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With CoWIN, India has prioritized in making platform scalable: AWS health lead Nicola Murphy

With CoWIN, India has prioritized in making platform scalable: AWS health lead Nicola Murphy

Murphy spoke to BT about how the technology can benefit India and the world beyond COVID-19 pandemic.

With CoWIN, India has prioritized in making platform scalable: AWS health lead Nicola Murphy With CoWIN, India has prioritized in making platform scalable: AWS health lead Nicola Murphy

While Indian government is pooling in major efforts to digitize health data, technologies like cloud computing that can drive data interoperability are in focus. Nicola Murphy, International Government Health Lead, Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the leaders in healthcare cloud computing market, spoke to BT about how the technology can benefit India and the world beyond pandemic. Edited excerpts... 

 

What is the future of cloud computing? 

 

We are scratching the surface of what is possible in the cloud for healthcare applications at the moment. Cloud technology is the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. AWS provides a secure infrastructure for computing resources like analytics, machine learning, databases, storage, etc. Our customers, including healthcare organizations use those services with their data, and they retain complete control and ownership of the data that they choose to use with those services.  

 

What are the important areas in the healthcare sector in terms of cloud computing? How did AWS help India with its technology? 

 

There are three important areas in the healthcare. The first is the agility of the cloud. You can get from idea to insight or from idea to implementing something in orders of magnitude more quickly than you might be able to do otherwise. We've seen this being extremely useful in response to quickly changing demands during the pandemic and it will be useful for organizations going forward as well. The second area is the flexibility of the cloud. It's possible to scale up and scale down the cloud in response to changing demands. Hence, it's not necessary to predict what demand might look like days, weeks, months, or even years ahead of time. We saw this being beneficial during the pandemic when suddenly there was new demand that anyone could not have predicted before 2020. For example, we worked with a volunteering and startup organization in India called Project StepOne that built a telemedicine solution on AWS Cloud to augment government COVID-19 response resources by allowing volunteers with the required background and skills to work remotely and directly into government systems. They help solve issues like staff shortages, delays in training and onboarding, and creating a system that can shrink or grow in line with government capacity. Project StepOne has empaneled more than 12000 volunteering Doctors, has more than 30,000 total volunteers and has supported more than 21 states and union territories. It has already facilitated over 8.5 million tele-consultations and mental health counseling sessions for citizens via volunteer health professionals and is estimated to have prevented over 500,000 new infections. During the second wave of the pandemic in India (March 2021 onwards), Project StepOne witnessed an average of around 5 million events and an incoming traffic load of around 2 million sessions per day which it seamlessly scaled by 8 times since March 2021 by leveraging AWS services. 

The third and final area which is highly relevant for healthcare organizations in the world which AWS is very passionate about and committed to is helping health systems to achieve their overall mission. It does not mean simply providing IT infrastructure, but also understanding what challenges and priorities they have and how we can get alongside them to support that. As an example, we've seen several health systems globally, focusing on the point of health equity, and wanting to promote greater health equity. Something that we saw was impacted during the pandemic were individuals who generally had poor health outcomes before tended to be more severely impacted by the health impacts of COVID-19. That's an area where we saw the cloud responding or having been used to respond to the pandemic and will be used will go forward as well.  

Are there any specific engagements of AWS with the Indian government? 

 

The government of India developed an end-to-end vaccination platform called CoWIN; this is a great example of the scalability and flexibility of the cloud. India has prioritized making the platform scalable, inclusive, and open—sharing the platform globally for public good. As per the CoWIN dashboard in May 2022, over 1.9 billion vaccination doses have been administered in India. As per data from CoWIN as of September 2021, India achieved a milestone by administering 22.5 million vaccination doses in a single day, clocking 28,000 doses per minute or 466 doses per second.  There’s another example of AWS supporting government in healthcare innovations in India – C-DAC’s work with AWS on eSanjeevaniOPD. 

That's again a great example of agility and speed. As you would know, C-DAC is a premier research and development organization of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, tasked with strengthening India’s technology capabilities and applications by developing and deploying world-class electronic and technology solutions. As COVID-19 hit and India went into lockdown, outpatient departments at hospitals and clinics around the country closed down. C-DAC worked with AWS to build and launch the eSanjeevaniOPD teleconsultation service in just 19 days and initially rolled it out to four states in India. eSanjeevaniOPD has so far served delivered over 3 crore (30 million) tele-consultations in India, and has set a record of completing 1.7 lakh (170,000) consultations in a single day. This service has helped people across 28 states in India to seek medical support virtually from the confines of their homes.  
 

How do we ensure that patient data is safe while using these technologies, especially in a country like India? What India can learn from the world? 

 

Security is our number one priority. Organizations that use AWS retain complete control over their data. So, they choose where they use the platform, and how they use it, and there are several tools that AWS provides to support them to do that, but they retain complete control and ownership of their data and are responsible for managing the data on the platform securely. There are several areas where AWS supports this though. The infrastructure that AWS is built on is built for the most security-sensitive organizations in the world. And that's the same infrastructure that we use in all of our regions including regions like India. 


That means any organization that is using AWS can benefit from a high level of focus on security across all aspects of the infrastructure. We have several security-related regions that our clients can use to learn how to use AWS safely, some of which are specialized in healthcare. In the US many of our services are eligible for HIPPA. In the UK, it is the NHS Data Security and Protection Toolkit that helps organizations process or stores NHS healthcare data that can be used to assess the platform against the security standards, set out by the UK NHS. AWS Cloud is very secure and we have several certifications that can be used to support this. Organizations that use AWS retain complete control and ownership over their data through the range of tools.  

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