Diabetes, along with noncommunicable diseases diseases (NCDs) as a whole, are the foremost health concern in India. NCDs account for 61 percent of deaths in India; diabetes, meanwhile, is considered the country’s fastest-growing disease. Could Indian startups, through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), provide potential solutions?
Wellthy is among a growing trend of startups making use of AI technology to combat health issues, both in India and across the globe. The startup has developed a “digital therapeutic coaching app”, according to Dr Vinod Mattoo, the company’s Chief Scientific Officer.
Healthcare advice being delivered through an app may be a sensible means of addressing some diseases. In particular, it may prove an effective tool in regards to NCDs due to their chronic nature. Some NCDs can be managed — even alleviated — through lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and a healthier diet. An app to remind and monitor these could be a great boon to sufferers and to providers, potentially allowing healthcare resources to be allocated more effectively.
Indian researchers and startups are producing numerous success stories in the use of AI to diagnose medical conditions recently. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) have developed a means by which to determine schizophrenia in a patient with a high degree of accuracy, by using AI to analyse trends in brain activity.
Similar use of AU in diagnosis has been demonstrated across the globe. An AI system developed at the UCLA demonstrated comparable results with experienced doctors in reading magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The AI system — called FocalNet — is designed to detect prostate cancer lesions, even going as far as being able to predict the aggressiveness of the tumour.
The involvement of AI in Wellthy’s system veers away from diagnostics, focusing specifically on disease management. The core ideas of the app are to remind and advise people on exercise routines, food consumption and other lifestyle factors. It can also be integrated with advice from qualified doctors to check adherence to treatment regimes.
AI plays a role by involving chatbots as part of the app. These chatbots explain diet, prescription and health related information in a “friendly yet effective” manner. AI is also used in a programme that analyses images of the users food — using items like credit cards for scale — to estimate calorie count.
A study conducted by Wellthy found that users of the app typically displayed higher levels of physical activity after a period of using the app, as well as overall lower levels of blood sugar. The takeaway message of this being that simply by increasing awareness of the condition, as well as means of addressing it, the diabetes situation in India may be — at least in part — alleviated.