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Emerging healthcare trends: Artificial intelligence and virtual reality

There is a renewed focus on advanced research in medicine, environmental health, self-care, and vaccine as we are tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s a look at the state of digital transformation in healthcare in 2021.

Dr Shuchin Bajaj

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Social distancing and remote working have paved the way for technology-enabled healthcare during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and it’s evolving at a lightning speed. Telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled medical devices, and blockchain electronic health records are just a few concrete examples of digital transformation in healthcare. There is a sudden focus on advanced research in medicine, environmental health, self-care, and vaccine as we are tackling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

India’s healthcare market is growing with the national health spending projected to reach 2.5% of its GDP by 2025. Thanks to technology and the coronavirus pandemic, patients get better treatment with virtual reality tools, wearable medical devices, telehealth, and 5G mobile technology. Doctors, on the other hand, can streamline their workflow using AI-powered systems. Here’s a better look at the state of digital transformation in healthcare in 2021:

THE RISE OF ON-DEMAND HEALTHCARE

As the healthcare industry has entered into the times of digital innovation, patients will be looking for on-demand healthcare owing to their busy schedules and social distancing norms which are going to stay for a longer period even if the coronavirus pandemic subsides. The healthcare industry is leaving no stone unturned to improve the delivery of its services by providing instant access to healthcare issues. Though on-demand healthcare is emerging as a feasible option we have to introduce more technological advancements to go a long way. On-demand healthcare technology can be more useful in other healthcare services like imaging and diagnostics, tracking mental health challenges, developing nutritional foods and supplements, and delivering personalised health plans to consumers.

TREATING PATIENTS WITH VIRTUAL REALITY

If somebody would have said 10 years ago that the intensity of the pain can be lowered with the help of a device that looks similar to a video game, the person would have bagged many blank stares. Virtual Reality (VR), a simulated experience that can be similar to the real world, is a major breakthrough in the space of digital healthcare. Its applications are profoundly changing the way patients are being treated. VR is a safer and more efficient alternative to drugs. This technology is being widely used these days not only to treat pain but everything from anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder and stroke.

THE WONDERS OF AI

AI is way beyond digital transformation in healthcare. AI represents the epitome of medical innovation, and industry players are eager to invest millions in it. The healthcare AI-powered tools market is expected to exceed USD 34 billion by 2025 which means this technology will shape almost all facets of the industry and AI-based technology that patients are becoming familiar with. But the real power of AI can be best observed in areas such as precision medicine, medical imaging, drug discovery, and genomics. For instance, kidney patients used to receive age-old treatments with high failure rates but now, thanks to AI’s sophisticated pattern recognition, these patients have access to personalised therapies tailored to their genetic makeup and lifestyle.

HEALTH CHATBOT

The cancellation of many healthcare facilities during the initial phases of the lockdown has resulted in the emergence of health chatbots. People have started using them to get a solution to their Covid-related queries, concerns, and mental stress. It has been seen that health-related queries have increased threefold during the ongoing pandemic. Many mental health chatbots have emerged as people have been going through depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Chatbots can fill a multitude of roles from customer service representatives to diagnostic tools and therapists.

The writer is founder & director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.

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CANCER SURVIVORS MAY EXPERIENCE AGEING SOONER

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A new research indicated that cancer survivors, especially older people, are more likely to experience accelerated functional decline as they age, compared with those without a history of cancer.

The research was published in the ‘Journal of the American Geriatrics Society’. As per the research, between 2006 to 2019, 1728 men and women (aged 22 to 100 years) were evaluated, with 359 of these adults reporting a history of cancer.

Among all participants, a history of cancer was associated with a 1.42 greater odds of weak grip strength. Among participants older than 65 years of age, those with a history of cancer had a 1.61 greater odds of slow gait speed than those with no cancer history, and they had lower physical performance scores.

Also, older individuals with a history of cancer experienced steeper declines in grip strength and gait speed compared with older adults with no history of cancer.

“Findings from our study add to the evidence that cancer and its treatment may have adverse effects on ageing-related processes, putting cancer survivors at risk for accelerated functional decline,” said senior author Lisa Gallicchio, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute.

“Understanding which cancer survivors are at highest risk, and when the accelerated decline in physical functioning is most likely to begin, is important in developing interventions to prevent, mitigate, or reverse the adverse ageing-related effects of cancer and its treatment,” concluded Gallicchio.

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Dos and Don’ts for new mothers during pandemic

Rajesh Vohra

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During the current times of the Covid-19 pandemic where every one of us is trying to be perfect in adhering to the Covid-19 precautions and following hygiene regimes like never before, but there is still a lot of information out there which people are still discovering. From washing our hands numerous times in a day to the usage of disinfectants and sanitisers, we are trying to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and protected from infections and diseases. Talking about precautions, there are basic steps that everyone is aware of and must be following as per the advisories of health experts.

We understand that the outbreak of this pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have been tough and stressful for everyone, especially for new mothers who are breastfeeding and concerned about their baby’s health. In usual times, new parents could seek out social support and external help — but in current times given the restricted movements and social distancing, they have a lot of doubts and questions in their minds regarding breastfeeding and possible infections.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to get every new mom started on the right foot to safely breastfeed during the pandemic.

• First and foremost, breastfeed the baby: As soon as the child is delivered, the child must be breastfed within the very first hour. This is because Colostrum, that is the milk secreted during the first three days by the mother is rich in proteins and anti-infective nutrients that help build the child’s immunity and is essential for his healthy growth & development.

• Practice simple yet crucial hygiene measures while breastfeeding: to ensure that cleanliness and keeping viruses/infections at bay, it is essential to practice the basic hygiene steps such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after touching your baby.

• Wearing a face mask: It has been seen that some moms also wear a face mask while nursing especially if someone else is sick in the house. Therefore, to protect the baby fully, mothers may choose to wear a mask during feeding as a routine.

• Regular Disinfection of baby utilities: Apart from following the basic hygiene practices, new mothers must regularly and thoroughly clean and sterilise all baby feeding products after every use. If using a disinfectant for cleaning the products or surfaces, it is advisable to use a disinfecting liquid specially formulated for cleaning baby products or one must use sterilisers for cleaning baby utilities.

• Mothers must pay attention to their health: The challenges of new mothers can certainly feel overwhelming sometimes. Rest as much as you can — try sleeping when the baby does. Find time for yourself and relax when your partner or other caring adult watches the baby.

• Connect with family and friends: We understand that social distancing during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic can be isolating. Try video chats or social media to stay in touch with relatives and friends. This can help new mothers with emotional and social support.

• Precautions: While being sick, it is essential to take extra precautions like keeping distance from the baby, cleaning the breast pumps or spoons used to feed the baby, avoid touching the baby’s face, eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands etc. Also, be sure to clean visibly dirty or possibly contaminated surfaces your infant may touch.

Every new mom can be considerably worried to keep their newborn safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, but they should remember that Breastfeeding has many important health benefits for babies and mothers both and must be continued with precautions and guidance from the paediatrician or the doctor whenever necessary.

The writer is CEO, Artsana India (Chicco), in assistance with Chicco Research Centre.

We understand that social distancing during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic can be isolating. Try video chats or social media to stay in touch with relatives and friends. This can help new mothers with emotional and social support.

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COVID-19 RECOVERED INDIVIDUALS WITH 2 COVISHIELD DOSES HAVE HIGHER IMMUNITY AGAINST DELTA VARIANT

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A study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, has found that Covid-19-recovered individuals with both doses of Covishield have higher immunity against the Delta variant.

The study titled ‘Neutralisation Of Delta Variant With Sera of Covishield Vaccines And Covid-19 Recovered Vaccinated Individuals’ have assessed the neutralising antibody (NAb) response of individuals immunised with Covishield vaccine (first dose and second dose), Covid-19 recovered individuals who were vaccinated (first dose and second dose) and breakthrough infections (due to Kappa and the Delta variant). Delta variant has further mutated to Delta plus also known as AY.1.

It read, “The breakthrough cases and the Covid-recovered individuals with one or two doses of Covishield vaccine had relatively higher neutralising responses against the Delta variant in comparison to the participants who were administered either one or two doses of Covishield.”

Moreover, the study suggests that there should be tracking of ‘immune escape mutants’.

A comparative assessment of Covishield vaccinated individuals’ (n=116) sera in different categories was performed against prototype strain B.1 (D614G) and Delta variant.

Sera, under this study, were grouped into five categories: I. One dose (n=31), II. Two doses (n=31), III. Covid-19 recovered plus one dose (n=15), IV. Covid-19 recovered plus two doses (n=19) and V. Breakthrough Covid-19 cases (n=20).

All the sera were collected from the participants of the first four categories four weeks after vaccination. For the participants under the “breakthrough Covid-19 cases” category, the sera were collected two weeks after inoculating both doses, the study observes.

Currently, the vaccine appears to induce a robust hormonal and cellular immune response against the SARS-CoV 2 spike protein.

The earlier investigations demonstrated a reduction in NAb titers in the sera of Covishield vaccinees against the Kappa variant.

The study has found that it significantly lowers NAb titers for the Delta relative to B.1 variant.

However, it added that NAbs in breakthrough participants and the Covid-19 recovered individuals, who administered single or both doses, had relatively higher protection against Delta in comparison with individuals who took one or two-dose of Covishield.

Titer is a test that measures the presence and amount of antibodies in the blood. Through titer test the presence and amount of antibodies in the blood is measured.

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BARIATRIC SURGERY IN COVID TIMES

With the ongoing pandemic and coronavirus mutating, is this the right time for a Bariatric surgery? Let’s find out.

Dr Arun Prasad

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Rahul Misra (name changed), who was always on the heavier side, became excessively overweight because of his lockdown-infused sedentary lifestyle. When his day-to-day life activity started getting affected because of his poor health condition, he decided to shed the weight through excessive exercise. But, as a result, he developed spine and joint injuries. When he visited a doctor, he was suggested to undergo bariatric surgery or weight loss surgery. The delay in surgery led to prolonged recovery and unnecessary ICU admission.

Health experts across the globe recommend that one shouldn’t delay bariatric surgery once indications and needs have been established. Weight gain and worsening of related diseases while awaiting surgery leads to poor quality of life and also slow recovery rates. Our sedentary lifestyle has contributed to many health problems and obesity is one of them. It has been quite dismal to see how the remote working and staying at home during the pandemic and has led to a rise in obesity in children of Delhi by 51% as per a recent report. The situation is not grim only in the national capital; the National family health survey of India has shown an increase in obesity in all of the Indian states.

COVID AND BARIATRIC SURGERY

The surge in obesity cases could be mainly due to the lifestyle and a change in diet pattern as people are mostly consuming processed food, which is causing a disturbance in metabolism and insulin resistance in their bodies. As the government has now lifted the restrictions on elective surgeries, it’s just the apt moment to go for it. This surgery is done when diet and exercise haven’t worked or when somebody has serious health problems because of the weight. Robotic surgery and endoscopic bariatrics are examples of how new technology has given us more options. Also, the industry has come up with improved stapling and suturing devices. Even the hospitals are adhering to all the Covid safety guidelines with their healthcare staff vaccinated; patients should get their bariatric surgery done without any hesitation. It is advisable that people who had decided to undergo bariatric surgery before the start of the pandemic should consider having it done sooner rather than later to avoid any further adverse health outcomes.

PROCEDURES OF BARIATRIC SURGERY: ROBOTIC SURGERY IS THE WAY AHEAD

One can opt for bariatric surgery if he/she has a BMI of 32.5, with specific significant health problems like Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea or high blood pressure. A BMI of 37.5 or higher also is a qualifying criterion for the surgery. Depending on the BMI and patient requirements, endoscopic/laparoscopic/robotic surgery is offered. Endoscopic is preferred when a small amount of weight loss is needed and robotic is the choice in extreme cases. In robotic bariatric surgery, the latest in the field, the surgeon operates the procedures through a master console and the robotic patient cart operates through tiny holes on the patient similar to laparoscopy with much ease and precision. This procedure has many definite advantages over conventional laparoscopic surgery due to its 3D vision and precise intuitive multi-range instruments that add more safety to the patients. It also helps in better suturing skills and reduces post-operative pain and recovery time after surgery. Post-bariatric surgery, nutritional deficiencies can be a problem. However, it can be prevented by staying in close touch with the hospital team and following the dietary guidelines as suggested by the dietician. 

The writer is Senior Gastrointestinal & Bariatric Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi. 

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Love Nature To Lessen Covid Anxiety

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Young but fragile Himalaya is blessed with rich Biodiversity.Its valuable resources have traditionally served as the foundation for economic and cultural life of vast & vibrant population.

A few attitudinal differences and climate change developments coupled with variation in soil conservation create striking changes in the terrain having fabulous flora and fauna.Such a unique bio diversity not only encompasses ecological, scientific or economic values,it is a capital of inheritance,passed down generations, stressing the need for Sustainable Development.

BIOTIC INTERFERENCE

2) Developments of past and present indicate ,however, extremes of biotic interference.Making wise use of bio diversity inheritance should not be tutored.It has to be felt ,imbibed and carried forward when one is confronted with the tentacles of Corona Auntie And whims & fancies of the Covid Uncle.Without entering into realm of discussion on the origin of the virus,one should believe that SARS II virus is an off shoot of the prevailing environment.An environment throttled by one and all..

Fauna Such As Elephants Need Fresh Look

3) Coming to judicious utilisation rather than exploitation of floral & faunal wealth, there may be a need for a fresh approach.Not only farming communities near forests have to be sensitized to extract forest and non forest timber products properly but they also have to be briefed to leave ENOUGH scope for growth and sustenance of grass,shrubs,water bodies etc, vital for life of animals,such as,Lions,Elephants,Tigers, Deer etc.While saying so,one is not aiming to touch upon the crucial Food Chain,
rather the purpose is to prick our mind specifically about the plight of gentle Elephants,who,being vegetarian,show full loyalty towards their masters.
Of 27,000 Asian Elephants in India,21% reside in Assam.Due to loss of forest habitat, they are increasingly coming face to face with humans.Every year,around 100 of them, unfortunately, get killed.They are also misused in the Tourism industry.The Wildlife Protection Act,1972 bans the sale of captive & unregistered elephants.
The mere fact that they live,eat and move in groups or clusters,goes on to show their strong family instincts,something reflected glaringly in:

A) Episode of 18 elephants in Nagaon,Assam in May,2021 crushed by lightening And
B) Freak,directionless walk of over 500 kms by 15 elephants in Kunming area of Yunan province of China in June,2021.

Sympathy Is Necessary

4) Despite the inherent friendly attitude of the elephants and many other animals often the reports of Entry into the human habitations, hit the head lines.There has to be some reason for such an entry.What they get in return is hectic,irrational and merciless action.The facial expression of the fauna in such a situation shows their State of helplessness. The onlookers, never the less ,get sarcastic pleasure in having an exciting glimpse.Whether it is a case of entry by the loveable Monkeys.,Leopards,Tigers or the Elephants into towns of different states, these should not be considered as an intrusion by the animals.

Assertion of Rights

5) It is felt that such a behavior has to be viewed as a valiant act of ASSERTION of rights by certain species to counter the actual intrusion into their bonafide habitat by the shrewd human beings.There should be no justification to suppress or subjugate the innocent animals either by mechanical or muscle power.
Will our Forest Service friends wake up and take requisite action especially during the current wave of Covid,when almost two dozen “positive” tigers and couple of similar infected lions have already left the world ?
.Lingering threat to pets & domestic animals who soothen our feelings when we are tired & exhausted, also fill the atmosphere,time and again.

5) Having stated so,I may humbly submit :
“When the animal instinct among the humans crosses conceivable limits,the actual and bonafide sons and daughters of mother earth are left with no alternative but to react vehemently or justifiably”.

Unhealthy Tussle

6) It is not only the competition or tussle factor for a habitat between the animals and human beings, But it is a question of displaying adequate love and care for the natural endowments,indiscriminately gifted by the Almighty.

Saviour Duty

7) It may not be out of context to remind ourselves about the basic Hindu philosophy of emphasizing reverence to the flora and fauna right from childhood.For generations, plants, such as,Peepal,Banyan,Tulsi,Banana,Mango, etc.and the animals,namely,Cow,Bull,Lion,Tiger,Elephant,Monkey,Rat,Cobra snakes etc were being worshipped. Also the morning ritual of offering water to Sun God, Tulsi plant and Peepal tree not only has given the requisite faith & confidence to the worshippers but it can also teach us again the forgotten lesson to do everything possible to Preserve Flora & Fauna.

8) To Sum Up:

If we are mandated to avoid Social Interaction due to Corona virus and more lethal Third Wave, how can we afford to undermine similar “social” instinct among the animals?
Their state of hunger and helpless facial expressios during last two rounds of Lock Downs, calls for improving our overall attitude towards them. Timely food intake and sound health of fauna not only can improve their internal social behavior but it may also ensure a refined attitude towards their human handlers, caretakers or masters.
Even if we get rid of COVIDITY clinically, the love and affection displayed by the pets may prove much more valuable if not decisive in reducing our anxiety and depression. It may Ultimately Facilitate Satisfactory Healing of the Community.

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VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS ARE INEFFECTIVE FOR TREATING PAINFUL IBS SYMPTOMS

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A new study from the University of Sheffield has revealed that Vitamin D supplements are not an effective treatment for easing painful symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

The findings of the study appeared in the European Journal of Nutrition. Scientists from the University’s Department of Oncology and Metabolism – in conjunction with a health supplement company, BetterYou – carried out trials on participants who suffer from the chronic condition of the digestive system to assess whether vitamin D reduced the severity of their symptoms and whether it could improve their quality of life.

Results of the study found that despite an improvement in vitamin D status in the participants in response to a vitamin D3 oral spray supplementation over a 12-week trial, there was no difference to their IBS symptom severity over the same period, nor a reported change in the participants’ quality of life.IBS is a common functional bowel disorder, characterized by chronically relapsing perturbed bowel habits. It causes symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

For some, symptoms will come and go, but for others, it can severely affect their quality of life, often causing embarrassment leading to many living with the condition undiagnosed, affecting both mental health and wellbeing.

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