Interviews

Perception About IT in Hospitals Has Come A long Way… : Prakash S Kamat, Managing Director, SoftLink International

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What are the flagship products and solutions of SoftLink for medical and healthcare industry?

�HeartCare Plus� has been the flagship product of the company in cardiology. Over the years it has evolved into a complete Cardiology Information System (CIS), with interfaces to many invasive and non-invasive equipments in the cardiology department. It allows reporting, electronic record keeping, research and advanced analysis. It also facilitates collating of data for national and international registries.

Today, SoftLink offers healthcare IT solutions in hospital automation, radiology and cardiology with equipment interfaces for direct acquisition of data.

HCP DICOM Net is a cardiac imaging network product that was launched in 2000 and has an impressive foortprint in more than 120 hospitals across 12 countries. It has a varied client list that spans from large university hospitals in US to small cardiac institutes in various cities and towns in India, demonstrating that it is flexible enough to address everyone�s needs.

�Panacea� is an enterprise class Hospital Information System (HIS) product that spans across hospital campus and provides various modules to capture patient and procedure information for the entire �patient care cycle from admission to discharge�. It offers back-office modules such as Finance, HRMS, Stores, Blood Bank, Pharmacy etc. to complete the automation needs of the entire hospital.

�The perception about IT in hospitals has come a long way but the decisions on IT budgets are still not a reality in many hospitals�

�Imagine� is an enterprise class multi-modality RIS, PACS, Web Viewing and 3-D information and image management product suite that addresses the needs of the diagnostic centers as well as large institutional/university hospitals.

In a short span, it has come to be installed in many centers in India, UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

How do you think IT solutions like HIS & PACS give a differential advantage for hospitals in terms of improving clinical operations, productivity and business returns?

HIS is primarily a workflow solution that helps a hospital to assimilate and aggregate information related to patient�s care cycle across various departments and decision makers to cut down waiting times and errors in reporting. It guards against accidental loss of clinical information in paper format; and helps track accuracy of clinical information and outcomes. From hospitals� perspective they can utilise their critical resources at a higher level; and capture lost revenue for unbilled services and material due to paper movement across various departments for billing!

PACS allows hospitals to improve accuracy and efficiency of patient reporting of diagnostic images, cuts down waiting times with integrated RIS and ensures higher utilisation of costly resources such as CT, MRI and cathlabs. It provides platform for collaborative medicine by sharing images across network, allowing clinical debates and cuts short patient stays within hospitals. It reduces the usage of films leading to tremendous cost savings over the years as well as makes the hospital �environment friendly� by reducing film and chemical usage for film development.

Drawing from your international and overseas experience, what is your perception about the level of technological maturity of Indian healthcare sector at present?

Indian healthcare enterprises are beginning to embark on their �digitisation� cycle and have a long way to go before they can match the level in the developed countries. The �perception� of role of IT in hospitals has come a long way but the decisions on IT budgets are still not a reality in many hospitals!

Major OEMs are now shipping equipment that are compliant to standards such as DICOM and HL7. They are also sharing information with the industry, but hospitals need to deploy IT solutions that make information and images portable across various stake holders within and outside the hospitals such as doctors, administrators, paramedics, insurance providers etc.

Even today, some of the major hospitals across India have �islands� of information that can not be interconnected resulting in manual transportation of data diluting efficacy of automation. It will be another 5-7 years before we start seeing hospitals that are well equipped as well as well connected in terms of accessibility and availability of information and images on demand.

Which are your prominent clients among public and private sector service providers in India and overseas?

Amongst our top clients in India we have the teaching hospitals like Christian Medical College, Vellore, Sri Jaydeva Institute of Cardiology, Bangalore and Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Bangalore. In the private sector we have clients like Apollo Group, Max HealthCare, New Delhi, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, and Nanavati Hosptial, Mumbai.

We enjoy impressive client�le in cardiac imaging in the U.S. such as Mount Sinai Hospital & School of Medicine NYU, New York; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and University Mississippi, Jackson et al.

What is the current share of your overseas and domestic business (in percentage of revenue)?

SoftLink has been focusing on building products that conform to global standards and has been exporting them right from the 2nd year of its inception. In terms of percentage share, our export revenue constitutes 67% and domestic revenue is around 33%.

The differential is primarily due to better product prices in overseas markets due to higher salaries and wages for employees in healthcare sector resulting into higher level of automation in healthcare industry.

What percentage of healthcare IT market share do you currently hold in India and what are your expectations for the US$ 300 million projected health IT market in India by 2012?

SoftLink has been a focused player in healthcare IT segment and already enjoys about 33% market share in cardiology. In the last 3 years SoftLink has built HIS and RIS/PACS products and is fast gaining ground in HIS/HIMS as well as in radiology PACS. Our goal will be to deploy one of our products or solutions in 1 out of every 5 hospitals across the country by 2012.

What are your future growth plans in terms of bringing new solutions or products for the healthcare industry?

There used to be a time when upon requirement for speciality surgical procedures and treatments, Indians were travelling overseas, followed by people coming to metros for similar treatments. Now tier-2 and tier-3 cities are gaining ground and super-speciality hospitals are coming across the country and major healthcare providers such as Apollo, Fortis, Wockhardt, Max, Care have big plans to setup hospitals in various corners of India.

This is going to provide tremendous opportunities to companies like SoftLink that have solutions across information and image management spectrum. New opportunities for technological solutions will be created due to �collaborative� nature of patient care cycle that is fast evolving. SoftLink plans to remodel some of its products and add new dimensions to address this principal shift. Next generation of our products will have integrated approach to multi-center information and image management, primary capture of data through device interfaces, telemedicine, remote consultations and many such evolving concepts will be facilitated.

Patients will get to enjoy multitude of choices, differential service levels and facilities that have not been offered before, such as cashless settlements, free health check ups and ambulance pick up to name a few. All this is going to create tremendous competition amongst healthcare enterprises and eventually lead to survival of the best. We firmly believe that time has come for Indian healthcare enterprises to improve processes, efficiency and overall experience of patient care cycle.

�Our goal will be to deploy one of our products or solutions in 1 out of every 5 hospitals across the country by 2012.�

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