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Building a digital roadmap for healthcare organisations in India

The global movement towards digital health has many implications for the Indian healthcare sector.

Nilesh Teli   New Delhi     Last Updated: October 4, 2018  | 22:12 IST
Building a digital roadmap for healthcare organisations in India

Globally, the healthcare industry is seeing a transformational shift in the use of next-generation technologies like big data, cloud computing, predictive analytics, mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and machine learning. The objective is to leverage the vast amounts of clinical, operational and financial data at the disposal of hospitals, insurance companies, and even in the hands of patients to drive efficiencies, improve quality of care, minimise risks and move towards a care delivery model that is truly 'value-based.'

The global movement towards digital health has many implications for the Indian healthcare sector. We have a long way to go before we can develop a mature healthcare ecosystem such as the US in terms of healthcare technology adoption. A few large hospitals and pharmaceutical companies have already started their journey towards digital transformation. However, it will take some time before digital initiatives go mainstream.

In recent times, the pace of adoption of digital enablers (fitness apps, wearables, digital payments, online pharmacies, etc.) has created a sea of opportunities for Indian healthcare organisations to transform the way they deliver and manage care. It is, therefore, necessary for healthcare CIOs to define a well-calibrated roadmap as they embark on their digital journey. Here are five key areas for healthcare organisations to focus on:

Focusing on Engagement

With the exponential growth of mobile devices, fitness apps and wearables, healthcare consumers today are moving quickly to digital channels to find doctors, track vitals (e.g., sleep patterns, blood pressure, etc.), seek healthcare information and share clinical details with hospitals. This gives healthcare organisations the opportunity to build meaningful engagements with patients and consumers, e.g., patient portals, online appointment bookings, telemedicine, remote monitoring, data sharing apps, alert/notification tools, etc.

Healthcare Data - Knowing the What, Where and Why?

The primary challenge for organisations across the world today is to identify all the sources, types and formats in which healthcare data exists. Insurance (claims processing) and pharmaceutical companies (supply chain, clinical research data) have been slightly better in recording and managing data through enterprise systems. However, clinical data capture through electronic systems has not been an area of strength for hospitals in India, traditionally. As organisations start moving towards structured care management concepts like care coordination, preventive care and population health management, they need to build extended capabilities to digitize, aggregate, manage and leverage a diverse set of data sources (including clinical data from hospitals, consumer generated data, mobile app data and biometric information).

Handling Big Data Volume and Complexity

With the ability to converge a broad spectrum of data sources, healthcare organisations will face the challenge of effectively ingesting, standardizing, managing, reporting and sharing voluminous and complex data - both structured and unstructured. Typical data warehouse systems that are in use today are not equipped to handle this level of scale and complexity. Organisations will need to make investments in robust enterprise data warehouses, data virtualisation technologies and cloud computing infrastructure to ensure that they have a sustainable data management architecture.

Leveraging Healthcare Data to Drive Clinical Outcomes

The nature of outcomes would vary immensely across hospitals, insurers and life sciences companies. Hospitals, for example, need to analyse clinical data to identify opportunities to improve utilisation, make care delivery processes more effective, enhance the quality of diagnoses and lower the risk of readmissions. Hospitals would need to leverage a wide variety of tools and platforms to manage and analyse this data, to generate significant insights. Other focus areas for healthcare organisations include telemedicine, remote patient monitoring and the use of mobiles to share patient information, all of which require a strong ability to process and analyse large, unstructured data sets.

Using AI and Machine Learning to Derive Powerful Insights

While this space will take some more time to mature, globally we are already seeing how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are enabling better decision making by physicians as well as administrators. Worldwide, AI is proving extremely beneficial across a spectrum of healthcare use cases - including improving point of care decision making, cancer detection, interpretation of medical images, etc. It is only a matter of time before hospitals in India start investing in healthcare-based AI and Machine Learning tools.

Over the next many years, the healthcare industry will face multiple challenges, including a fast-growing ageing population, reducing margins, shifts in government policy around data privacy and security, public health programs and greater access to health insurance coverage. As new 'digital' technologies start gaining traction in the Indian healthcare industry, we will see many new and innovative use cases that can help organisations address many of these challenges and potentially transform healthcare delivery. Healthcare organisations in India need to capitalise on the many opportunities that digital technologies will bring and build a structured, roadmap-driven approach to digital transformation.

The writer is Vice President, Healthcare Consulting, CitiusTech

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