Artificial intelligence is changing the manner in which healthcare is being perceived. Its use, though limited in traditional medicine, is picking up where it can help in predictive analytics and patient analysis.
Though AI is proving to be an invaluable tool in the field of healthcare, experts also sound a word of caution. Ayush Ministry Secretary Rajesh Kotecha said, “While AI in healthcare and traditional medicine holds great promise, there are many ethical, legal and social issues that need to be addressed, such as privacy, bias and inclusivity.” Kotecha highlighted the manner in which the ministry was focusing on building the Ayush Grid, the comprehensive IT backbone. He emphasized the importance of the National Digital Health ecosystem via Namaste Portal and how '@moayush' is working to make it ICD11 compliant. He was speaking during the two-day conference on traditional medicine which concluded here in Gandhinagar.
The conference looked at opportunities for advancing traditional medicine (TM) in a scientific and evidence-based manner and to understand the use of new technology and emerging digital capabilities, regulatory issues, integrating it with the mainstream medical stream for overall health. With the WHO anchoring the conference, the focus is back on TM as people are increasingly relying on traditional and native medicine to deal with lifestyle diseases. Health experts, academicians, government officials and ministers spoke about best practices in the field and exchanged notes on replicating good models in their countries.
Dr Vinod Paul of NITI Aayog addressed the audience on the needs, opportunities and ways of establishing integrative medicine in a pluralistic healthcare society. “India has a long tradition of traditional medicine curated by revered sages. A plethora of traditional medicine systems have existed since time immemorial like Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homeopathy. Today, India has a vibrant healthcare system with 789 Ayush colleges, training institutes, hospitals and clinics.” Noting that Ayurveda is practised in 93 countries today but is recognised in 18 countries only, he urged that leaders, academics and practitioners in traditional medicine should be trained in modern research methodology.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also addressed the gathering at the interphase session between the G20 health Ministers and traditional medicine conference. He welcomed all the dignitaries to India and his home state of Gujarat on behalf of the 1.4 billion people of India, the 2.1 million doctors, 3.5 million nurses, 1.3 million paramedics, 1.6 million pharmacists and millions of others involved in the health care sector in India.
Modi lauded India’s National Telemedicine Service, e-Sanjivani, for facilitating 140 million Telehealth consultations to date. He added that India has also successfully facilitated the largest vaccination drive in human history and delivered more than 2.2 billion fraction doses.
The Prime Minister underlined that the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that health should be at the centre of our decisions. He said that time also showed us the value of international cooperation, whether in medicine and vaccine deliveries or in bringing our people back home.
Highlighting Government of India’s humanitarian initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccine to the world, the Prime Minister said under the Vaccine Maitri initiative, India delivered 300 million vaccine doses to more than 100 countries, including many in the Global South.
Calling resilience one of the biggest lessons during the pandemic, Modi said global health systems should be resilient. “We must be ready to prevent, prepare, and respond to the next health emergency. This is especially important in today's interconnected world. As we saw during the pandemic, health issues in one part of the world can affect all other parts of the world in a very short time.”
“In India, we are following a holistic and inclusive approach,” Modi added. He said, “We are expanding health infrastructure, promoting traditional systems of medicine, and providing affordable healthcare to all. The global celebration of the International Day of Yoga is a testament to the universal desire for holistic health. This year, 2023, is being marked as the International Year of Millets. Millets or ‘Shri anna’ as they are known in India, have several health benefits.”
Addressing the gathering, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General asserted that traditional medicine has its own intrinsic value. “It has been practised around the world for millennia. The closer we come to the cutting age of medical science, the more we can learn from other traditions,” he said.
Union Minister of Ayush, Sarbananda Sonowal, stated, "India has the potential to set the world healthcare sector with a more holistic approach towards healthy lifestyle practises and we can lead the world with a comprehensive wellness solution. The credit for the promotion and dissemination of traditional medicine is due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Sonowal added, “The Ministry of Ayush is committed to realizing the Prime Minister's vision of integrating traditional medicine, a reality for the country.”
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya also praised WHO's efforts in traditional medicine stating that it will benefit global health. “Integration of traditional medicine with modern medicine would contribute to advancing the health system attributes related to quality, efficiency, equity, accountability, sustainability and resilience,” Mandaviya said.
He highlighted that “during the COVID-19 crisis, traditional medicines had played a very important role through scientific and evidence-based medicines in terms of preventive, therapeutic and public health management”. “Ministry of Health and the Ministry of AYUSH work closely to integrate, endorse, and develop holistic health, including through availability of traditional medicines and yoga in 150,000+ Health and Wellness Centres and by establishing centres of integrated medicines in our tertiary hospitals”, he stated.
As there is a push for integration of traditional medicine with the mainstream medicine, Prof Bhushan Patwardhan of Savitribai Phule Pune University said, “Traditional medicine plus conventional medicine is tomorrow's modern medicine.”