Varun Sood, CIO, Fortis Healthcare, in conversation with Shahid Akhter, ENN, discusses the innovative ways to leverage IT technology in healthcare
In what way has IT affected global healthcare delivery and comparatively, how has India benefited from this?
Advancements and developments in IT have affected healthcare delivery in innovative ways. For example, analytics of available clinical data have improved risk profiling and early diagnosis and interventions. Communication and video technologies have made it possible for patients in remote locations to have access to high quality healthcare services and professionals. Continuous gathering of data on patients has enabled near real-time monitoring of health and raising self- awareness. Cloud technologies are enabling ability to scale on demand while helping reduce costs and making services more affordable. Mobility and social technologies are empowering and enabling people to access services and information where they are and when they want. One of the unique aspects of technology is that it is truly geography agnostic. Advancements in one geography can be used in another location depending on regulations and laws. While India is leveraging most of the global IT driven healthcare advancements, it is also contributing to creation of the same.
How has the IT helped to channelize the flow of information between the hospital, doctors and patients?
Timely availability of data and information is a critical need for effective clinical care and patient care. In todays environment, patients and their families are well informed and expect to have information available when they want and to be involved and updated on all aspects of their care. IT has enabled this flow and availability of information in an effective and efficient manner using various tools and platforms.
Please elaborate on some of the obstacles faced in adopting IT in Indian hospitals?
Adoptions of IT systems are normally driven by the following key aspects: ease of use, impact on individuals and cost effectiveness. The challenges in Indian healthcare are primarily of a huge demand and supply mismatch and affordability. From a global standpoint, India has one of the lowest price points for most aspects of healthcare but from a domestic standpoint, affordability is an issue that needs to be addressed. If the cost of the IT system adversely impacts affordability, it can be an impediment to adoption. Due to the supply and demand mismatch, the number of patients being treated by our medical fraternity is one of the highest globally. The interaction or ease of use of an IT system needs to be such that it either maintains or improves efficiency and productivity otherwise it would be an obstacle to adoption.
Can IT tools help reduce raising healthcare costs?
IT is leading the charge in controlling if not reducing rising healthcare costs. From a reach and access standpoint, IT systems are enabling accesses to quality medical care from distant locations using technologies like telemedicine, e-icus. Electronic capture of clinical data and analytics is enabling better risk profiling and early detection of issues. Systems for supply chain are helping healthcare organizations better manage inventories and leverage scale leading to reduced costs.
What are some of the unique IT initiatives you have adopted at Fortis?
As an organization, we have identified IT as a source of competitive advantage going forward and have accordingly undertaken strategic IT initiatives focused on enhancing clinical excellence, providing distinctive patient care and driving efficiency and productivity. All initiatives undertaken are targeted at one or more of these three areas. As examples, we have made a move to a 100 percent public cloud company enabling significant efficiency and productivity and enabling us to rollout new services at speeds not possible earlier. We are working on empowering our patients with any time, anywhere access to Fortis including all their information and data.
“While India is leveraging most of the global IT driven healthcare advancements, it is also contributing to creation of the same”
What is your assessment and strategy towards cloud – private and public?
The cloud is a reality at Fortis. We have chosen to be a 100 percent public cloud company and completed our transition in the last calendar year and the benefits realized by adopting the public cloud have been numerous.
In a country like India, telemedicine can play a huge role. How do you for see the problem and the solution.
Technologies like Telemedicine have the potential to disruptively overcome the issues of access and affordability that we as a nation face. There are 2 key drivers for wide spread adoption of these technologies: enabling and clear regulations and the wide availability of low cost, high quality communication networks.
Where do see Fortis hospitals by way of IT, five years from now?
In 5 years, using technology Fortis would be proactively managing the health of its customers where they are and at their convenience and require them to visit our hospitals when an intervention is required.
Your advice to fellow CIOs ?
Think business outcomes and not technology. Technology is just one of the components needed to achieve business outcomes. Taking a business view will change the decisions we take on technology. Think partnerships and not vendor relationships. Partners will go the extra mile, while vendors will do what is contracted.