Digital Technology and AI to Revolutionize Primary Healthcare in India | Health News

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Digital innovation is not only transforming clinical applications, but also streamlining administrative processes and making the entire healthcare experience more patient-centric.

Ayushman Bharat
The journey from Digitally Enabled Health and Wellness Centres (DHWCs) to Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) illustrates India’s efforts towards transforming primary care.

Dr. Rakesh Kumar

Dr. Rakesh Kumar

The integration of digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing public health in India, especially primary healthcare. A key driver of this transformation lies in seamlessly integrating cutting-edge digital technologies and AI into public health. From advanced image recognition to robust predictive analytics, AI empowers healthcare providers to take informed decisions, resulting in earlier detection of diseases, more precise treatment, and improved patient outcomes. Recognizing that digital innovation is essential to foster a healthier India, we remain unwavering in our commitment to providing innovative and comprehensive primary healthcare solutions.

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The power of AI and digital solutions

Digital innovations are not only transforming clinical applications but are also streamlining administrative processes, making the entire healthcare experience more patient-centric. Mobile health apps and the government's eSanjeevani (National Telemedicine Service) have revolutionized access to healthcare, especially in remote areas. Patients can now get appointments and diagnoses without having to travel long distances, significantly reducing barriers to treatment. Additionally, wearable devices and mobile health apps enable patients to proactively manage their health. They can monitor vital signs, track treatment adherence, and focus on overall wellness. These tools promote preventive care, foster closer patient-provider relationships, and encourage individuals to take control of their own health.

The journey from Digitalized Health and Wellness Centres (DHWCs) to Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) is emblematic of India's efforts to transform primary care. Launched by WISH in 2017, DHWCs implemented the “three-tab model” (nurse, doctor and pharmacist) across 1,000 centres across five states and two cities. Though initially successful, the model faced challenges arising from the lack of National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) standards, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) components and difficulty in adapting to rapid technological changes that became especially evident during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

To address these issues, a smart DHWC was developed that integrates NDHB standards, ABDM building blocks, AI capabilities, and a robust clinical knowledge base. This enhanced model prioritized preventative health measures, streamlined data management, and improved patient experience through technologically advanced medical centers.

Currently, in line with the government's priority i.e. comprehensive primary healthcare through health and wellness centres (Ayushman Arogya Mandirs), we have developed an Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) compliant “CPHC Platform” to enable DHWC. The CPHC platform is open source and declared as a Digital Public Good (DPG). The platform has two digital components – a patient application and a clinic's Electronic Health Record (EHR) application for registration, entry of health vitals, doctor consultations, lab tests, pharmacy and referrals. The CPHC platform has the capability to tag/track patients using RFID tags and monitor vitals using IoT wearables. Advanced healthcare plug-ins (Point of Care Devices) have been integrated into the EHR application for auto-population of health vitals.

A pilot of the CPHC platform – eSwasthya Dham is being undertaken for the Government of Uttarakhand. The platform will enable monitoring of pilgrims undertaking the Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand. This will be rolled out in three major phases starting with registration and health assessment at home, proceeding to base preparations and continuous monitoring at checkpoints throughout the journey. Seamlessly integrated with the Char Dham registration portal, the eSwasthya Dham platform will enable pilgrims to conveniently access their medical records using their ABHA ID, retrieving vital health information with ease.

Additionally, an AI chatbot has also been developed as a plug-in to eSwasthya Dham to assist paramedics in dealing with various medical conditions of pilgrims. The chatbot has a non-cloud branch that was successfully deployed during the CharDham Yatra and a cloud branch designed for state-wide implementation and adaptable to any state. Other use cases include NCD management, immunization, and high-risk pregnancy care, highlighting the versatility and impact of the CPHC initiative.

Embracing digital and AI solutions offers an opportunity to redefine what is possible in the primary healthcare sector. As we continue on this transformational journey, we are committed to leveraging technology to strengthen an innovation-driven healthcare ecosystem and ensure quality healthcare services are accessible and affordable to all.

Dr. Rakesh Kumar (ret. IAS), CEO, WISH;
Disclaimer: These are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of or the Business Standard newspaper.

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