Since I launched the first Apollo Hospital in Madras in 1983, the field of healthcare has undergone a significant transformation. One of the major factors responsible for this has been the rapid pace of technological development, which has impacted almost every aspect of our life today. While these advances have brought about significant changes in the practice of medicine, this is most visible in the field of cardiology, where they have enabled clinicians to reduce mortality and morbidity, and improve the quality of life for patients.
Today, we face a huge threat in the form of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD). Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of NCD deaths, world over with over 45% of all NCD deaths attributed to cardiac causes. In India, people’s heart health is also not in the best of condition. The Global Burden of Disease Study shows a two-fold increase in the number of people affected by cardiac diseases between 1990 to 2016. The trend is expected to continue with a sharp increase in the incidence of cardiac diseases over the next two decades. A major worry is that cardiovascular diseases are now affecting the younger population, causing great distress to families, and resulting in economic consequences and social loss to the nation.
How do we address this? Cardiovascular conditions are largely preventable and with advancements in medical science and technology, we have the potential to create tools to ensure early diagnosis, management, and treatment to stop the progress of and even reverse the heart condition.
The future will need us to change our focus from cure to care. We need to focus on the ‘care’ in Healthcare, and embrace prevention as the first step if we are to find a long-term solution to the cardiac crisis. Effective action through preventive healthcare in the form of personalised and health management programs will play a vital role in detecting diseases in their early stages. This needs to begin as early as adolescence. This is especially important as the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 70% of premature deaths in adults are the result of risk factor behaviours that begin during adolescence and youth.
Today, one in every eight Indians suffers from high blood pressure. However, despite the enormous number of cases, doctors are unable to identify the probability of an individual developing cardiovascular disease. The various cardiac risk models available worldwide do not cater to the Indian population.
The future lies in harnessing the power of big data, digital technologies, and artificial intelligence to drive innovation so that we can ‘predict and prevent’ before there is a need to ‘overcome’. Intelligent platforms will enable designing of specific tools tailored for the Indian population with cardiovascular disease risk scores that predict risk of developing cardiac disease. These tools will enable clinicians to detect cardiac disease well in advance to take timely action.
The first of its kind AI-powered Cardiovascular Disease Risk Score API designed specifically to predict risk of CVD in the Indian population has been successful as shown by data one year after its launch. Over 200,000 people have been screened using the AI-driven API, and physicians have been successful in predicting the risk score of patients five to seven years in advance.
The future will see the game change with exciting developments in advanced screening tools that use AI and machine learning to prevent and eradicate heart disease, and make a meaningful impact in stemming the rise of heart disease in India. The focus on care as against cure will help prevent heart disease, save lives and empower individuals with heart disease to make informed choices about their health.
Views are personal.
The author is chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group.