“Blockchain has potential to completely transform healthcare system management”

Mentioned Dr Ashutosh Tiwari, Chairman and Managing Director, VBRI innovation and technology group in an exclusive interview with the BioVoice. Dr Tiwari shared his perspective on various aspects of technological interventions to make the healthcare system robust


Dr Ashutosh Tiwari is the Chairman and Managing Director of VBRI innovation and technology group headquartered in Sweden. Under his excellent leadership, the company that began with small publishing activity in 2002 has become a multi-national company expanding its outreach into the research segments of education, health, energy, technology, agriculture, and environment. Dr Tiwari is the recipient of ‘The Nano Award’, ‘Innovation in Materials Science Award’ and ‘Advanced Materials Medal’ for his extraordinary contributions to smart materials and medical nanotechnology.

In this exclusive interaction with the BioVoice, Dr Ashutosh Tiwari sheds light on the role of latest technologies for healthcare system management, the progress in Indian context and policy aspect. Read to know the details:

What kind of role is the technology playing in healthcare sector currently? How is it different from a decade earlier?

Technology has played a crucial role in the evolution of the healthcare industry. From biotechnology, material science, and nanotechnology to information technology, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare management, technology has intervened in a positive way taking the healthcare sector ahead by leaps and bounds from a decade ago.

The way Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning has highly developed and taken up the medical and healthcare sector altogether to a new level with advancements in E-Medicine and telehealth services, the situation has completely overturned from a decade ago. The breakthroughs in diagnosis, screening, testing, treatment, observations, and recovery have reached the farthest corners as well and taken a larger population under purview. Today, even the medical study has been impacted a lot by technology, changing the learning and training process for doctors and medical staff, making them skilled and equipped with newer technological resources.

Although the new age technology, innovations, and the Internet of Things (IoT), are changing the scenario yet there is a scope of development in the field of E-medicine and telehealthcare at the global level, especially at India level. With better government policies and interventions of private players in the healthcare sector in a PPP (Public Private Partnership) model, the future of healthcare also seems bright.

 Please tell us about the role of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the healthcare sector globally and in India?

Healthcare sector has seen some of the greatest discoveries and breakthroughs in recent decades and a larger stack of these developments have been with the involvement of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Whether it is hospital management, treatments or medical research, pain-staking surgeries, long treatment procedures, limited resources, and techniques have been outdated by the AI interventions. Today with the advents of AI in healthcare and communication, any person living in any corner of the world can avail medical services.

Today, developed economies of the world have enhanced the health sector with larger investment and better resources, whereas the developing countries are still in the phase of transformation. AI has become the evolution tool in robot-assisted surgery, cardiac analysis, patient safety, other treatments, clinical training, drug safety, drug manufacture, management of medical records, controlled study, risk assessment in real-time systems, and hospital management. E-Medicine has by far been the greatest introduction in the healthcare industry globally. Countries are taking this on priority to facilitate citizens. India, as one of the fastest growing nations, is also devoting the larger part of its budget to health sector developments, especially for public health policies and medical research. AI is still in its nascent stage and the implementation of self-evolving technologies and machine learning processes for the betterment of healthcare will take time on a global level.   

How good or bad has been India in adapting to the new technologies? Please tell us in the context of public versus private healthcare.

As said, India is one of the fastest developing nations in the world and serves as the largest pool of scientists, engineers, and doctors. The nation with more than 1/3rd of the population comprises skilled Millennials and learned youth, has a great prospect of development. Precisely talking about the adaptation of new technologies, the government is dedicated to serving the large population with quality healthcare; still, there are numerous obstacles in the way.

The public healthcare sector has shown a tremendous shift in the metro cities and tier-1 cities where quality healthcare has been facilitated through specialized government hospitals and medical centers. Nearly 70% of India’s population resides in rural areas, and the medical facilities in the tier-II, tier-III and rural areas still require more resources and technological advancements to serve the people. The government has also started revamping the medical education system to correct the doctors’ ratio in the country which has been 1:1596 for allopathy doctors. The ideal ratio of 1:1000 doctors defined by WHO still seems a far idea, and that’s where new technologies turn helpful to serve the greater good. India is finally getting ahead on the path of adopting new technologies in the healthcare sector, especially E-Medicine and teleconsultations. Although most of the E-Medicine services are facilitated by private sector yet the public sector is also trying to mobilize their medical services and provide access to the larger population.

How is the blockchain impacting the field of Electronic Health Records? Where does India stand on this?

Blockchain has the potential of the complete transformation of the healthcare system management. Both healthcare service providers and people can benefit from the blockchain technology, especially in the field of EHR (Electronic Health Records). The growing list of records linked using cryptography can hold patients’ medical history and reports for interoperability of health data. The secure and private system has placed patients at the center of the ecosystem and added to the healthcare management system.

India has a promising future with implications of blockchain to maintain EHRs in the health sector. Although the technology has never been implemented on such a large scale where the medical records of over 1.3 billion population could be safely and securely stored yet the efforts to utilize blockchain in the healthcare sector has begun with Indian government’s ambitious “Ayushman Bharat Yojana”. Participation of private players and guidance of leading technocrats can surely pace up the process in the coming years.

Are we having enough policy mechanisms for promoting technology in Indian healthcare system?

India is determined to achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) defined by the United Nations in ‘Agenda: 2030’ declaration. The National Health Policy, 2017 of Indian government envisages attaining quality healthcare for all the citizens in a comprehensive manner. The government has also pivoted the aspiring “Ayushman Bharat Yojana” under National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) to give the technology boost in the health sector in the right direction. This is yet to be seen what changes these policy mechanisms bring in the country.

On one end, where ‘Digital India’ and ‘Startup India’ has brought the storm of technology bolstering entrepreneurship as well, this has also impacted the Indian healthcare system. The involvement of private players in this segment is crucial to determine the growth of the Indian healthcare system.

What about the accessibility to new technologies? Are we doing enough?

India has been a leading nation in terms of technological innovations with great scientists and breakthrough inventors. As a significant member of the UN and its strategic partnership with all the developed nations, India has good accessibility to new technologies developing across the world. The efforts of the Indian government in availing newer technologies in the healthcare sector are greatly appreciable, yet the scope of developments co-exists in the scenario.

The major private players are also playing a crucial role in bringing-in better resources and advanced technologies. The cumulative efforts in the PPP model prospect a better future but also requires encouraging private sector involvement in the healthcare, especially E-Medicine and AI-based healthcare systems.