, so customer empathy is very important. One way we’ve dealt with this is to have trainee doctors as a key part of our team. The other way to instill customer focus is to make customer visits and interactions a top priority for every person in the company so they can directly understand the issues and concerns that clinicians have.
The second challenge is that healthcare is a conservative, slow-moving industry that is somewhat at odds with startup culture, which moves quickly and typically operates on shorter time horizons. Building a healthcare startup requires a team that understands our vision, the longer-term view of what we’re building and what we’re trying to achieve, and has the patience to endure long sales cycles. We reinforce this with our team on an ongoing basis.
Finally, another key challenge is building a culture of high performance and fun through the ups and downs of startup life, where the team is empowered to give their best, move flexibly and be able to grow in their careers. Ultimately it is about people and if they can find a great environment they can thrive and achieve anything. We have a well-defined set of corporate values and ensure that, starting from the recruitment process to regular day-to-day work, employees project these values on an ongoing basis.
- The future of technology integration in healthcare and Suki’s future roadmap to contribute to the technological advancement of the global healthcare ecosystem?
Suki aspires to help every doctor, clinic, practice and health system around the world with their administrative burden. We are rapidly expanding our user base and are focused on growing our footprint. To do this, it is important to increase the capabilities of our solutions.
Suki Assistant will continue to expand its capabilities to include other administrative tasks such as invoicing and ordering. Our goal is to make Suki a true digital assistant that can help with any administrative task a clinician may need to face. With the Suki Speech platform, we have huge opportunities ahead of us in terms of being able to deliver voice experiences through a variety of use cases that our partners offer. We will continue to expand our partner base and strive to build the Suki brand as a voice in healthcare.
While most of our market is currently in the US, India is also proving to be a very exciting market. With further digitization in healthcare through government initiatives like the Ayushman Bharat digital mission, we believe Suki will be able to add immense value to the lives of doctors and healthcare professionals in India. We expect India to be an important market for us in the coming years. Meanwhile, the Suki India team will continue to grow and provide a global platform for India’s tech talent to solve some of the most relevant and complex healthcare problems around the world.