Interview

Transforming Wellness through Technology

Shakthi Nagappan
Shakthi-Nagappan

Shakthi Nagappan
CEO, BioAsia

Technology has a significant role to play in the future of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ailments, says Shakthi Nagappan, CEO, BioAsia, during a conversation with Romiya Das of Elets News Network (ENN)

dIgitalhealth

How do you see IT innovation in healthcare market India vis- vis the global trend?

Currently, the healthcare sector is undergoing through a transition phase. While India faces the dearth in basic infrastructure facilities to serve the higher demand of quality care services. Indian healthcare market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.9 per cent to US$ 280 billion by 2020 from US$ 100 billion. Indian entrepreneurs have created a number of remarkable success stories. Globally, cloud, analytics and open source technologies are now playing a major role in transforming the way healthcare is delivered. The rise of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) solutions have thus led to a convergence of technologies aided by IoT, mobile and web based applications and facilitating remote healthcare services. The healthcare IT market in India is growing rapidly, as many hospitals are opting for digital technologies following reduction in errors and the potential to create a seamless treatment process. The healthcare IT market was valued at US$ 0.83 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach US$ 1.60 billion by 2019.

What is required to improve the existing technology to reinvent care delivery?

dIgitalhealth

The healthcare industry is challenged with constantly changing and unpredictable patient volumes, fluctuating supply costs, stringent government compliance and quality requirements, staffing shortages etc. which require the management to make informed decisions using in the moment actionable information. With the digitisation of services, vast amount of data about the patients are available from internal and external sources and profiling of this data in order to move away from cure to prevention requires adoption of new techniques like big data analytics. Moreover, mushrooming of cottage applications which may have served a specific need in the past are increasingly causing bottlenecks in getting a unified view of the patients, payers, suppliers, doctors. This requires an integrated approach to have a 360 degree view of the key stakeholders using data management and analytical techniques which will aid in better decision making and compliance.

How does IT help in tackling rising costs and improving productivity and quality in healthcare industry?

There is hype on how Big Data can help in fast and efficient discovery of drugs, which otherwise could incur an estimated development cost of about US$ 2-3 billion for testing a single drug successfully. The large clinical trial sizes and higher failure rates for drugs in proving their superiority have led tech giants ponder the use of big data analytics to expedite the drug discovery process. Besides, the recent advances in cloud computing along with big data promise to radically transform healthcare by making the rich data into actionable data.

How can government initiatives like Digital India and Make in India trigger growth in IT innovations in healthcare?

SMAC-solutionTechnology advancements in healthcare informatics, telemedicine, HIS, EHR, remote diagnostic and therapeutic tools have pivoted the first step towards tech enabled healthcare and can be further leveraged to effect new modalities of healthcare. In countries like India, which has significantly high population, limited healthcare access and healthcare burden, engaging thousands of medical specialists to the remotest corners may not be possible, but one can make their services available through broadband at multi-service centers in every village by leveraging SMAC. That, in essence, is the vision of Digital India initiative. We strongly believe this initiative has a great potential in making India a leader in digitally delivering health.

How IT innovations can bridge rural-urban healthcare divide in India?

It is estimated that 15 per cent of India’s population still has no access to healthcare services, either due to lack of availability or economic reasons. Around 905 million Indians live in rural areas and 6.7 per cent or 61 million, currently use internet on a regular basis. Rural areas are expected to drive the internet growth in India. About 4.4 per cent go online using a smartphone, a significant increase from 0.4 percent in 2012. Indian telemedicine, though in its nascent stage, is showing robust growth at approximately 20 per cent and is projected to grow from US$ eight million in 2012 to approximately US$ 19 million by 2017. Moreover, video interactions with the physicians through digital devices, empowers patients from remote areas to connect with ease.

The rise of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) solutions have led to a convergence of technologies aided by IoT, mobile and web-based applications facilitating remote healthcare services

What are the challenges you see in this domain?

There are plenty of challenges, particularly the resistance to adoption of technology at various levels. Data security and privacy is another major concern as it exposes the highly confidential medical information related to patients. Currently, the IT budget for many Indian hospitals does not exceed 10 per cent of revenues, which is substantially lower than the allocation globally. Moreover, despite the long-term gains in efficiencies and costs that could be achieved, the initial high capital investments are likely to discourage organisations from looking at investing in advanced technology systems right away. In addition to this, lack of in-house IT expertise, lack of standards, reluctance/resistance of staff, inadequate support from IT vendors, etc., are some of the bottlenecks that need to be dealt with.

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