7 October 2021, Hyderabad: The Raj Reddy Center for Technology and Society organised a brainstorming roundtable meeting recently on ‘Technology to address the last mile in Healthcare’ to understand the gaps in the current rural healthcare service and identify prevailing solutions or innovation possibilities that can be deployed in the grassroots to address those gaps.
The Raj Reddy Center for Technology & Society is an initiative of IIIT Hyderabad to enable research and emerging technology-led solutions for grassroot education and public health, with specific emphasis on rural.
Varma Konala, Head of INAI center at IIITH who facilitated the roundtable said, “Grassroot healthcare, especially in rural settings, is a hard problem. Even as governments continue to invest in PHCs and other structures, actual on-ground availability of care is still a challenge.”
INAI is an initiative to apply AI to population scale problems in the Indian context, combining research and translation. This collaborative effort, championed by Intel and catalyzed by the Government of Telangana, is anchored at IIIT Hyderabad and brings multiple relevant institutions together to work on important problems in the society.
Broadly the discussion was on 3 crucial topics: Challenges/healthcare gaps in rural healthcare services; Ideas on how (models) healthcare can be provided cost-effectively at the doorstep (rural); Solution Needs/Technologies (AI, devices, ++) that can help provide quality healthcare at scale.
Panelists shared the problems they face while implementing their models on-ground such as inadequate services provided due to low-skilled personnel; Deficient assistance in last mile delivery because of missing links; No training on critical/emergency care resulting in avoidable disabilities; Insufficiency of specific datasets; Difficulty in tracking due to absence of monitoring systems at scale; and ignorance of mental health conditions.
While access, awareness and affordability remains a huge problem, there were few suggestions which were increasing the impact when scaled. Focus on primary healthcare prevention; Incentivising the workers for sustainability; Well-integrated solutions models; and low cost local solutions are some of them.
The panelists proposed solutions that leverage emerging technologies like AI, to empower and enable the healthcare system at different levels. Few solutions: non-invasive diagnostic devices could equip the frontline workers; AI (NLP/ML) based solution models could offset lack of training; Mobile Medical Services acting as a new front today; Electronic health records could help facilitate decision making for the ground staff; and Simplified & integrated data collection platform for easy Monitoring.
It was an hybrid event both physical and virtual.
Policy makers in public health, grassroot NGOs, medical practitioners, healthcare corporates, med-tech startups for rural and policy/impact investors deliberated in the panel.
The panelists were:
NGOs: Dr. Chinnababu Sunkavalli – Cofounder, Grace Cancer Foundation; Manoj Gopalkrishna,CEO, CARE India; Mayur Patnala – Founder, Nirmaan Organisation. Medical: Dr. Evita Fernandez – Chairperson, Fernandez Foundation; Dr. Radha Reddy – Public Health Lead, Fernandez Foundation. Tech Corporates: Ramanathan Sethuraman – Architect, Data Platform, Intel; Udaya Dintyala – Executive Director, AT&T Global. Public Health: Dr.Shailaja Tetali – Professor at IIPH, PHFI; Sarang Deo – Professor and Executive Director, Max Institute of Healthcare Management, ISB; BapiRaju – Senior Professor, IIIT. Startups: Manish Ranjan – CEO, Nano Health; KV Rao – MD, Subhaarogya Healthcare Services; Jignesh Patel – Founder, Vaccine on wheels. Investors: Harish Iyer – Senior Advisor, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Lakshmi Sethuraman – Head of Healthcare Practice, Sattva Consulting;