Digital disruption in healthcare is a positive outcome in India

|October 17, 2016 0

Anil Chopra

Digital disruption is happening across most industries today. While it’s threatening the very existence of some industries, the outcome in healthcare is exactly the opposite. Digital is actually a boon for the healthcare segment in India. To understand its impact on healthcare in India, we had a free-wheeling chat with Arvind Sivaramakrishna, CIO, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd. Here are the excerpts:

What are some of the key IT trends in healthcare and how are they different? 

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Today, a lot of focus is on disruptive technologies that can help augment both operational delivery and clinical delivery of healthcare. We’re seeing a lot of thrust in mobility and cognitive analytics, E-Health and M-Heath as solutions to help overall delivery of healthcare. Though these areas are still pretty young, but there’s a very positive forecast for it. We’re also seeing a lot of focus on information security in healthcare.

Another very positive trend in healthcare is on standards. The govt. of India has done a very positive and path breaking move of notifying standards and putting forth a proposal for the formation of national e-health authority.

Please throw some light on the mega healthcare event you’ve planned in Chennai next week and major announcements if any you’re planning to make.

We’re hosting the 7th International Conference on Transforming Healthcare with IT on October 21-22 in Chennai. It will bring healthcare and the IT industry under one platform to discuss and deliberate realistic and ‘implement’-able solutions.

So all the trends and standards I just explained would be discussed at the conference, which will have eminent speakers from 14 countries. There’ll be sessions and a healthcare technology exhibition by 15-20 startups.

Leading CIOs would also attend and discuss how technology can be implemented and sustained because ultimately, they’re responsible for delivering solutions. We’re also expecting Angel investors to be a part of the forum.

Another conference highlight is a Master class by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Electronic Medical Records standards as well as security and privacy policy that’s been in deliberation under the national e-health authority.

A major announcement will be that the College of Health Information Management Executives will launch its India chapter. CHIME as it’s called, is aimed for executives to have a career and continued education on Health IT.

More details can be found at http://transformhealth-it.org/.

How significant is digital disruption in the healthcare sector?

Disruption in this sector is on the positive side because the gap between demand and supply is increasing. As consumers, we expect the best services 24×7, which is leading to a skill gap in servicing this demand. So the ability to have disruptive technologies aid traditional healthcare will have a force multiplier effect and a positive impact on healthcare delivery.

How is technology helping to deal with basic healthcare issues that plague India today, like difficulty in finding the right doctor, or making physicians more easily accessible, or dealing with the low doctor to patient ratio. India has just one doctor for every 1,681 patients as per Medical Council of India. What’s Apollo doing to meet these challenges?

Digital comes into a very powerful play to tackle all these challenges. We have solutions under the brand name of Askapollo.com, where we offer virtual consultation through the digital medium by professionals anytime and from anywhere. This is where accessibility of healthcare is greatly improved by reducing the gap between demand and supply of core healthcare services.

The Electronic ICU or eICU, is another initiative by Apollo, which allows us to monitor the health of patients under intensive care in smaller towns. The healthcare is short staffed when it comes to ICUs, but with this, we can ensure that experts are available to a larger number of patients.

Tele-medicine is built on this principle, and Apollo has a large practice on this.

Another critical concern is that patients often want to seek a second opinion from another doctor. Our solution provides this facility as well, wherein patients can connect with doctors who’re outside of Apollo also.

Another area of concern in healthcare is accountability, or being able to take patients’ feedback to improve the quality of healthcare. How is digital technology helping enable that?

We’re looking at technology to improve operational efficiency. By using EMRs (Electronic Medical Records), we ensure evidence based practices are rightly followed with the right alerts and reminders so that care providers can maintain quality. It helps keep quality of care always as a prime factor, including patient feedback. So even if there’s adverse feedback, it has to be responded to, else you’ll lose patients.

At Apollo, we use tech enabled voice of customers, and even capture instant feedback at the point of care (anonymously, if patients don’t want to share it openly). Another important area is to build analytics around social media listening for sentiment analysis.

Besides using technology to analyze feedback, it’s also important to increase the maturity level of accepting feedback. Because if the sentiment exists, it’s important to understand and respond to it appropriately, so that healthcare services can be improved.

Only a fraction of the Indian population has the privilege of being able to access digital technologies. How are you ensuring that you can provide healthcare services to the rest of the population? How are you making it more affordable? 

Digital can help from scale and magnitude. By using common medium like mobility and doing it for large volume of people, the logical cost for it can be reduced. We’re trying to do that with Askapollo types of services.

We’re trying to eliminate the misnomer that technology is only for the elite, but for across the economic spread.

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