Our motto is to bring ‘Healthcare Closer to Everyone’ at affordable costs: Ninad Raje, CIO & Director, HealthAssure

Driven by the rise of new technologies, more & more healthcare facilities have moved from hospitals and clinics to homes and communities. From smartphones, social media to sensors, new tools are empowering consumers with more information and control over their healthcare decisions. To get more insights about the healthcare industry, Dataquest interacted with Ninad Raje, CIO & Director, HealthAssure. Excerpts

How is technology changing the face of healthcare industry?
The healthcare sector in India has witnessed a paradigm shift in the last few years. While earlier, the industry had a singular focus on disease-care, today, with an overkill of super-processed foods and timeless work-shifts; lifestyle upgrades come with an inbuilt compromise on general health, demanding better awareness as well as high specialty care. In addition, the overall increase in the buying power of public has started to morph healthcare into a service-oriented industry, holding the patient at the center of its universe. The single-most important element that has helped kick start a revolution in the Indian healthcare industry to make it more service oriented has been technology. Corporate houses have started actively venturing into the medical care landscape, modernizing the concept of wellness, and turning it into a data-driven, efficiency-oriented system. The industry is now exploring newer methodologies that will help ensure first-rate service delivery, while still keeping the costs at a minimum.

This new model has been characterized by specific focus areas; across non-critical care – dental medicine, eye-care, sleep-care, pain management, nutrition etc., as well as specialized critical care – cardiology, neurology, pulmonology, nephrology, oncology etc. Cutting-edge product ideation has catalyzed the transformation of concepts into marketable solutions. The medical industry today has an abundance of remarkable innovations such as telemedicine, digitized and electronic medical records, robotic surgery, gene sequencing, wearable devices and implantable technology.

Additionally the demand for personalized patient attention has encouraged ideas such as second opinions, customized care-plans, higher levels of doctor-patient interaction and connectivity. Patients’ priorities and expectations have reformed drastically too. Patients today want to know their options, receive excellent service – both medical and non-medical, stay updated and understand how they’re improving by the day.

What are the challenges that end users were facing before the IT explosion?
The Indian healthcare eco-system was facing distinct and disparate challenges prior to the massive transformative disruption triggered by the IT explosion.

Ranging from extremely low accessibility of proper healthcare, high costs, huge demand-supply gap vis-a-vis availability of medical professionals including hospital beds, acute delays in immediate treatment leading to fatalities, lack of awareness, low insurance penetration coupled with religious beliefs and superstitions around healthcare.

Additionally, there were other challenges that a typical patient had to face, which included:

– Lack of adequate & correct data & information available

– Lack of standards, policies, quality of treatment etc.

– Lack of timely & affordable care

– Treatment and care available only in urban areas whereas rural areas were completely ignored. Users had to travel a considerable distance for seeking appropriate care & treatment.

– Resistance of the medical fraternity to introduce and to bring about change

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

If there is one theme that has become all pervasive, it has to be “Healthcare Everywhere!”

Driven by the rise of new technologies, more & more healthcare facilities have moved from hospitals and clinics to homes and communities. From smartphones, social media to sensors, new tools are empowering consumers with more information and control over their healthcare decisions—and physicians at the other end of the spectrum with more options on where and how they treat their patients.

Following technologies and solutions have completely changed the healthcare landscape:

1) The rise of ubiquitous connectivity: From inter-operable electronic health records to cloud-based computing and data storage, continuous innovation has kept us connected and informed, everywhere we go.

2) The power of smartphones: Smartphone technology has put health information—and applications—into everyone’s hands. With “the medicalization of consumer devices,” smartphones are monitoring vital signs, measuring calories and helping consumer manage their own health in every possible setting.

3) The right care, right place, right time approach: Care delivery has transitioned from acute care settings to local clinics and retail environments. A new system of care has emerged – treatment by the lowest-cost providers, including pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

4) Electronic Health / Medical records (E H/M R): Triggered by President Obama’s signing of the HITECH act in the U.S., a host of EHR & EMR solutions have now been introduced in India. These systems improve medical practices because they are enabling patients and doctors to view data in real-time, they contain a patient’s history & diagnoses, lab results & radiological imagery, medications & immunizations, treatment plans & progress, transmit information to patients wirelessly/through email/through secured portal, provide automated workflow for doctors, allow access to evidence based tools for providers, make it faster & simpler to share health records between hospitals, doctors & patients. Moreover, cloud based EHR systems are revolutionizing the adoption of EHR in India.

5) Telehealth: This disruptive technology is bringing forth a paradigm shift within the healthcare eco-system. Patients & consumers can now remotely connect with doctors and medical facilities not just in India but globally too. A recent study (by Geisinger Health Plan) has shown that the odds of a patient being admitted to the hospital were 23% lower during the months they were enrolled in the telemonitoring program.

Telehealth services improve medical practices by:

– Providing better outcomes because patients receive timely access to specialists.

– Avoiding excessive admissions or re-admissions and unnecessary transfers because patients and doctors receive better & faster information.

– Reducing costs for physicians and managers by not having to keep additional staff on hand that specialize in areas that are needed infrequently

– Benefitting underserved areas by extending doctors & patients reach without having to keep the budget of a large-scale facility.

– Reducing costs for both hospitals and patients because specialist resources are more efficient.

6) Value through Big Data & Analytics: Healthcare organizations are leveraging big data technology to get more complete patient insights, supporting care coordination and outcomes-based reimbursement models, population health management, and patient engagement and outreach. Successfully harnessing big data has helped achieve three critical objectives for healthcare:

Transformation: build sustainable healthcare systems, collaborate to improve care and outcomes, and increase access to healthcare.

  Dynamic use of information to improve decision making: Creating and analyzing huge data sets has supported quality improvement and planning processes, more effective population health management and enable greater opportunities for innovation.

Data Driven innovation: Integrating and modeling clinical, molecular and demographic data sets have driven research and development for pharmaceutical and medical device companies and helped them create new linkages between pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers and providers with clinical data while identifying safety concerns and also assessing cost effectiveness.

The facilitation of clinical trials with big data: Data-driven patient enrollment has facilitated and accelerated clinical research trials and results.

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