AI has the potential to bridge the gap between the have and have nots
Dr Amit Kharat is a senior doctor and the co-founder of Deeptek. In this interview with ‘India Global Business’ he discusses how AI is giving healthcare the edge in fight Covid-19, the move towards digitalisation in Indian healthcare and the firms latest partnership with Japanese teleradiology company Doctor-NET Inc.
What was the inspiration behind setting up Deeptek?
Radiology and imaging have already walked the journey towards automation by becoming filmless, paperless and completely digitised close to a decade ago. Imaging is the cornerstone of patient management and crucial for disease diagnosis, progress monitoring and prognostication. It is a key component of screening multiple disease conditions which are a public health challenge and which impact society at large such as tuberculosis, lung cancer, breast cancer and even Covid-19 to name a few. Yet around half of the world’s population does not have access to basic health care facilities and quality healthcare consultation. These gaps are glaring and could be easily bridged by innovative solutions to make healthcare accessible and available. Having deep domain experience helped us in shaping this vision. I have personally managed a teleradiology practise since 2004, I understand the challenges and opportunities in this space. Anirudha Pant, my co-founder and colleague, who is a PhD in data science provides valuable expertise in the field and Ajit Patil who has been a successful entrepreneur provides his expertise in the space of technology and management – we complement each other uniquely.
We were supported early in our journey by NTTDATA who believed in our vision and came in as our first strategic investor. DeepTek is now supported by a strong team of partners comprising Nobori, GHV Accelerator, Pentathlon Ventures and recently DoctorNet. Through our three flagship offerings – Augmento (an AI enabled end-to-end radiology workflow optimisation platform), Genki – our public health screening offerings and DeepTek AI enabled teleradiology, we are innovating the space of radiology.
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How can AI help in the fight against the pandemic?
AI in healthcare is quite a broad vertical with a lot of opportunities. AI in drug discovery is also an area of great innovations waiting to happen. At DeepTek, we are focussed on the healthcare space with a sharp focus on medical imaging technologies like Digital X-ray, CT and MRI. Revolutionary technologies like RT-PCR and Antigen / antibody tests are already doing a great job in testing for various stages of disease spread and community spread. However, no single test can be relied on with full confidence. Covid-19 diagnosis has not been straightforward, and no single test promises strong sensitivity or specificity for a straightforward diagnosis hence X-ray and CT scan imaging have emerged to play pivotal roles to support tools like RT-PCR in symptomatic patients. Be it the TB pandemic which is a slow pandemic or Covid-19, medical imaging technologies have been used fairly commonly for gauging lung involvement, response to treatment. At DeepTek, our Genki Public Screening Tool has been the key pillar to support efficient pandemic response. Genki solution uses three steps to enable an efficient pandemic response. Step 1 – It instantly triages a Xray or CT as normal or abnormal for viral pneumonia and Covid-19 suspect pattern, Step 2 – it assists imaging experts to use AI inputs to quantify, progress monitoring and generate structured radiology reports using variety of scoring systems and step 3 – it generates smart data analytics which help in getting insights for better allocating resources in the radiology department improving client confidence. The platform is dual use and has also been used for TB screening since last one year and we have already screened more than 100,000 patients. A third-party validation study has found DeepTek Genki AI Computer Assisted Reading (CAR) amongst the top performing in terms of AI metrics compared to 10 other global competitors. We have published our results in various academic indexed journals and also presented at European Congress of Radiology and also the upcoming 50th Union Conference – the premier organisation for lung health.
Using our end to end radiology platform for Teleradiology (Augmento) and AI powered platform Genki for population screening we process around 40,000 studies a month using our team of imaging experts and support around 75+ hospitals and clinics thereby delivering timely patient care and instant reads of x rays, CT and MRI. The key difference between traditional cloud platforms and AI powered platforms from DeepTek is the speed/ efficiency gains using AI as a virtual assistant to pre-screen and pre-populate semiautomated reports which exports can quickly review and validate allowing for quick report turnaround time. DeepTek’s AI powered Teleradiology Services have supported clinicians and patients remotely and it has created a huge impact on rapid care delivery and continues to do so in this crucial time, 365 days a year and 24 x 7 support irrespective of any holidays and pandemics and that too across multiple geographies. It supports reads as simple as x-rays to complex scans like angiographic CT and MRI studies, MRI spectroscopy and Musculoskeletal MRI studies ensuring best of the experts are available to give their expert opinion powered by powerful AI tools.
Please tell us about the strategic equity partnership with Japanese teleradiology company Doctor-NET Inc.
DoctorNet is Japan’s largest teleradiology services company. They handle over 1.8 million cases annually and have over 800 radiologists. DeepTek and DoctorNet share a common vision. DeepTek’s radiology workflow optimisation platform ‘Augmento’ helps transform teleradiology business – improving quality and productivity several fold. Leveraging each other’s experience and strengths we aim to transform the radiology services spaces globally. It helps DeepTek gain a strong footing into the huge Japanese market, while it helps DoctorNet to innovate and expand globally.
What are some of the challenges Indian healthcare is facing with digitalisation? How can these be overcome?
Covid-19 has accelerated the demand and speed for virtualisation of healthcare. Typically, hospitals, clinics and labs have not yet harnessed the full potential for digitisation. The hindrances have been regulatory, however pandemic of Covid-19 allowed full scale adoption of telehealth solutions. Movement to telehealth has spurred interest and demand for digitisation of the entire bouquet of services like radiology, pathology to hospital records digitisation. Data security and data privacy concerns exist, and a secure framework needs to be created to imbibe confidence for hospitals and imaging clinics to enhance the transition. Data Management and data handling training is something we do regularly with our client through our 24 x 7 radiology call centre and educational blog contents.
At DeepTek we have already evolved a compliant system which ensures full scale data anonymization and data encryption to ensure only intended users and authorised medical workers and physicians have access to reports and medical imaging datasets using various administrative privileges.
What further opportunities do you see for the application of AI in the Indian healthcare sector?
AI has the potential to bridge the gap between the have and have nots. It has the potential to bring healthcare support to those who never received before. It is a true democratising force. AI can free physicians from losing hundreds of hours of valuable time to monotonous processes by using small or complex automations, it can save huge amounts of money for hospitals, it can also reduce physician burn outs and bring in 5x to 10 x productivity gains. These are key areas which the DeepTek team closely analyses and creates impacting solutions. For example, our ICU X Ray triage tool can within 5 seconds triage and flag any X-ray comping on the platform for an emergency – collapsed lung or pneumothorax. Every second counts and this is true more so ever in the field of diagnostics. DeepTek sees significant opportunities to bring in this change through its AI enabled platform for teleradiology – Augmento. It plans to scale AI enabled teleradiology services and create opportunities for imaging experts to use the AI enabled platform to augment their consults, minimise the turnaround time, ensure consistent quality in the reporting and ensure opportunities to work from home. For clients like imaging clinics and hospitals it is a win-win situation as expert opinion is now available to patients and consultants and complex scans can be easily interpreted by experts sitting far away ensuring right treatment can be started and patients get properly triaged.
What are your future plans for the company?
DeepTek flagship product Augmento, is an end to end radiology platform equipped with AI solutions and Smart Reporting tools to ensure smart radiology workflows and structured reporting, currently it already has the entire chest suite for pre-screening of 25 disease conditions from chest x ray, knee AI solutions for detection of Osteoarthritis, CT Covid screening and quantification tool and importantly the Smart Structured Reporting tools for the X-rays, CT and MRI studies. We will continue to expand our portfolio to develop solutions for MRI and CT covering other organs and modalities. The platform also allows for fullscale third party solution integration and seamless communication with existing hospital Picture Archival and Communication System (PACS) and also Hospital Information System (HIS). It also has smart analytics and billing interfaces for hospitals and imaging experts to have deep insights from their datasets and hassle-free billing. Using Augmento platform we want to ensure quality tele radiological solutions not only in India but globally to ensure that tele-radiological services are made available in any remote location. Augmento has allowed experts to give instant express consultation and with a report turnaround time of less than 30 minutes for stat and urgent studies for stroke and trauma patients. We want to ensure that limitations in availability of diagnostic radiological experts should not be a deterrent to get quality care and that will continue to drive our vision and focus to make radiology solutions and experts available, accessible and affordable.