New Delhi: The use of artificial intelligence in healthcare can enhance the quality of clinical decision-making, but it won’t replace doctors as “codes cannot cure” and human touch is needed for holistic patient care, a top official of a leading healthcare group said on Monday.

Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Group, Sangita Reddy, in an exclusive interaction with PTI, on the sidelines of an international conference here, however, cautioned that in a rapidly evolving world driven by cutting-edge technology, “doctors who use artificial intelligence (AI) may replace doctors who do not”.

“The phase of evolution of change, new discoveries and treatments coming up, is so fast that a doctor would need to read 17 hours a day to keep abreast and even then he or she would not be able to do so. Using a common central knowledge base of proven methodology and bringing it in context, and just in time contextually-appropriate information is what AI can do for our clinical profession,” Reddy said when asked about the role of AI in healthcare in future.

“And, that is what the Apollo group is trying to focus on, by building our clinical intelligence engine. Our ideology is that we can bring this information to the doctors when they need it, at the point when they are talking to a patient.

“So, the first step is, you put the first foundation, and you input the data, say while meeting a patient and define a problem, and with conversational AI, it should be able to capture, when we are talking to a patient.

“And, because of evolution of so much knowledge, so many specialists and millions of patient journey pathways, the doctor will be given a new angle or a new possibility, to give that individual better patient care,” Reddy said.

This is “universally usable and possible”, it can go into rural areas, it can help people in advanced medical conditions, can be used in emergency rooms, and in an ambulance when a patient is on the way to hospital, and therefore, we will be enhancing the quality of clinical decision-making, she told PTI.

In parallel, the power of this is that you can shift this decision one level lower, and solve some of the shortage of clinically trained people, the JMD of the healthcare giant said.

So, in an ambulance, a technician can have a communication with a doctor, can press this (clinical intelligence) engine and be able to give the right medication without waiting 20 minutes or half-an-hour or one hour or so before he reaches a hospital, Reddy asserted.

“There is a multitude of possibilities when it comes to the use of AI. But, I will repeat, AI will not replace doctors and nurses, you cannot cure by code, you need the human touch, you need the people. But, what is possibly going to happen is that while AI will not replace doctors, doctors who use AI may replace doctors who do not use it,” she said.

The Apollo Hospitals Group is hosting a two-day international conference on Delhi, with participation of several healthcare industry leaders from India and abroad.

During a session on the opening day of the conference on Monday, a few experts from healthcare and technology sectors shared how AI is changing the paradigm of healthcare, especially ChatGPT, which is influencing the future trends in multiple sectors.

The 9th edition of the International Patient Safety Conference (IPSC) and the 10th International Conference on Transforming Healthcare with Information Technology (THIT) is being held from February 13-14.

Asked what are the main focus areas and deliverables of the event, Reddy said the main focus is to “update ourselves with what is happening everywhere in the world, to share success stories”.

This is a place for sharing and dissemination of future trends, what works and accelerates the journey, and how people can all work together for better healthcare, she said.

“I do want to commend the medical fraternity, as in every other profession in the industry, if you find something exciting to do, what people do is, get it patented and hide it, and build a business out of it. In the healthcare industry, if doctors find a new surgical method, find a better way to treat a patient, the first thing they do is, to write and publish a paper, or speak about it at a conference,” Reddy said.

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She said technology will play a critical role as the world evolves rapidly, and society will need to find ways to cure and solve big problems across the globe.

“The combination of this knowledge, dissemination mechanism like the mobile phone and an easy-to-use, consumer-driven healthcare model can reverse the growth of non-communicable diseases,” Reddy said.

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