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INTRODUCTION: This article explores the possibility of realizing a stroke free India through Artificial Intelligence and Digital Intervention. The write-up analyses and provides viable solutions through modification of existing systems, new innovations, AI, social media and other technological avenues. The idea of 'One Nation, One Medical Database', as a part of the stroke free India effort has also been accentuated. All views expressed are personal and original.
Realizing Stroke Free India - Through AI and Digital Intervention
"Information is the livelihood of medicine and health information technology is destined to be the circulatory system for that information"
With these words in 2010, the world-renowned academic physician and health care policy expert, David Blumenthal had wonderfully articulated what we live today. While his words struck the right tone years ago, many people are yet to fully comprehend how instrumental technology is as the healthcare sector is on the cusp of digital revolution or has, perhaps, even stepped into the next phase of this sea change.
A healthy nation, they say, is a wealthy nation. Unfortunately, there are numerous underlying vulnerabilities in India's overstretched health infrastructure which renders the same ill-equipped to cope with the increasing number of complex medical cases. Considering the vastness of the Indian landmass, the country has only 35 stroke units, mostly in metropolitan cities and private hospitals, highlighting the very fact that more stroke and rehabilitation units are needed. Also, for better management, we need adequate training for paramedics and hospital teams, better traffic management for the transit of stroke patients in an emergency resulting in better and timely care and management.
Newer technologies like Real-Time Location System (RTLS) might help in improving the present scenario of patient management. It would help to record the number of stroke patients in each care unit and available spaces, thereby allowing paramedics to direct towards the nearest facility with free space. It could also record the number of practicing doctors in an area and page the required specialist. Additionally, it could prove helpful in maintaining the record of equipment or treatment drugs required and enable the creation of alerts. Implementing such a system would help prevent delayed treatment and avert overcrowding in outpatient care units or units with insufficient beds.
As the world is changing with technology, India leads by example with innovation at the helm. Provisions such as the Aarogya Setu application in India and the Aadhar link to bank accounts and government subsidy or benefit schemes are available online. Then why not adopt technology as a core for our solution? What India needs is an integrated healthcare system.
Upgrading the existing systems from different electronic services to integrated digital health services should be a pressing priority. We can begin by setting up one central database for imageries, data, medical records, biomarkers, scans and stroke screening. Furthermore, AI-based analyses can be done to prepare charts of prognosis. Genome technology and other techniques could be employed to map the patient pool to identify patients with comorbidities, patients prone to vascular problems like stroke and many more. Two factors are emerging among the top risk factors for increasing stroke rates in young adults - smoking and drug and tobacco consumption. Regular vascular screening and medical check-ups are crucial in detecting any medical problem or complications and preventing the advancement of the disease.
Stroke management should be differentiated as therapeutic and prevention. Prevention is as important as therapeutic. As we talk about preventing stroke, we need to identify people among the general population. Classify them, for instance, based on occupation like those with sedentary habits to be prone to stroke. Furthermore, we can develop an integrated software service to monitor everybody's medical status. To put it simply, we need Medical Surveillance. The patient's medication data whether prescribed by the hospital, general practitioner or specialist doctor; the pharmacy from where the prescription is picked from; the drugs or vaccines administered - all this would make the study and analysis of the data way easier. Graphing the medical condition of each person would also be possible. It could enable the prevention of disease progression and provision of help or treatment. This data could also help design personalized medical plans. Such plans would comprise the kind of diet plan a person has to follow, an exercise routine to go by, the kind of problems they may develop in the future and many more. The software service could also have a stroke risk calculating feature which could be used for self-assessment by users too. The centralized software provision would enable health organizations to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) coupled with up-to-date research data to create customized health recommendations. The centralized software would come with local adoption facilities like the incorporation of local languages, diet plans as per the local food habits, care plans and other things and allow patients to access the portal from anywhere.
This IT revolution brings - One Nation, One Medical Database system. This will immensely benefit people with no or limited financial resources and help them to seek timely medical advice. Free access to health records would lower the healthcare cost and encourage them to get medical help. Although we have made rapid strides in expanding medical facilities, the growth is lop-sided as the rural areas lag far behind cities. With such a burgeoning population and many needs to be met, one would say that it is impossible to provide free health services in India. But in the digital India of today, access to medical assistance and healthcare support can be made free of charge and online with features like free platforms for video consultations with doctors and many more. It would put personalized medicine and telehealth on the map. Telemedicine, another big untapped opportunity that needs to be used more often than done, would help provide healthcare services even in the most secluded regions. Furthermore, we would be able to gauge stroke-risk levels of all citizens and prevent any mishap. As the IT sector is emerging as the pillar of modern India, innovative technology can spearhead this effort to make India stroke-free.
Another chapter to ‘Stroke Free India’ is proper healthcare management for the elderly. Multiple technology-based innovations can also be introduced to ensure preventive measures. Potential stroke patients who are aged or live alone could wear AI-enabled wrist widgets. These would work like the Apple Watch Fall-Detection SOS feature. Based on technology, AI can measure heart rate, blood flow, coagulation and other measures, and sound an alarm in case of any abnormalities. If the person does not respond or switch off the alarm within a specific time, the smart widget would notify emergency medical services and text the people on the emergency contact list. Everything begins with an idea; this is just one idea that I have.
Lastly, we need to work on community knowledge enhancement. Social media platforms can be used as a constructive tool to augment public awareness through dissemination of messages to targeted populations. Multimedia, in my opinion, appeals to the masses and ingrains the message in the subconscious mind. However, such messages must be multilingual and have engaging content. People must be aware of vascular problems, prevention methods and what to do when they see someone suffering from a stroke. The aim should be to start with the younger people. Not just because they will form the foundation of a stroke-free country. But also because they are the ultimate message spreaders with an innate devout conviction that they must do everything to help a soul.
To end with, watch out for BE FAST!
Eyes' blurred vision
Time to rush to the Stroke Unit.
Be Healthy! Be Happy! And you will be just fine!