New Delhi: If Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in a vast country like India is looked as well neigh impossible, digital health raises hopes. Even the implementation of Ayushman Bharat does not seem achievable without tech enabled digital health. The subject is being mooted in right earnest. Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi (IIIT-Delhi) last week organized a very enlightening debate on the subject.
The autonomous institute of the Government of NCT of Delhi, held day-long Digital Delhi Conclave on the topic of IT and Health for all’ at its campus. Thie event saw the participation from a cross-section of IT and health related specialists from the academic, industry and the civil society related to the theme of sustainable development and health in Delhi. Participants included doctors and media researchers from such institutions as AIIMS, WISH foundation, DBT/Wellcome Trust India as well as representatives from the field of media and health sector including Save the Children, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The idea behind the conclave was to create a public platform to discuss the evolution of information technology and its implications for sustainable development of the national capital region. “As an institution recognized for its cutting-edge research and teaching in information technology, we are very well placed to initiate the discussion on how the rise of information technology can play a role in the sustainable development of Delhi and the NCR region. Moreover, as a public institution, located in the heart of this bustling India’s largest metropolis, we see our role as an agenda-setter for issues of AI and IT and how they relate to the key sustainable development goals (SDGs) for our shared future,” said Dr. Aasim Khan, Assistant Professor (SSH), IIIT- Delhi and the convener for the event.
The event kicked off with a conclave debate on the topic of IT and future of healthcare, where student teams debated some of the most significant questions relating to social and data challenges facing India’s healthcare sector. This was followed by a workshop on scientific communication which participation from both within and beyond IIIT-Delhi. The latter part of the conclave saw thought leaders, scientists, innovators, social scientists and science communicators engage in a lively discussion including on theme of big data and the potential to revive our health sector through partnerships across silos.
Panelists in the dicussions included Prof. Ahmadulla Shariff (AIIMS, New Delhi), Vishweshwer Rao Perka (DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance) and representatives from health sector in Delhi. Prof. Shariff who is leading the digital drive at AIIMS and Prof. Rakesh Lodha also from AIIMS spoke on the need for technology to aiding the work of doctors. Among the participants from civil society, Rajesh Singh, CEO, WISH Foundation, shared the way they are using technology in various Mohalla Clinics in Delhi, saying that “AI-based solution will be on quick identification referral system for high-risk pregnancies,” said Singh. And discussed how their foundation is working with 300 primary health, wellness centres and associated sub centres in five different states — Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Assam.
The keynote for the event was delivered by Dr. R K Srivastava, also associated with WISH foundation and former leader at the Medical Council of India, who also emphasized the value of taking digital health mission beyond tertiary care institutions and into the primary healthcare to serve the needs of all Indian citizens. He also shared the case study of, Mohalla Clinics in Delhi, where just by giving some incentives to fill the data properly has ensured better and accurate data collection, which can be then used to be prepared to provide better healthcare outcomes.
“There are glaring disparities in healthcare with highly developed pockets of access co-existing with areas where people die due to lack primary care. Health for All in India will need the brain of medicine, the spine of IT and the heart of societal innovation to allow Digital Health to reach everyone. We at IIIT-Delhi are building this change through clinical immersion with research and development in emerging areas such as m-Health and Artificial Intelligence,” said Dr. Tavpritesh Sethi, Assistant Professor (CB), IIIT-Delhi and Co-Convener of the event. The success of this event has set the ball rolling for an annual Digital Delhi Conclave series, with the organizers expressing hope that the conclave will become a bespoke event on IT and society in the years to come.