Bengaluru’s Narayana Hospitals employs artificial intelligence to fight Covid-19

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Marking a paradigm shift from in-person assessment to online and remote tracking, Narayana Hospitals, a chain of multi-speciality hospitals, heart centres, and primary care facilities headquartered in Bengaluru, has broken away from the traditional doctor consultations to leverage artificial intelligence to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

Provision of patients’ vitals in real-time on doctors’ mobile phones, robots that transport blood samples, virtual assessments of cardiac risk and telemedicine are at the forefront of the Covid-19 fight at the Bengaluru hospitals now.

The hospitals use technology platforms called Atma and Neha. Atma facilitates payment for consultation, acts as a discharge counter and the pharmacy. Doctors employ Neha to remotely access data such as a patient’s temperature, blood pressure, cardiac arrest risk assessment and to advise patients.

The overhaul was discussed as part of a session at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY)’s conclave RAISE (Responsible Artificial Intelligence for Social Empowerment).

MEITY additional secretary Rajendra Kumar moderated the session, which was attended by researchers and participants from across the medical ecosystem. “Analytics can provide relevant information to manage diseases; it can make our access to affordable care easier and promote technology for the poor and the common man. Artificial intelligence for diagnostic solutions, personalised predictions and drug discovery, and repositioning is the future. It can help us tackle Covid-19 and other future pandemics,” Kumar said.

Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, chairman and executive director of Narayana Hospitals, said that Covid-19 has fast-tracked the legalisation of telemedicine.

“At present, we are treating 400 Covid-19 patients, 100 of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit,” Shetty said. “Our attempt has been that the least number of doctors and support staff comes to the hospitals.”

He added that over 17 years, the hospital has treated 53,000 patients with technology. “We asked for telemedicine to be legalised but it didn’t happen. One week of Covid-19 and telemedicine is now a reality,” he added.

Shetty said the hospitals leveraged artificial intelligence to develop tools, such as devices attached to patients, that transmit real-time data to doctors’ phones. “We were able to segregate 20% of the patients who were at a higher risk of cardiac arrest, due to comorbidities or other reasons, so that we could provide the vulnerable extra care,” he said.

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