The establishment of the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) five years ago provided the right impetus to undertake interdisciplinary research on validating the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda using modern tools and technologies. . How to use advanced technologies and more particularly the metaverse to deliver quality Ayurvedic care? Before we dive deeper into that, a brief overview of how Ayurveda has come to be accepted over the years.
Ayurveda is based on the concept that a disease is caused by an imbalance in the Tridoshas (life forces) – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The idea of universal interconnection, the constitution of the body (prakriti), Sortdoshas, and the concept of “agni” (fire) form the basis of Ayurvedic treatment. Ayurveda’s approach is holistic in promoting lifestyle interventions and natural therapies.
Ayurvedic medicines have worked well in cases of chronic respiratory infection, arthritis and headaches. Instead of just treating the symptoms, Ayurveda tries to tackle the root cause. Ayurveda is a leader in the treatment of jaundice, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and even autoimmune diseases.
A new trend is emerging where people are turning to Ayurveda for gestational health issues and neonatal care. This can be attributed to Ayurveda’s approach to the physical and psychological development of the newborn.
Ayurvedic immunity boosters have helped reduce mortality during the Covid pandemic. A recent AIIA report shows how Ayurvedic treatment can be an effective and safe solution for drug addiction. The report states that the Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale (COWS) score fell from 22 to three after three weeks of treatment.
Over the past 20 to 25 years, the awareness and acceptance of Ayurveda as a common form of medical intervention has improved dramatically in India. It is no surprise that the number of colleges offering graduate degrees – Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) has grown from 240 in 2011 to over 450 now.
Adoption of technology in Ayurveda
With the availability of affordable phones, tablets, and low-cost internet, digital awareness is on the rise. With technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Alternate Reality (AR), and Metaverse, a highly reliable healthcare system can be created with Ayurveda.
Ayurveda has lost the latest technological advances seen in the allopathic medical field. But even now, by adopting the latest technologies, Ayurveda-based diagnosis and treatment can be improved.
The good news is that several competing products are either in advanced research or in pilot use. For example, automatic plant/grass classification using computer vision and machine learning (ML) algorithms can help improve productivity. Geolocation (to identify a specific location) can be used for the conservation of medicinal plants.
Ayurveda offers personalized treatment. Each person is different with unique physiological attributes. The ‘nadi parikshap (or pulse examination) using sensors and AI can help identify the patient’s Prakriti and thus understand the ailments. This can greatly reduce human errors of diagnosis. Companies offer Ayurvedic assessment and treatment using mobile apps. The government should update the flagship app Aarogya Setu with Ayurvedic aspects.
It is important to note that government initiatives to digitize Ayurveda texts are a huge contribution to supporting Ayurveda research. For example, an easy-to-use digital version of Charaka Samhita was created by the National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage (NIIMH).
Technologies such as AI, ML, and VR would become core components of Metaverse. Today we live a separate physical and digital life and the metaverse will blur the two lives. Metaverse is a simulated digital environment where people can interact/collaborate in real time and the whole experience would be natural and intuitive. In the future, the availability of wearable technologies and sensors would mean that patients could experience a personalized digital assistant (or avatar) that would aid in initial diagnosis and help the patient track Ayurvedic medications, the diet and exercise routine suggested by the doctor. The doctor can monitor patients remotely and suggest changes.
Student education can be transformed with an immersive learning experience with rich visual aspects and achieve precision learning. Medical schools in the United States are experimenting with AR to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities.
Reports suggest that gamification is a key differentiator in the metaverse and would provide a new way to connect the health ecosystem.
The government should commit to a long-term technology strategy for Ayurveda to create a research-driven ecosystem with AIIA, leading Ayurvedic institutions and leading technology institutions like IISc and the IIT.
Engaging the start-up ecosystem to bring advanced technologies for Ayurveda can drive collaboration and innovation in precision diagnosis and treatment. How about a five-year goal for a functioning metaverse for Ayurvedic healthcare workers? Technology alone can show the way to bring back the glory of Ayurveda.
(G Krishna Kumar is an ICT professional and columnist based in Bengaluru, and Dr Lakshmi N Prasad is an Ayurvedic practitioner based in Sringeri, Karnataka)