4G Health: The care goes Techy

By:  A. T. Rajan, MD & CEO of Ricoh India

Technology is a very important tool to overcome the current challenges of Indian healthcare sector. Even WHO recognizes that Technology can transform the face of healthcare services across the globe.

However the numbers indicate a concerning situation of the healthcare sector in India, currently our overall spend on healthcare is among the lowest @ 4- 5% of GDP, as compared to other developing nations. Further the government investment is even lower at 1.3% of GDP, and most of the government spend is either on manpower – 30%, or running health programs or building infrastructure. As a result there is not much focus and budget allocation for implementing technology in healthcare

Further the private sector (healthcare providers) typically allocates around 1% of total capex for IT (which includes infra, software and services), and most of that investment is in Infra. Whereas if you look at developed economy they investment in infra is the lowest and highest in service and software. Also we are not really utilizing IT for providing quality, accessible, and affordable care and for improving the performance.

Till the providers both government and private sector recognize that IT can actually bring patients closer to them, improve quality of care and reduce cost of delivering care we will continue to have that gap. Further the government also needs to come up with some clear vision, guidelines and white paper for adopting technology in healthcare which can be guiding document for not only the provider but technology partners as well.

Some areas where Technology is impacting healthcare in India:

  1. Currently our healthcare sector is mainly about sick – care, and technology can help in creating health awareness and influencing behavior
    1. Dissemination of information to masses on adopting healthy living practices
    2. Running ICT programs on Mobile, TV, social media (there are currently more than 900 million mobile users, and 200 million plus internet users in India)
    3. Tracking health online – apps, gadgets
    4. Connecting patients live with their physicians for monitoring health
    5. Today less than 50% patients regularly take their medication, auto reminders from clinicians clinic
    6. Health call centers for seeking immediate remedial
  1. Overcoming infrastructure gaps:
    1. Tele medicine, and tele radiology if deployed effectively then it will really bridge the gap between patients and provider.
    2. While lot of initiatives have already been taken around tele medicine in form of consultation, but still lot needs to be done in this area.
    3. Tele radiology still needs to be adopted, however lot of development is happening in this area. We expect in the next 2-3 years that it will be very key enabler in improving healthcare in India
    4. Tele – diagnosis is at a still very nascent stage, and while some work has been done (by chains like Narayan, Fortis) it still needs to be adopted on a larger scale
    5. Improving efficiency in the hospital, thus increasing the care delivery to the patients, and also reducing wastage in the hospital – thus increasing the hospital capacity to serve more patients. Implementation of Hospital Information System
  1. Building skill sets – through online training courses. Today India is becoming a hub of online learning, why cant we adopt the same to enhance the skills of our medical staff (clinicians, nursing, general duty staff)
  2. With implementation of simple tools like surveillance we can drastically improve the safety of our patients, people (man power) and products. This will also ensure that we comply with the staff
  3. Empowering the patients by adopting Electronic Health Record for all the citizens, so that they can get treatment at any center across India
  4. IOT: Is going to be the big driver of creating healthy India. With penetration of smart phones and even smarter health application, people have real time monitoring of health parameters and can take correction action. “What gets measured; gets improved”.

Technology providers also play a very important role in expanding the scope of technology in healthcare – we as a team need to change the way we do business. Technology provider should understand the business objectives of the provider and accordingly provide the best solution – not focus on selling what we have. If we want to be successful technology provider then we need to align our focus on not only the clients (providers) but on the needs of their customers (patients).

Work as consultant to the providers, and not just a vendor – focus on developing their IT road map, demonstrate ROI of investment in technology to the client. We must keep our offering simple, and not making it complicated. Today a matured hospital must be running atleast 7 – 8 different platforms and there needs to be an attempt to bring all the technologies on the common platform. It is then we will be able to really position technology effectively in healthcare.

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