Preserve medical knowledge

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Preserve medical knowledge

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 | kM Cherian

It is important to make optimum use of cloud storage to preserve information on specimens and procedures, which can help save lives in the future

We are living in fascinating times where we are discovering new things in the medical field every single day. This is all thanks to the major technological strides that we have taken. For instance, take the COVID-19 virus. Ever since its emergence in 2020, we have been discovering a new fact about it daily. This is all due to the technological advancements that mankind has made in the field of medical science, especially in the branch of surgery.

It is important for future surgeons and healthcare professionals in the country to understand the history of various procedures and build on it further.  However, not all progress in the medical field is documented in the right way. Therefore, there is a need for earnest attempts towards utilising latest technological processes, preserving and imparting knowledge for medical posterity worldwide.

In this era of knowledge exchange through the internet, it is important to make optimum use of cloud storage to preserve information on specimens and procedures, which can help save many lives in the future. Although Nalanda was one of the first universities in the world, the knowledge gathered through various studies at that time could not be preserved for perpetuity. This was a big loss for mankind.

Hence, in order to ensure continuity and development in medical science, the first thing that needs to be done is digitisation of case files and procedures. Although a lot of hospitals and healthcare organisations have digitised their patient files and stored them server-backed medical record systems, it is important for smaller establishments to do that as well.

Live surgeries can be captured through body cameras or CCTV cameras. In addition, it is imperative to store these files properly on a secure cloud server since there is a chance that hard disks and drives can be corrupted, stolen or tampered with. Given the fact that they contain confidential data about patients which could be misused if they fall into the wrong hands, it is vital to protect these files and maintain security.

Second, there is a dire need for us to get insights from the data we have and use it for treatment, surgeries and research and development. Data are available in abundance, but we need to use the right set of tools such as Big Data and analytics to draw insights from the information given and create an impact. Analytics can be used in predicting the pattern in certain medical conditions and how it can be treated. For example, if we take all the cases of bypass surgeries conducted so far (in the last few decades) in a particular age group and find a common pattern, it would be extremely useful for the future.

Similarly, 3D printing and 3D modeling are very important innovations for training doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing is a process in which a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material, all of which are thinly sliced sections of the proposed object. Then the said object is designed on the computer using a Computer-Aided Designing Software and made suitable for 3D printing requirements. Since it is not possible to have actual models/cadavers every time to train medical students (especially in the COVID-era) where the intricacies of each organ can be explored, having 3-D models with movable parts will be very useful for mock surgery training.

Another significant step for future training of surgeons and healthcare professionals is making knowledge accessible. This  means the information should be available across mediums and platforms for everyone alike, without any bias. We must not put monetary caps and restrict the free flow of knowledge. Instead, we should aim at creating virtual knowledge hubs, specialised in each field of medicine and surgery. World-renowned experts can be a part of this panel and help aspiring professionals with guidance from time to time.

Nalanda University was one of the first universities in the world, founded in 5th century BC, and was reported to have been visited by the Lord Buddha during his lifetime. At its peak, in the 7th century AD, Nalanda hosted some 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers when it was visited by the Chinese scholar Xuanzang. It had multiple specialties including arts, science and medicine. But all the knowledge was lost due to the lack of the technology needed to preserve that know-how.

It is important to connect ancient wisdom with modern science. These efforts will result in transmission and retrieval of data to educate the future generations, thus preventing another knowledge massacre. Fortunately, we are in a position to preserve knowledge now.

(The writer is a Padma Shri awardee and cardiothoracic surgeon credited with India's first bypass. He is Chairman and CEO of Frontier Lifeline Hospital. The views expressed are personal.)

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