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Digital Engineering in Healthcare sector

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Below are some of the learnings from the discussion on “Emerging Paradigms of Adjacent Engineering Verticals” from the 13th NASSCOM Design and Engineering Summit held in Oct 2021

Digitalization has accelerated across various sectors, especially post Covid. There has been an emergence of new solution domains within Digital Engineering across sectors like healthcare. Increasingly, companies in the healthcare sector are exploring newer technologies and are creating disruptions with innovative solutions.

Healthcare sector has been at the forefront in the past 2 years. One of the key requirements in the healthcare sector across the globe has been to build a more resilient healthcare system, so in the event of the next crisis, everyone is in a better position to cope with it and that there is continuity of care delivery. Therefore, it is necessary to develop and implement people-centric technologies and challenge ways of working and redefine roles that facilitate better interaction within the teams.

One critical point that needs more consideration is a thorough look into care pathways. There are many ineffective ways of care pathways with high levels of waste. One must learn from other industries including supply chain or manufacturing industries and implement repeatable and predictable processes and avoid missteps in diagnosis and treatments. Silos existing in healthcare delivery need to be done away with. In many cases, care teams do not have free-flowing information and hence are not able to collaborate with other multi-disciplinary care teams. Further complications are added when the data access is not seamless due to geographical constraints and the effects are felt by the patients as well as the care teams. Technology has a huge role to play in overcoming all these challenges.


How can technology be leveraged differently in the healthcare sector?

Alternate 1


  1. Increasingly, more and more hospitals and healthcare units are moving towards a more cohesive networked care.
  1. There has to be further acceleration of remote care using tools like telehealth, tele-consults and virtual care delivered through media like Zoom, Google Meet etc.
  1. There is a need to create a design provocation, thereby creating a model of distributive care. The future of hospital may not be in a monolithic building but in a series of different care settings. Unconventional places of accessing healthcare like pharmacies or retail places (shopping malls) can be used in the future. In addition, more access to healthcare at home is also another model that could define the future of healthcare. All these distributed care centres can be then connected to a care co-ordination centre and the clinicians can oversee whether the care is delivered or not.
  1. There should be more incentives in keeping the community healthy, and on patient outcomes. For example, in North America, if a treated patient comes back for treatment after 30 days, there is no reimbursement from the insurance companies. That motivates the healthcare professionals to keep the patient healthy.
  1. Technology can help in remote monitoring of the patient. E.g. for a cardio patient, who had a treatment for a heart problem, can be provided with wearable devices with high acuity monitoring with the same degree of monitoring, had they been in the hospital bed. This can now be enabled from the comfort of the patient’s home. And then one can apply algorithms to that data to monitor the patient 24/7 to see any early detection of any problem or deterioration in the patient’s health to intervene for preventive care and avoid future hospitalization. It is necessary to make use of technology to interpret the patient data.


What skills are needed to solve the challenges faced due to use of technology in healthcare?

  1. Soon, more and more systems within the overall healthcare system will be connected. Cloud computing will be used much more in MRI, CTs etc. Even other healthcare units like pathology labs, and genomics as well are expected to use algorithms to spot patterns to create insights into medical and clinical data.
  1. At the point of care, data will be used to provide clinical diagnostic support to facilitate the clinicians to make a more informed and precise diagnosis and individualized and tailored treatment plan.
  1. It is also important to understand how the data will be interpreted and used and the technology tools must be agile enough to take into consideration the context of the data and make it easier to use by the clinicians. In the past, when electronic medical records were introduced, they were supposed to create one stop database for all the medical records and ease the burden on the physicians. However, due to complicated system interface, the doctors are not interacting with the patients and gaining insights from the cues given by them and are rather focused on data input into the system to create a record of the patient, when they should be focused on the patient care. More technology into clinical workflows should not undercut the human experience and allow more interaction and face time of the doctors with the patients.


Is there an issue of ethics when algorithms are used in healthcare?


alternate 2


  1. Wherever patient data is involved, it is important to use that data in an ethical manner. The hospitals and companies in the healthcare sector need to create principles or ethics regarding security and privacy of the data and how one can derive value from that data for the benefit of the patients and society at large.
  1. One must check the robustness of the algorithms and data and if the model is fair and avoids biases as well.
  1. In case of use of AI, transparency regarding the fundamentals of the AI must also be examined.
  1. Security of data must be taken at the highest priority and protection against vulnerabilities and management of that data should be of prime importance.


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