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Is a ‘cloud doctor’ looking after you?

The second wave of COVID-19 in India challenged our country in every possible way, showed lacunas and shortcomings of our healthcare system, administration and foresight. But as Winston Churchill says never let a good crisis go to waste, there have been innovations and inventions that made our lives easier forever and opened new possibilities. Some examples of it or cloud kitchens increased e-commerce and online healthcare. One such innovation is Cloudphysician, which is an advanced form of online healthcare. It is run by Karnataka doctors Dr Dhruv Joshi and Dr Dileep Raman who set up this company in 2017. Cloudphysician is smart ICU technology which picks up in anomalies in ICU patient. Dr Dhruv Joshi is a pulmonary and critical care specialist who was trained in the USA. He has always been interested in improving the quality of care and optimum utilisation of resources with the help of technology. Dr Dilip Raman was also trained in the USA, he is a pulmonary, critical care medicine and sleep medicine specialist.    

What is e-healthcare?

Online healthcare is the combination of digital services, business and medical information. Online healthcare operates in the form of virtual visits, where the patient visits the doctor virtually with the help of zoom or Google meet. The patient communicates to the doctor about his symptoms and illness, the doctor prescribes medicines, prescriptions are either sent via email or WhatsApp. Pharmacies have now started accepting e-prescriptions, before the pandemic e-prescriptions which prescribed schedule H and H+ drugs were not accepted.

This is a common problem encountered by people who need to buy psychiatry drugs. If a doctor prescribes lab tests, applications like 1MG, MedPlus etc provide diagnostic services where a lab attendant comes to your home to collect the required sample and the reports are either posted or sent via email. These lab tests are later sent to the doctor and via teleconferencing, medicines are prescribed. Medicines are also delivered by these apps, the need to physically go to a medical store is eliminated. The online healthcare industry is preferred because of pandemic and lockdown. It removes the barrier of leaving the house, booking appointment, standing in long queues waiting for your turn and exposing oneself to the risk of infection. A person can book an appointment at her convenience and this saves time.

These healthcare applications have a team of doctors, lab technicians, delivery men, fitness trainers, dieticians, nutritionists, pharmacists, psychologists, counsellors, therapists and all other healthcare professionals one can think of.

Everything in the traditional healthcare services and online healthcare services is similar except human interaction. Seeing the vast flow of money in online healthcare, insurance companies have started covering online healthcare costs by introducing telehealth insurance plans. Online healthcare services ensure Covid proper behaviour like social distancing and avoid gathering crowd.

What is Cloudphysician and how this idea came to be?

This idea came into being when both the doctors working in Ohio solved the shortage of specialist doctors using IT. While working Dr Raman and Dr Joshi realised that this problem is substantial in India. This problem reared its ugly head on a large scale when mass patients were hospitalised in ICU during the second covid outbreak. There is a total of 350 ICU specialist doctors (intensivists) over three lakh ICU beds in India.

Cloudphysician uses a combination of information technology, visuals, machine learning, web development and artificial intelligence to provide round-the-clock critical healthcare services. Procuring a ventilator for a patient is not a hard task, what is harder is using that ventilator for which we need an intensivist. The government built ICU infrastructure but lack of expertise was not addressed.

For instance, five ICU wards in government hospitals of Karnataka were short on intensivists.

These hospitals turned towards Cloudphysician to run their ICU wards. Now a team of five doctors sitting at a command centre can run 5 different ICU wards. Another example when cloudphysicians saved life was when oxygen pressure at a certain ICU had fallen beyond a critical level, which was picked up by the command centre with the help of machines monitoring the ventilators. The alarm at the command centre ensured timely action thus preventing a mass fatality.

An ICU needs a lot more than oxygen, ventilators and machines. It needs trained ICU specialist like intensivists, pulmonologist and anaesthetists. An intensivist has an MD or DNB and a degree approved from FNB, DM, IDCCM and IFCCM, every doctor at Cloudphysician has additional qualifications from the US, UK and Canada apart from MD.

What separates cloudphysician from other tele-ICU is that tele-doctors are available for some time maybe twice a day, but Cloudphysician via the cloud is available 24*7. All one needs is a fast and stable internet connection.

It increases the number of ICU beds an intensivist can reach cost-effectively in a given time. Cloudphysician takes the help of their ICU management software called Radar which uses data to analyse and suggests appropriate care. The suggestions by Radar are later analysed by a team of doctors at the command centre to deliver proper care. Radar has clinical tools and an automated early warning system that ensures quick safe and correct care.         

The benefits of cloudphysician are –

  1. Higher quality of care and increased satisfaction due to quick communication,
  2. Higher accountability helps in admitting and managing more patients,
  3. Cost optimisation with economically stable ICU system,
  4. Severe patients are not transferred hence increasing patient retention.

How did Cloudphysician help in averting crisis during Covid second wave?

Cloudphysician provided intensivist and specialist doctors for ICU when the whole nation was grappling in scarcity of healthcare infrastructure. There was a lack of hospital beds, oxygen, ventilators, doctor and paramedical staff. Cloudphysician doctors were able to reach more patients in less time working remotely than any doctor would working traditionally. Cloudphysician helpedin running a 24 bed ICU ward in a 150-year-old government Epidemic Diseases Hospital in 2020 which could not be started until 2021. The infrastructure of the ward was ready, due to lack of staff it could not cater to patients.

After its success and viability, Cloudphysician is backed by Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr CN Aswathanarayana. He said, “The technology enables hospitals to have their beds and patient data remotely monitored through CCTV and interconnected sensors while giving hospitals access to highly qualified intensivists and nurses“.

What is the future of cloud and AI?  

Newspaper and tabloids are full of instances where inventions, innovations, cloud computing and artificial intelligence combined with machine learning is changing lives. Be it healthcare, music, e-commerce, space tourism, IT industry, internet etc the list is endless. Sensing the importance, viability and profitability of artificial intelligence and cloud computing big investors like reliance industries, Tata digital, Amazon, SpaceX, QUALCOMM, Apple, Google etc are betting their money on this technology.

Tata recently invested in 1MG and cure fit which is both online healthcare platforms, Amazon is investing in space tourism, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already sending the common man to space. Google has been researching and investing since long back, on lots of fronts like flying cars (blackfly), artificial intelligence and machine learning. Sandeep Ranade recently launched his app NaadSadhana which combines Indian classical music and artificial intelligence on an application. Reliance Industries has partnered with Microsoft and QUALCOMM to enhance the internet, internet of things et cetera

The jury is out on how vast this technology may become in the coming decade (eliminating the human element at all) but it is wrapping us around its fingers.

 

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