Health Financing/Insurance

IBM targets multi-billion $ health sector in India

IBM is targeting multi-billion dollar health business opportunities in India. The company has plans to tap opportunities worth $1 billion each in the Indian pharmaceuticals and health service segments over the next 3-4 years.

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According to J Sairamesh, Manager of New York-based IBM TJ Watson Research, IBM is looking at providing a range of IT solutions for patient record management and creating a vault of information for doctors, patients, nurses and insurers as well. In India, the integration of health information and data security itself constitutes almost 50% of the business opportunity in health services.

This will also mean providing integration of small clinics with larger hospitals. The company is also working on a separate track for developing markets like India where there is a lack of proper networking in the health set up. For this, IBM is working on a mobile technology to enable wireless connectivity through personal digital assistants (PDAs) and laptops for all hospital personnel.

They are also developing censors, where it will be possible to trace any error while administering dosages to patients. In US alone, about $3-4 billion is lost due to errors in administering health care. They are also looking at a separate database for health insurance firms which can then tie-up particular clinics and hospitals for better rates to patients. A number of Indian players have approached IBM for such solutions, with the insurance sector opening up to foreign investments.

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On the pharmaceuticals front, about 30-40% of the billion-dollar opportunity lies in the clinical trials and contract research space, he said. Another 30% of the pie can be attributed to supply chain management issues. These include developing specific software to track packages and detect spurious drugs.

The company is working on technology solutions to track the entire supply chain as well ensure quality checks at various levels of the chain. This includes RFID (radio frequency identification), which will help remote tracking and controlling of drug supply chain of pharma companies.

J Sairamesh also shared that the recent case where Ranbaxy recalled 73 million doses of pain killer drug, Gabapentin, from the US due to presence of impurities can be clearly avoided using the appropriate technology. A lot of Indian pharma big wigs have already expressed interest in purchasing such technology solutions from IBM. This apart, there is demand in the Indian market for solutions for the pre-clinical trials, post-clinical trails, drug discovery processes and mass production of generics.

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