A majority of today’s radiological devices are available primarily in metropolitan and larger towns, leaving a visible shortage of these services in smaller cities and towns. But access to quality services is crucial in ensuring timely and accurate diagnoses.

Today, two out of three CT and MRI scanners are located in larger cities that house 30 per cent of the population, leaving the remainder with an unfair disadvantage. To end this, governments are investing in equipments that can bring high-quality diagnostic equipment to far-flung regions of the country. While this serves the purpose of getting high-quality scans, there is still a significant supply-demand gap for radiologists since the compensation and diversity of cases are not at par with metro and larger cities.

A glaring shortage of radiologists further exacerbates the gap in availability of these vital services, particularly in rural areas. Other challenges involve determining a viable price point. The service involves additional costs, and requires striking a balance between affordable pricing and sustaining it.

What the data show

The magnitude of such hurdles become evident when examining official statistics. Affordability is a key concern as the Indian government allocates only 2.1 per cent of its GDP to healthcare, starkly contrasting the 9.7 per cent spent by OECD countries. Additionally, 55 per cent of healthcare expenses in India are borne directly by citizens, placing a considerable financial burden.

AI-powered healthtech companies can help bridge the gap. It is conceivable for a digital diagnostic platform to transmit medical images to a radiologist anywhere in the world. This infrastructure can analyse and interpret images, offer visual indicators to enhance the diagnostic process and enable the timely delivery of reports.

Digital diagnostic delivery platforms have immense potential to augment the capabilities of radiologists, assisting in diagnosing and analysing medical images more efficiently. This synergy of human expertise and technological innovation can significantly improve the efficiency of radiology services and alleviate the burden on radiologists, thereby addressing the shortage.

Today’s diagnostic landscape is witnessing around 23 per cent of chest X-rays with a growing need to enhance the accuracy and turnaround time of X-ray reporting. The integration of AI-based X-ray reporting solutions has been proven beneficial here. With continued investment and collaboration between governments, healthcare providers and health-tech companies, we can strive for a future where reliable diagnostic services are accessible to all.

(The writer is CEO with 5C Network, a Tata 1MG backed healthtech start-up. Views are personal.)