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India to Advance AI Tools, Establish AI Policies for Traditional Medicine Sector

During the second day of the 2nd Health Working Group meeting under the G20 India Presidency, the government held a brainstorming session focused on health delivery systems that prioritise citizens and promote universal health coverage through artificial intelligence (AI), digitally-delivered healthcare, and technological innovation.

At the event, Vaidya Kotecha, Secretary of the Ministry of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy), highlighted the need to ensure that India meets the standards for artificial intelligence (AI) in the country’s traditional medicine sector, with support from United Nations agencies. There is a need to advocate the use of digital tools for not only the efficiency of the healthcare system but also to maintain medical records, exchange information, and catalyse the effectiveness of various healthcare modalities like pharmaco-therapeutic interventions or traditional medicine-based approaches.

The upcoming World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India has been mandated to work on data analytics and technology in traditional medicine. This will lay the foundation to merge data and technology in the field in the future, the Secretary claimed.

At the conference, Kotecha participated in a panel discussion on ‘The Creation of the Digital Health Ecosystem: Moving Towards Harmonised & Efficient Health-Data Governance Frameworks’. He discussed the pivotal role of AI in the field of digital health, emphasising its widespread and growing utilisation in various aspects of healthcare, including conventional medicine.

India needs to catch up with the development of benchmarks and guidelines and policies for safe, effective technology use in healthcare. To establish benchmarks for the integration of AI in traditional medicine, the Ministry of Ayush is spearheading a topic group on traditional medicine as part of the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Health (FG-AI4H). The initiative is in collaboration with WHO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Kotecha also noted the importance of an integrative and holistic healthcare model for service delivery that utilises the Ayush Grid. The government has defined the Grid platform as the backbone of the Ayush sector. It includes digitising service delivery across health services, education, research, drug administration, and medicinal plants.

The Grid’s architecture has been designed as a four-layer model and is linked to the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and other external ecosystems. ABDM is a national-level digital health ecosystem that intends to support universal health coverage in an accessible, inclusive, and affordable manner, through the provision of big data and infrastructure services, and by leveraging open, interoperable, standards-based digital systems. It will ensure the security, confidentiality, and privacy of health-related personal information, the government informed.

Recently, to boost digital health transactions under ABDM, the National Health Authority (NHA) launched the Digital Health Incentive Scheme (DHIS) for stakeholders in the digital health ecosystem. As OpenGov Asia reported, the incentives will be provided to hospitals and diagnostic labs as well as providers of digital health solutions like hospital/health management information systems (HMIS) and laboratory management information systems (LMIS). Eligible health facilities and digital solutions companies will be able to earn financial incentives of up to IN 40 million (US$ 483,387) based on the number of digital health records they create and link to ABHA (Ayushman Bharat Health Accounts).


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