Indian government should increase public spending on healthcare: Gerald Attia, Alten Calsoft Labs

Gerald Attia - DQ

According to Gartner, healthcare providers in India are expected to spend $1.2 bn on IT products and services in 2015, an increase of 7% over 2014. The key reason of increased IT investment is that the sector is viewing technology as an antidote to address a number of issues. With regards to this, Dataquest spoke to Gerald Attia, Deputy CEO and Cofounder, Alten Calsoft Labs, to get more insights on the challenges the healthcare sector is facing and where does the future lie. Excerpts..

 

How is technology changing the face of healthcare industry?

In the current scenario, emphasis is more on the ‘patient-centric’ services. According to the research firm Gartner, healthcare providers in India are expected to spend $1.2 bn on IT products and services in 2015 and patient care experiences is a top concern among healthcare organizations across the globe. The changing practice pattern of doctors with the rapidly transforming medical technology and the availability of technology diagnostic and therapeutic equipment has revolutionized the way healthcare is being delivered today. Starting from patient registration till he is healed, every service can be made better with the help of software.

Eliminating manual entries and tags has helped to remove duplication and ensure smooth, seamless flow of information, thereby improving quality. Modern technologies have also enabled digitization of medical records and accessibility of the healthcare systems from remote locations. Technology has been a key enabler in improving the quality of care by setting up electronic trails that evaluate, calculate, dissect, and ascribe accountability. The integration of information technology and network has revolutionized the way doctors and patients interact, with digital and human aspects being pivotal to the complete patient experience.

What are the challenges that the end users face?

The healthcare delivery environment in India has distinctive challenges. Currently, the sector is facing the challenges of accessibility, infrastructure, and quality. Some other challenges faced by Indian CIOs in adopting IT into the Indian healthcare system include:

  • Lack of standards: Healthcare service providers have to face several problems while designing and implementing healthcare management systems as there is no standard systems in place like HIPAA in India.
  • Lack of in-house IT domain knowledge: Most of the hospitals focus on care delivery and have low investment in IT.
  • Reluctance of medical, nursing, and other staff to adjust to change.„„
  • Apprehensions around technology failures (paper systems appear more reliable).

Can you briefly explain the technologies and solutions that have really changed the rules of the game?

Indian technology solutions providers, irrespective of their size, have an opportunity to use the disruptive technologies like cloud and mobility and change the way healthcare is provided in our country and create a sustainable competitive advantage in the market place. It is clear that the disrupting technologies like cloud and mobility will be a major driver in changing the face of Indian healthcare industry and making India a healthy nation. It is imperative that both healthcare providers and technology providers need to show agility, and out-of-the-box thinking capability to come out with innovative solutions to contribute to this growth journey.

Healthcare providers can use cloud computing effectively to solve many of these challenges. A cloud-based telemedicine system that can be accessed over a low cost tablet can go a long way in increasing the access to healthcare as this can enable people in remote areas to reach out to expert doctors in a much lower cost. Since cloud-based solutions are generally delivered on a ‘pay per use’ model, it creates less strain on existing financial resources, at the same time an optimized use of skilled human resources.

Similarly, a cloud-based patient health record portal, accessible through a tablet, can increase operational efficiencies and reduce the diagnostic costs. A cloud-based healthcare information system integrated with patient health record portal can increase operational efficiencies in any hospital manifolds without creating a big dent on the hospitals’ financial resources. Similarly, a cloudbased laboratory information system can reduce the cost of drug discovery which can result in low-cost medicines for our country.

What according to you are the areas where government should invest to make healthcare available to everyone on the go?

To understand how these technologies can change the healthcare landscape and how the government should intervene, let us understand the two facades of the challenges in healthcare—one in providing healthcare solution to all and to grow the industry faster enough. These two challenges are two sides of the coin and cannot be solved independently. At a macro level these challenges are caused by:

  • „„ Unavailability of healthcare to a major part of the population
  • „„ Infrastructure, skilled doctors, care providers, and basic medicines
  • Resource constraints, financial and workforce to create infrastructure required to provide healthcare for all
  • Inefficiencies in healthcare operations due to low automation and isolated systems.

The Indian government should increase public spending on health with a minimum of 3% of GDP by 2020, and 4% by 2025. However, increased healthcare financing alone will not suffice unless it is backed by accessible and efficient delivery mechanism. Government needs to take a holistic approach like development of standard treatment guidelines, prescription audit, quality assurance methods, incentives for low-cost medical device manufacturing, investment in health education and care delivery infrastructure and usage of modern day technology to improve performance, efficiency, and accountability in the public and private sectors.

How do you see the ICT impact on the Indian healthcare industry?

Indian healthcare industry is currently estimated at $60 bn and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15%, which indicates the increased need for the Indian healthcare technology solution providers to embrace new technologies like cloud, mobility, and big data in order to address the challenge of delivering quality patient care and to create sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

According to research firm Gartner, healthcare providers in India are expected to spend $1.2 bn on IT products and services in 2015, an increase of 7% over 2014. This forecast includes spending by healthcare providers (includes hospitals, as well as ambulatory service and physicians practices) on internal services, software, IT services, data center, devices and telecom services. Also it is expected to reach $334 mn in 2015, growing 7% over 2014.

Though the usage of IT solutions for the healthcare industry in India is not very high. But due to the private sector investments in healthcare sector and increase in the use of modern diagnostic and treatment solutions, we see that care providers and associated service providers like health insurers are adopting information technology at a much faster pace than earlier. Fuelled by the increasing demand, Indian technology solution providers need to develop innovative solutions to seize this opportunity and create a strong healthcare technology industry.

Technology advancements in healthcare informatics, telemedicine, HIS, electronic health records, analytics, remote diagnostic, and therapeutic tools have pivoted the first step towards tech enabled healthcare. The implementation of technology is a cost-effective and compelling method to connect clinics in the cities as well as rural regions. Although there are healthcare challenges we are facing today, the good news is that we have innovative solutions to address these formidable challenges.

Today, healthcare organizations need to streamline their IT infrastructure, to be able to provide simple, quicker, and more efficient healthcare service or delivery. The healthcare solutions promote a new productivity model whereby the ultimate winner is the patient, who will now have instant equitable access to the best clinical expertise.

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