October 2009

Indian Healthcare and Information Technology : Anju Chawla Takkar, Group Project Manager, Infosys Technologies Ltd

According to Technopak Advisors’ report � ‘India Healthcare Trends 2008�This opens opportunities in insurance, healthcare and life sciences’, healthcare is a USD 35 billion industry in India, and is expected to reach over USD 75 billion by 2012 and USD 150 billion by 2017. This document lists how information technology can help manage the scale.

Anju Chawla Takkar, Group Project Manager, Infosys Technologies Ltd. shares her perspective on how information technology can help manage the scale.


Indian healthcare industry is expected to transform as the requirements of people are changing and patients are becoming more demanding. In addition the work and lifestyle changes of Indians and widespread adoption of technology like Internet, mobile communication, etc., has positioned Indian medical industry to get to the next level of operations and reach. While the industry is going to be global or at least there are plans around it, it makes sense that the practitioners as well as users prepare for the change to front lead the hype than just being followers. This should not be restricted only to large cities/metropolitans or large hospitals and institutes; the upgrade is required at all levels and places to get the benefits. Diagnostic services, medical devices/equipment, hospital chains, wellness products and services are some of the identified sectors for investments.

As the industry is pretty fragmented both for hospital and pharmaceutical sectors, there is potential for consolidation especially in semi-urban and rural areas. The concept of Social Entrepreneurship is emerging especially in southern India where startups are targeting healthcare for masses and needy population. This brings in a lot of incentives to venture capitalists because of provision for long term gains because of its scale.

The preparedness in terms of enabling the HCP with IT solutions will leverage opportunities in the field of medical tourism. The key selling points for medical tourism are its cost effectiveness and its combination with the attractions of tourism. Treatment cost is lowest in India�20 per cent of the average cost incurred in the US, Singapore, Thailand and South Africa.

INDIA � CURRENT HEALTHCARE SCENARIO
Urban India (Small and large cities)
Sun- Side

Indian healthcare works on need based consulting. In most cases, doctors are available within 1 Km distance. Regular checkups and examination costs range between Rs. 100/- to 300/- per visit. Laboratory scans, lifesaving medicines are available at government aided hospitals as well as private diagnostic and pharmacy stores. The diagnosis and treatment equipments available are best in breed.

Flip Side

Surgery and specialised treatment is extremely expensive and government-aided hospitals are over packed and are not able to provide required attention. People visit doctors when the condition becomes unmanageable. Only about 0.05% of the total population goes for regular preventive checkups. Doctors / healthcare providers are operating in a free land and can very easily fleece a troubled patient. The system runs on trust and faith and not on a systematic process. Government regulations on healthcare are least enforced. Legal system and practices are slow and ineffective.

Rural and Suburbs
Sun Side

NGOs and government-aided hospitals provide healthcare in terms of free medicines, eye operations etc. Many of them have a pool of extremely good specialists who work for a cause. India is still a country that believes in Karma, charity and self less help to poor and needy. A few charity hospitals use technology like VSAT for checkups in remote areas.

Flip Side

There is lack of integrated information systems, which leads to unattended emergencies and poor follow-up care. Doctor:patient ratio is fairly dismal in rural areas. Rural poor depend on local untrained care givers leading to causalities as well as other complexities, which need to be referred to nearby city hospitals.

Synopsis Discription Discription Solution Target Sector
Healthcare is chaotic and paper based

 

HCP (doctors, hospitals) do not maintain patient records. Patients are responsible for their historical data management.

 

HCP (doctors, hospitals) do not maintain patient records. Patients are responsible for their historical data management.

 

Electronic medical records and patient health record management systems.
Web solutions like Google-Health vault can also be a possibility.

 

Target sectors -government aided hospitals and private hospitals.
As of now, some hospitals have only adopted IT for billing and registration. Some large hospitals and networks have put together a PHRM but it is still scantily adopted.
Long queues and improper appointment between patient and doctor.
Prefixed appointments are rarely done and there is no proper sequencing between different departments, if patient needs to visit more than one function.

 

Prefixed appointments are rarely done and there is no proper sequencing.
Intelligent systems, for scheduling and prior valign=”top”itizing appointments for doctors are required. As in large government aided hospitals, the number of patients as also messaging system (mobile enabled) to inform patients on their expected wait period.
As doctors are limited in government hospitals, a good scheduling system will ease out the pressure on resources as well as patients.
For private hospitals, where money is good, the same can encourage medical tourism as it will lead to better planning and transparency.
Healthcare is available but is corrective and not preventive.

 

There is no awareness / priority amongst people even from middle class and above.
Due to excessive population, the stress on resources is increasing and so most of the time is spent on putting meals and basic amenities together for the family.
Web-based diagnosis tools, mobile based wellness coaching What people need?

  • Home Service
  • Low cost regular checkups
  • Diet and wellness plans
  • Support during emergency situations
  • Large pharmacies

The above ecosystem, leads to problems that find their roots to unaccountability and non-scalability. The same can be attempted to be moved to “managed” mode using information technology. Some of the indirect benefits of using data management solutions like LMS, HIS and EHR etc are:

  • Epidemic Forecasting

  • Telemedicine and Rural Reach

  • Insurance Management

Closure

The above mentioned IT solutions need wider acceptance by HCPs as well as patients that have stakes in the larger market. The practitioners use technology in the space of surgeries/scans and diagnostics but information management is extremely poor. The key drivers for the change would be the IT savvy customers, Indian IT professionals and organisations and practitioners themselves. While the major Indian software industry players, who have been looking at US and Europe for business have seriously started pursuing India and NM (New Market), it is also imperative that we have our own branded products in this space just as they exist for other domains like accounting and banking. This requires serious innovation and branding in the market by Indian companies.

Further, it is important that IT education be mandated for all aspiring doctors and be made part of the 5 year curriculum so that adoption becomes smoother in the field.

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