An Interview with Dr. Tavpritesh Sethi – IT and Healthcare


Dr. Tavpritesh Sethi, Scientist Fellow and Physician Scientist, CSIR – 4 PI, is an eminent name in the field of Genomic studies at CSIR – IGIB Labs at New Delhi. An interview over the current status of IT associated with Medical science and the rate of diffusion it has been accepted in diverse medical facilities for enhance effect and better services.

Extracts of Interaction –

The mission of IGIB says – “To translate concepts developed in basic biological research to commercially technologies for healthcare”. Do you think the translational part holds importance and contribution of IT?

One Aspect of IT where you have state of art medical facilities delivered to the outreach because of the IT advances only.

The other aspect of IT that comes in these kinds of things is the next part of it and  which is being addressed by me.For example – The data you get from typically, traditionally, epidemiological researches done by people going in and doing surveys. Social science people can go and they take survey forms and medical students can go and fill out the surveys in their trainings. Let’s say- In Public Medicine and SPM (Social and Preventive Medicine). Medical students have 3-4 months of project training in their course where they actually have to spend their time in villages and rural areas. The truth is that most of these trainings or projects are done correctly. But the credibility is not there. They may be done by proxies at many times. We just don’t look the correct data.

But, the IT data that we are getting here is all locked in the computer system. So, to analyse the data, let’s say I have to answer a question about a public health problem that is suppose coming up in Haryana. Suppose the problem of Foeticide…Female Foeticide. Now this problem if is done through surveys, I believe it would be hugely flawed because the people won’t be giving right answers. But if everything is logged on to the computer system, for example how many ultrasounds were done in this three month period, is locked down in the computer. How many ultrasounds were done for the abdominal region? How many showed the presence of the foetus? How many were done on females and how many foetuses were females? So, you could have an idea of how much is the prevalence of Foetus testing.

The third angle the IT provides is managing such huge amount of data without paper and then using those database systems for analysing and making predictions. One example could be like tracking traditionally a source of a disease to a particular person or locality from where it spreads and how it spreads, but now, we could start predictive models, predictions about the state of the health of a community where that health centre is deployed.

So, if I know from the data obtained over last one year that these are the trends in the data during these seasons or during these age groups, that during this season we need more backup of such medicines or more of elderly patients are seen in these 3-4 months than the younger patients. So, these are the types of typical questions that are very difficult to answer if I have to go back to paper research and start fishing up that information out of that paper.

If you have all the data computerised, then you can start analysing the data right away with the state of art IT technologies. It is a model of Data driven machine. That data give you hints. You don’t really need to know a-priori that what the person is coming for. You can look at the data, and if you have a large database, you can look upon the patterns and then you can make hypothesis.


To what level according to you IT and computing facilities may involve in medical activities of future?

IT for healthcare has two parts :

  1. Technological and the other is
  2. Analytical

The pattern analysis of large databases can render huge amount of insights which are not otherwise possible. As a concept, IT has a huge role to play in analysing the electronic medical record data and to make predictions about it.

For example – Which patients in ICU are more susceptible to crash or die in next 24 hrs, who needs more care etc. Suppose 300 patients are sitting in an OPD, which person to call first according to requirement and urgency… the Queuing system. IT with technology basically is going a long way in that.

Now, we are moving towards in the next phase where we are doing Analytics. The database records what the investigations are been done… age, gender, and ultrasound details. So, you know if it is a female and an ultrasound is been conducted… it is probably a target (of foeticide). The point is, if somebody comes in with intent to get a prenatal diagnosis sex, how many such people comes for being diagnosed for prenatal sex determination. But, if you see in your data, now we can go back to data, and see that in Haryana, lots of females are coming up for ultrasound and they are pregnant, then we may have public health question there, which could not be really correctly addressed from surveys. So, IT provides more of Credibility to the data.


IT in Medical- Outsourcing medical consultations, prescriptions, remotely guided surgeries…what next?

And one major direction that we have not touched upon as yet and we don’t really traditionally consider that as a part of health yet but slowly it is coming into the mainstream and doctors have started recognizing it is the use of Personal Devices for the end care. Your smartphones, and everything, smart watches, smart bands etc. You will see that it has already been coming up in the last 1-2 years and they will increasingly show up in the mainstream medicine. It is the move towards Preventive dimension of Medicine.

Traditionally we go to a doctor when we are sick, but now you will be tracking your own health over a period of time and that means they would be able to buy themselves some time, disease tendencies will be caught up even before they start affecting. That means we are promoting health. Community as a whole through IT is moving in a direction of promoting and preventing health diseases rather than treating them.


How IT is been implemented in your research and findings?

The Genomics data…by definitions Genome means the entire set of genes and our set of genes is about 20000-25000 genes and each gene have multiple forms which are called transcript form, isoform. This means that when we look at genomic data, it is a huge data. You can’t actually write this data on a paper form. It is like to study 40000 to 50000 variables for each individual and then you are looking at multiple individuals. So, the traditional medical looks only to 4-5 variables at a time. Hence we may look by the help and application of IT that Genomics could be studied efficiently.

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