Leveraging Technology to Provide Superior Healthcare Facilities

By Sumit Singh, CIO, Wockhardt Hospitals Limited

The overall Indian healthcare market is worth around USD 100 billion and is expected to grow to USD 280 billion by 2020. With the information age, personal wellness has become more important for individuals and families alike and coverage by insurance and other schemes are increasing every year. Combining that with cost controls put in by government has made healthcare more affordable, further as part of good governance, government schemes and programs are trying to cover as much as possible. Along with that, new techniques with new technology are making it possible to achieve better outcomes than ever before. Not only do we retain within our country for all kinds of complex procedures, we also see increased inflows of international patients and medical tourism. Home as well as after hospitalization care has become more organized and is a fast growing area that is filling an important gap. Lastly, there is a significant demand for general wellness, preventive care, cosmetics and beautification segment.

Keeping pace with changing technology trends

IT is not just a back office operator but is called upon by various functions to assist in driving efficiency and saving on costs. Therefore, understanding of taking into consideration of IT perspective is far more prevalent now. This is because the consumerization of technology has become a part of life for most people. The pace of change in the technology is quickening all the time with various choices with some pros and cons. As a CIO, one has to be always on top of them to be able to make a proper informed choice.

Health records are privileged private information and data loss prevention is of extreme importance. That is why; our sector is very conservative in its approach. Most of us have a robust perimeter defense along with standard end-point protection. But the kind of cyber-attacks we are facing are truly taxing. We have to take a multi-pronged approach in terms of varied access controls and privileges to limit the risk. Therefore, many of us have taken a more restrictive approach than otherwise. Besides this, we have also learnt to be more attentive to new attacks so we could connect with our vendor partners for solutions in terms of patches and hot fixes faster. Finally, we have put more emphasis on the user education. We have been in touch with them for reemphasizing on best practices, dos and don’ts and how to spot some common techniques used in these attacks.

With hospitals and health systems having spent millions on EHRs, EHRs have a potential to be further utilized in a positive way for the organization. What we have been doing is mining EHRs to extract actionable information so we can do a variety of things. They include ranging from relevant targeted tips to patients for making better choices going forward, communications that would be of interest to them, to important reminders on follow-ups and checkups which would also increase footfalls in the hospital or interaction through our home care services. Post white labeling of the data, clinical research and improvement on quality outcomes are also something that is achievable.

AI and Analytics providing actionable insightful data

Efficient data analytics is linked to significantly reduced costs, increased business intelligence and improved clinical outcomes. Besides data archiving, normalization and de-duplication, another area one must ponder upon is identifying data that would have relevance in time to come. One of the key components of data science is to prepare the data itself for analytics as the sources are varied and likely a mix of structured and unstructured. They come with steps like data cataloging, modeling and hypothesis testing with regression and analytics. This is what is required to begin with. This helps in all kinds of outcomes that could improve upon clinical and quality outcomes to better utilize resources and equipment. All of this has to be paired with a robust BI platform as well.

The internet of things has a positive impact on the healthcare segment. Wearables are becoming a common sight which work in conjunction with mobility and cloud based technology. With all this data, coupled with artificial intelligence and analytics to provide actionable insightful data in this space and smart monitors, alerts and semi-autonomous devices sharing data among themselves, we will soon be a bionic race with bots assisting us in our health as well. So, with remote monitoring and tele consultation, the healthcare profession will see a radical change where healthcare practitioners will be relieved of routine activities and then be able to give their time to the real business of core issues affecting the patient.

The road ahead

Healthcare continues to digitize, but IT talent hasn't kept pace. And with growing and emerging demands, IT leaders are strapped to find employees with the right skills and know-how. We have to provide a learning environment and a platform whereby we could incubate ideas and provide a space for innovation. In the future we’ll see better affordability along with quality outcomes in the long term.

 

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