June 2009

The human (health) network effect

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Considered as the global leader in IT network solutions and products, Cisco has developed an array of innovative and futuristic solutions that promises to transform the way healthcare is delivered and received.

Vishal Gupta, Senior Director-Healthcare Practice (APAC & Emerging Markets), gives a sneak peek into some of these possibilities in a tete-a-tete with eHEALTH.

What is the current portfolio of your solutions for healthcare sector?

Cisco healthcare solutions comprise of Cisco Medical Grade Network, Cisco Connected Imaging, Cisco Healthcare Context Aware Solution and Cisco HealthPresence. Apart from these healthcare solutions, Cisco technology products like Cisco Unified Communications, Security, Wireless and Mobility Solutions are very helpful in addressing some of the healthcare business challenges.

Cisco Medical Grade Network provides scalable, robust, secure, and highly available network infrastructure to support the business critical requirements of hospitals. Cisco Health Presence provides a secure, reliable, and user-friendly telemedicine solution to enable remote healthcare delivery to patients located in remote areas. It also helps doctors consult other specialists in relation to complicated cases for second opinion.

Cisco Connected Imaging addresses the issue of lack of collaboration among radiologists and physicians and also the issue of PACS performance management by integrating Cisco  Unified Communications into the existing PACS solution.

Cisco Context Aware Healthcare enables real time tracking of critical human and non-human assets such as mobile X-ray machines, Ultrasound machines, Intravenous pumps, etc. within a healthcare facility to streamline clinical and non- linical business processes facilitating the provision of high-quality care.

What is the essence of your ‘Connected Healthcare’ concept? How is it meant to benefi t the overall ‘provider- patient payer’ community?

Healthcare need to move towards a new vision—one that seamlessly connects all parts of the healthcare world to networked resources of data, information, knowledge and processes in order to reduce costs, increase access to care and improve quality of care. That vision is Connected Health. Connected Health creates collaborative relationships among all healthcare stakeholders to deliver safe, affordable and accessible health services.  Cisco enables a Connected Health community through the ‘Human Network’ effect that includes interoperable processes, technology, and people to provide critical health information at any time from any location.

Cisco addresses key healthcare challenges by enabling collaboration, virtualisation and convergence –

Collaboration: Technology needs to integrate patients, providers, payers, and the community across the care continuum through the effi cient use of data, voice, and video so that the various stakeholders can communicate and collaborate in real time. Cisco’s portfolio of products and solutions leverage the network and provide innovative solutions using technologies like Unifi ed Communications, Wireless, and Web 2.0 solutions.

Virtualization: The reality of the healthcare industry is that there are no standardized applications across the healthcare continuum. In order to improve patient care we need to enable faster access to critical information at the point of care. Cisco’s Medical Grade Network enables the healthcare entities to have a virtualized infrastructure that can dramatically speed up the processes and bring down the Total Cost of Ownership.

Convergence: Traditional networks have separate channels for data, voice,and video. This infrastructure is diffi cult to use and expensive to maintain. Hence this technology is giving way to the IP platform, which convergence voice, video, and data onto a single platform, which is scalable, easier to use and maintain. Cisco’s Connected Care vision enables this  convergence on a single unifi ed platform.

What is the extent of your success in the Indian healthcare industry? What are your primary targets and expectations from this market in near future? 

The penetration rate of ICT in the Indian healthcare industry is still low compared to more matured markets like North America and Europe. Within the Indian industry, it is relatively higher in the corporate and private hospital segment. However, of late, we are seeing increasing interest from both public and private hospitals to implement ICT. Many government agencies are planning initiatives like remote care delivery (rural telemedicine) and modernisation of healthcare IT infrastructure, which bodes well for Cisco.

What are some of the futuristic and emerging solutions that you are working on at present? How do they promise to further transform healthcare?

Cisco feels that the next wave of healthcare IT adoption is in the area of remote healthcare delivery models and in collaborative care. Cisco is working on developing innovative solutions around Rural Telemedicine and Collaborative Disease Management that will transform the way Healthcare is delivered today and will make the care better while reducing its cost.

Getting specialised and high quality healthcare is a problem for far-flung rural areas. Remote delivery of healthcare to patients can help address this challenge. Specifi cally, Cisco’s Health Presence solution leverages Unified Communications in an effective way to deliver healthcare from urban centers to rural areas. Doctors and specialists in urban hospitals can consult with patients in remote centers.

To put into perspective, up to 20% of the population suffers from chronic illnesses and accounts for more than 70% of healthcare costs and over US$150 billion is spent annually in treating chronic diseases*. Effective chronic disease management prevents disease progression, slows the natural history of disease, and prevents/delays complications. Cisco’s Chronic Disease Management solution helps to assist the healthcare providers and patients to continuously monitor and manage chronic diseases. This solution has the ability to both reduce cost and improve care for chronic diseases like Diabetes and Heart Disease, while transforming the way patients, primary care givers, hospitals and even the payers interact in the delivery of care for chronic diseases.

(*Source: Second annual Almanac of Chronic Disease, released by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) – http://www.fightchronicdisease.org)

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