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Cisco to network with hospitals for healthcare solutions

Cisco Systems, the networking multinational, is reportedly in talks with companies such as Reliance, Apollo Hospitals and Wockhardt to roll out their healthcare networking solutions. The Indian hospital majors are on a major expansion spree, with most major operators planning to expand the number of specialty and super-specialty hospitals three-to five fold in the coming years. It is predicted that the Indian hospital industry is in for a major consolidation, and they are very excited about the prospects of a networked infrastructure. And Cisco’s Internet Business Solution Group, a global consultancy team inside the company has started its India operations about six months back, and aims to provide customised solutions to these hospital chains; it is planning to sell its Medical Grade Networks (MGN) to these hospital chains. Companies including Reliance and Wockhardt aim to integrate their hospitals on a single network, which would enable them to keep centralised databases of their patients, enabling them to treat and track patient histories better. Hospital networks need to be reliable, secure and capable of handling and transmitting large amounts of confidential data to doctors, nurses and insurance and payment settlement agencies, thus are extremely demanding. Through an MGN, doctors and specialists can keep track of their patients on their wireless personal digital assistants (PDA). Nurses can keep an eye on instruments connected to patients and networks, and insurance companies can track payments. The technology can also enable patients remotely contact their hospitals and send test reports or samples. However, cost remains an issue, which would mean the technology, when rolled out, would be available only in cities and large hospitals. India’s healthcare delivery market is worth USD 55 billion according to Cisco’s internal estimates, and is currently just around 5 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), far behind the spend in developed economies. A further reason for the interest in medical grade networks is the increase in patients coming into India for medical tourism. India’s medical tourism business is growing at 30 per cent per year and is forecast to generate at least USD 2.2 billion (INR 8700 crore) a year by 2012, according to a department of tourism estimate in India.

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