With the new year right around the corner, it is an excellent time to look at how the tech-enthusiasts are leveraging emerging technologies to create a better future.
As an AI ML Development Company, we take great interest in other individuals interested in tech. And this time, we had the opportunity to interview Dr. Monika Sonu, a woman in healthcare tech with several accolades for her contribution to the tech in healthcare.
Our AI/ML Vertical Head, Anil Rana, conducted the interview. So, let's dive in.
Anil: Hello Dr. Monika Sonu, to start the interview, can you give an introduction of yourself and your work to the audience?
Dr. Monika: I am the Co-founder & CEO of Healthinnovationtoolbox, a global health tech + innovation + digital product design company. I have more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry & I work with various public and private healthcare systems, Health ministries & Startups around the globe while driving digitization of the operating models, functions, and workflows within hospitals, creating digital patient experiences & solutions attributable to emerging trends in healthcare. I have co-created diverse IoT & AI-based digital health products & platforms focused on chronic disease management. Named as HIMSS Future50 Innovation Leader in 2021 & Top 30 Women Transforming Healthcare 2022 by Medika Life.
Anil: That is an exciting life. What led you to shift your career toward the technical field of healthcare?
Dr. Monika: It's been more than 15 years in the healthcare industry, where I started my career as a doctor and practiced for five good years. Then, there was this crossroad where I wanted to contribute differently to healthcare. If I was touching a few hundred lives, then I wanted to impact millions in the future. But switching the profession when you are almost at the end of your 20s' was not an easy decision for me. While I knew that this transition would take long, it was like redrawing my career canvas. However, I was determined for the shift. My interest in healthcare reforms & innovation is the key driver behind the choice to take this move. I ardently believe that innovation in healthcare requires challenging the status quo and provoking changes in the system, processes, and attitude. Healthcare was hot then & still is and I knew swarming in the middle of a digital revolution in healthcare with new accessorised me was going to be a very exciting and meaningful professional & personal journey.
Anil: What is your take on Metaverse? Do you think it is here to stay?
Dr. Monika: A technology that assures us of the physical and digital concurrence in the Metaverse certainly sounds very powerful. Like other emerging technologies, even Metaverse vows to fundamentally reshuffle the way we perceive things, be it our day-to-day lives or economies at large. Growing up in the '90s was exciting, I still remember reading Snow Crash, and at that point, when we were still playing with Mario & Dragon Quest, it felt exhilarating to imagine how a computer crash led to real-world brain damage. Now, as we are all headed to the next generation of interaction, there certainly are challenges & a pack of unanswered questions. Because we human beings love to create real experiences all around us, now the challenge with Metaverse would be to create similar experiences while escalating appeal and immersiveness so that we let go of our lucid realities.
For sure, the buzz around Metaverse can't be rebuffed, almost everyone is talking & inquisitive about what Metaverse holds for all of us in the future. The question is on us now: to what extent can we be in a virtual-reality space where we interact with a computer-generated environment and other users? Lots of perceptions were broken during the pandemic so let's wait to see the extent of our future agility.
Anil: What applications of Metaverse are you the most excited about, especially in the healthcare field? What potential do you see in this technology?
Dr. Monika: Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries. With Metaverse, the existence of this mixed-reality world will bring forth digital health players a plethora of new opportunities to explore and, parallelly, many new legal landscapes to steer. But despite challenges, Metaverse is gaining buzz in healthcare for sure. For me, picturizing healthcare into this rapidly expanding decentralized space where a multitude of worlds are connected into a single unified digital environment is very exciting & challenging at the same time. Healthcare has always been tagged as the laggard in terms of technology adoption but look at it this way, hadn't they made the smarter choices & adopted advanced vertical innovations & technologies where it mattered the most, we wouldn't have survived the pandemic.
Unfortunately, healthcare experiences always remained an insignificant domain creating a poor brand image and shaky consumer confidence. Now, that opens up a great opportunity for this industry with Metaverse. Though still in its infancy, Metaverse could potentially redefine how healthcare services are delivered to patients. If we manage to provide healthcare ubiquitously, with opportunities to work anywhere and continue to collaborate with colleagues or interact with patients, I think that would be a great start.
Apart from this, the Metaverse also unlocks a powerful platform that can be used to train clinicians, patients, and families regardless of their location. Some of the low-hanging areas could be telemedicine & telepresence, storing medical records, post-surgery therapies like sleep and anxiety management, rehabs, and physiotherapy to help patients have superior experiences and faster recovery.
Anil: Artificial Intelligence and deep learning are two factors that are already causing a shift in the healthcare world. What changes have you seen in operations due to the inclusion of these technologies?
Dr. Monika: The Healthcare industry is quickly taking advantage of AI & DL, thereby pulling up the digital evolution beyond any doubt. Medical applications are using them to accelerate & improve patient-related outcomes & we are seeing the rampant application of these technologies in areas like medical imaging & diagnosis, drug development, etc. In the future, we are going to see more sophisticated applications at scale, like personalized medicine, wearable medical devices, automated robotic surgeries & disease predictions even before they occur.
We already saw how the modern healthcare system is squeezed by the pandemic, exorbitant rise in lifestyle-related diseases, and booming world population. And not far, we all would be able to see the global impact of using these great technologies to solve the wicked problems in healthcare. Though, it would be very interesting to see if these technologies could make healthcare affordable, accessible, equitable & more personalized, or not. I am looking forward to more evidence & research.
Anil: What AI applications fascinate you the most? Something related to healthcare or not.
Dr. Monika: I think it's impossible to imagine fighting a global pandemic like Covid 19 without technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). The exponential rise of Covid-19 cases around the world left many health infrastructures overwhelmed & incapacitated. The challenges were unique in the sense that rapid spread necessitated quick response on multiple fronts, from diagnostic modalities to drug development, medical resource allocation, and planning & AI definitely came to the rescue.
Take, for example, contact tracing, spread prediction or curbing fake news, or rapid vaccine development, all these would have been impossible without these advanced technologies. Covid demonstrated to us AI's potential for accelerating progress in multiple health domains in a very short span of time & which fascinates me the most. These successful use cases will surely build more trust in AI among all healthcare stakeholders.
Anil: How do you think digital transformation helps the healthcare industry?
Dr. Monika: For any healthcare provider, digital transformation is a way to become more consumer-centric while concurrently syncing operations & culture with the new technologies. COVID-19 brought a change of an era in healthcare within the span of a few months. It interrupted the pace not by changing the trajectory for digital health solutions but rather it fast-tracked innovation, investment, and mobilization synchronously. Overnight healthcare providers started looking for digital ways to expand access to care options & keep connected with their customers & patients. Lots of plug & play were being explored & tried, and new initiatives were taken where the digital technologies that provided both patient-centric and business-centric solutions, such as preventive and promotive healthcare, patient monitoring and program management, and electronic health record systems, etc., were considered. If I can talk about one most wanted technology, then it's the telemedicine platform, which has many takers. For sure, there is a positive growth trend for digital transformation in healthcare, which makes us very optimistic in this domain. But what lies crucial for future adoptions at scale is safe integration, interoperable systems & data security.
Forward-looking healthcare organizations must utilize this time to materially scale up digitization and explore different hybrid care models of the future in ways that can create a competitive advantage for them. They must work towards the acceleration of online-offline integration, home-based care, remote monitoring, point of care devices, as lots of adaptive approaches are taking place for infrastructure and care delivery design. This is the time for the adoption of new and meaningful technologies & transition that will empower healthcare providers to continue the care even outside the hospital walls & be ready for any untoward scenario in the future too.
Anil: In the healthcare industry, is the ROI based what factors determine the ROI on a Blockchain-based project? Does the ROI include factors like improve in patient care?
Dr. Monika: The application of blockchain in healthcare is inceptive, though there are many lucrative use cases, as an industry, it has to undergo white box testing to weigh both strengths and vulnerabilities to determine suitability. Following a process to evaluate competing projects can provide a pathway to selecting the ones that provide optimal benefits and generate momentum. Identifying value by pragmatically and skeptically assessing impact and feasibility at a granular level and focusing on addressing true pain areas with specific use cases within the healthcare industry can be one of the ways to determine the ROI. The real trouble is not the Blockchain technology but the internal buy-in from healthcare organizations. Blockchain Implementation in healthcare is a long-term & multi-stakeholder commitment & accurately predicting the potential ROI is a tortuous task.
Absolutely yes, ROI includes factors like improvement in patient care. We are talking about healthcare & although there are many ROIs that are not directly converted to monetary values, but they are equally or sometimes more important to consider. After all, we are dealing with a new breed of consumers who are growing up in a technology-powered environment & at no cost, will accept a healthcare system untouched by the rise of classic consumerism. Progressive healthcare organizations know that they have to blatantly focus on improving people's experiences and should take a human-centered approach when creating seamless ways to interact with consumers and their families, irrespective of what technology they are using to convey the message or solve the problem. In the end, it's not about technology but the impact that healthcare creates on people's lives.
Anil: Are there books or podcast recommendations you would like to give our users?
Dr. Monika: My all-time favorite books for beginners to understand Healthcare & Technology: The Creative Destruction of Medicine by Eric Topol & The Digital Doctor by Robert Wachter.
Anil: What is your one piece of advice to organizations that are working with these technologies?
Dr. Monika: Emerging technologies are making some highly lucrative promises to the healthcare industry, as these technologies are getting increasingly sophisticated at doing what humans do, with more efficiency and at a lower cost. With all these great advances, it's vital to include all the stakeholders and build trust steadily. Right now, there is a lot of skepticism, and we need to work around it for at-scale adoption. My advice would be to co-create an ecosystem that is transparent, all-inclusive, empowering & evidence-based. We need lots of research & evidence-building activities around the bigger health & social impacts of these technologies & I think we are going in the right direction, but as of now, widespread clinical applications are a long way from being used in practice.
Anil: Where can people go to find out more about you online?
Dr. Monika: You can find my Twitter profile here- https://twitter.com/sonu_monika
Our Final Thoughts:
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