Digital Health: The New Rx for Indian Healthcare Ecosystem

Telemedicine stands out to be the number one priority to adopt, which is helping the healthcare sector in business continuity in a big way. However, roadblocks such as internet access, connectivity, reaching out to consumers, security challenge and updated IT infra issues need to be mitigated.

   
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On June 1st Prime Minister Modi emphasised on the advancement of telemedicine, and new business models around the service in the Healthcare Sector. A webinar session ‘Digital Health: The new Rx for Indian Healthcare Ecosystem’ was organised by The Guild in association with cloud computing and virtualisation giant VMware, highlighting the different aspects of digital services being used in the healthcare sector at various scale.

WHO defines Digital health as a broad umbrella term encompassing e-health, genomics, data analytics etc. In India, telemedicine is growing at a fast pace; however, the legal and regulatory landscape is still ambiguous.

Recently, the Health Ministry has included telehealth in the recent guidelines issued for delivering essential healthcare services while maintaining social distance. National Digital Health Blueprint; proposed in 2019 also suggests a health data infrastructure for seamless exchange, promoting open standards in a digital health system.

Healthcare IT leaders present during the webinar discussed their journey on digital transformation and IT priorities in healthcare space driven by unprecedented COVID-19. Speakers were of the view that pandemic had appended the healthcare sector as well, and this has defined the role of healthcare IT and emphasis on scaling it up. In this view, telemedicine stands out to be the number one priority to adopt, which is helping the healthcare sector in business continuity in a big way. However, roadblocks such as internet access, connectivity, reaching out to consumers, security challenge and updated IT infra issues need to be mitigated.

During the webinar, Prashant Singh, Director IT at Max Healthcare, said that telemedicine is a demand-driven space and the services are ramping up in the current scenario. “In general, doctors were not comfortable using telemedicine but now adopting fast. Max started tele-consulting services as soon as COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic. We have introduced a 15-day package for monitoring and helping home quarantine patients. We are also leveraging AI predictive analysis to analyse potential COVID patients within 5 to 10 min,”

According to him, continuity of care; monitoring vitals are a few challenges that can be resolved by the usage of wearable devices when using telemedicine service. Apart from that, secure IT systems for ensuring threat free services is a must. He suggests a regular cybersecurity maturity assessment, perimeter security adoption as a solution.

Veneeth Purushotaman, Group CIO, Aster DM Healthcare keeping his point of view said that Healthcare technology is little behind of other sectors, it’s still not up to the mark. “Telemedicine services are not new. It has been there for a while now in the sector. But COVID-19 has given us a reason to use it at large.”

He opines, the myth behind Hospital IT infrastructure is busted—Healthcare IT is more than management and billing systems. However, the sudden increase in IT infra need, (telemedicine) has put a lot of pressure upon CIOs and tech leaders as it was never a priority.
“COVID-19 has allowed us to develop better IT healthcare ecosystem. Discussions on moving solutions to cloud, reach patients remotely, patients record security and its access are some of the topics that CIOs have started discussing.”

Aster DM came up with telemedicine services within 48 hrs at the end of the March. Till the first week of June, Rs 80 million revenue came from telemedicine services. In April, 11,000 tele-consults were done (300+ per day).

On challenges, he says that many IT solutions are still on-premise and systems are not developed up to the mark or lack the architecture to scale up. There is also a need for an increase in IT investments and budgets to put suitable IT solutions in place relevant to current times. Other roadblocks are internet access, network connectivity, consistent power supply. Moreover, to fulfil all, there is a need for skilled professionals in healthcare.

Pooja Chatrath, CIO, RJ Group Healthcare also believes COVID-19 has accelerated telehealth in India. “It’s a fact that patients get more comfortable in one-on-one conversations with a doctor. Telemedicine service is giving the same experience through apps, also saving time of patients. However, there is a need of right marketing strategies to promote telemedicine.”

She points out the data being the centre of the healthcare services; protected health information security has become a focus issue. Maintaining it is a considerable challenge. “Healthcare information is very personal and sensitive; medical professionals should maintain an IT sanity check while accessing the patient data. It’s necessary to store healthcare data electronically rather than manually.”

On the same note, Girish Koppar, GM—IT, Wockhardt Hospitals believes pandemic is a gamechanger for the health IT industry. Since the outbreak, people were not able to reach hospitals and consult doctors. Technology played a critical role in running the business during the lockdown period.
“It’s a time for opportunities as well as challenges also. Due to pandemic, consumers have accepted telemedicine at large. People who didn’t turn up for follow up consultations are now turning up for telemedicine. Wockhardt has started virtual OPDs since then +ve impact on revenue is visible. Thus, management can continue virtual OPDs post COVID,”

According to him, with worries in the background on data security and cyberattacks and WFH mode; the CISOs role has also gained momentum. Due to the new IT solutions such as from VMware, adoption of technology is much more comfortable. A lot of start-ups have realised the potential of the modern healthcare IT transformation and are coming up with new solutions for B2B and B2C such as health wallets, apps for capturing vitals and more. There is a need for connecting health apps to make a whole new suite of medical service.

The healthcare industry does not have stringent data privacy laws. While roadblocks factors in-migration from non-IoT tech to IoT—Bandwidth, investments and data security needs to be addressed.

There is a surge in need to go on the public cloud from the private cloud as there is an increase in IT requirements. That is driving a lot of IT decision making. Also, IT security or cybersecurity is the biggest concern as the healthcare industry witnesses more security incidence globally than any other sector.

Given the changing IT needs, VMware is experiencing a demanding hike in this area. As IT leaders are moving from legacy applications towards new-age applications, Aloke Baidya, Senior Manager—System, VMware India highlights how medical fraternity can rely on VMware’s technology portfolio to enhance healthcare services.

“Patient is the customer in the Healthcare industry. Focus is on how to deliver services more securely to the customer and keep the data more secure in the records. We see a sudden burst of the requirement of IT systems. There is also a need for scaling up already existing IT system.”

Hands-on user training, user compliance, standardised learning platform and securely simulate the threat environment are some of the factors on which tech leaders are focusing. Customers’ expectations are changing, demands such as enhanced experience, booking appointment, buying medicines on one platform are also coming from them. Customers are also driven by the quality of applications that they use. VMware virtual technology portfolio such as Workspace ONE, VDI with NSX, Carbon Black Cloud and VMware SD-WAN and more can manage various demands for business continuity.


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