Industrial Automation in conversation with Ajay Bakshi, Managing Director & CEO, Manipal Hospitals, about the trends in automation in healthcare industry in India.
- Manipal is one of the leading healthcare brands in the country. In which fields have you adopted automation in healthcare delivery?
We at Manipal Hospitals have adopted automation in various services with the intention of providing convenience to our customers while making healthcare accessible, faster, and easier than ever. The goal has also been to achieve better and faster throughputs through automation for our internal processes and systems.
Some fields where automation has been adopted by Manipal Hospitals are:
- Health Reports/Lab Reports via Online Access
- Implementation of Logistics Systems via RFIDs (Porter Management System)
- Business Intelligence Reports (BMW project)
- Assistance in identifying the right treatment for cancer through Watson Technology, and
- Reminders for Health Data, Appointments and Medication through Mobility.
- Do you think, in a country like India, adopting technology for patient interaction or providing delivery works well enough?
Today, patient care experiences are top-of-the-mind in the healthcare industry across the globe. The complete consumer behaviour has taken giant leaps. There is a need for convenience through technology at every stage of the customer journey.
India has seen rapid changes in last few years and now not only do consumers prefer convenience, technology has also helped our team at Manipal Hospitals to plan and manage things efficiently. Technology is working very well for other sectors. It will definitely work in the healthcare industry because it is a basic necessity and demand of the hour. In a country like India with high population and limited healthcare services, technology is only going to make the entire system more accessible and efficient.
At Manipal Hospitals, we have focused on bringing in technology that helps customers right from the registration process to their discharge formalities. We have introduced numerous initiatives such as the Manipal Hospitals Mobile App, Health Library, which is collection of A-Z of health care information, and Cognitive systems such as Watson for Oncology, which helps cancer patients in getting the best treatment recommendations.
The goal has always been to be the most preferred choice of hospitals for our customers and technology is helping us get there in many ways.
- What challenges does a hospital face in installing and implementing ICT in patient care?
On the hospital end, the challenge is that the industry is impatient and is changing pretty drastically. We are already seeing a huge shift internally. Happenings inside the hospital are becoming more complex and challenging. We need to provide more intensive care for really sick people. That kind of demanding care takes lots of resources and critical care specialists along with support staff. The challenge to implement such large scale ICT (information & communication technology) systems and processes is time due to the nature of complexities involved.
Whereas on the side of marketing and driving customers, the major challenge is awareness and accessibility to the patient. Like I mentioned earlier, India’s consumer behaviour is changing rapidly which also means that since we are still in a phase of change, it will take some time for patients to be fully aware of what’s happening in the industry. I, however, believe that we should keep making efforts to spread awareness.
- How has mobility added value to your brand?
Among urban Indians, almost half the population is dependent on private healthcare providers. Almost 50% of the population depends on private healthcare for illnesses. Thus increase in mobility especially in private healthcare providers like Manipal Hospitals has helped greatly in identifying and filling one of the most crucial gaps in the service sector. With mobility in healthcare, it is helping both patients and healthcare experts define deliveries, trace roadmaps, and predefine the entire journey as well as the destination for both parties.
Some of the ways in which mobility has added value to our brand are:
- Better planning
- Queue management
- Streamlining workflow and hospital logistics
- Timely access to health care services and information
- Retrieval and storage of patient’s medical records, and
- Transformation in complete consumer experience in terms of quality and timely deliveries.
- What aspects of hospital management has Manipal automated?
- Electronic Medical Records: We have taken steps to make medical records easily available to doctors and at Manipal Hospitals we are continuously making efforts to make this completely available across concerned departments, teams and at our every Hospital centre.
- Management Information Systems: This is being implemented under Clinic Management Systems, Lab Management Systems, Radiology Information Systems and Hospital Information Systems.
- Business Intelligence: We have also implemented systems, which have automated business intelligence reporting, which we were done previously through the legacy ways of doing things.
- Information Portal and Manipal Hospitals Patient App: Now patients can just book an appointment online, track their medical records, be a part of community discussion on health and lifestyle through our unique and highly informational platform Health Library. With the Manipal Hospitals App we intend to provide complete convenience to our patients as well as reducing time taken for their health care needs.
- Watson for Oncology: Watson for Oncology is a cognitive system which helps our Oncologists and their patient(s) in getting the most optimal treatment recommendations. Earlier, this process of arriving at an expert opinion was done manually by oncologist(s) post reading and researching through numerous journals/papers/research materials. With Watson for Oncology, all this is automated and brought down to a matter of minutes.
- India is taking up smart concepts in a big way. How will that transform healthcare delivery across the board?
The Indian healthcare system will see a huge transformation with people accepting smart concepts and welcoming them. In fact, it is already in the middle of a rapid transformation. While the quality of healthcare services is only going to get better, it also means a need for good planning in advance. The future is about healthcare providers making use of such resources. Imagine putting together data and providing the caregiver a holistic and real-time view of a patient’s health on any device that is accessible to the patients, or other specialists as needed. And this is just one of the many ways digital workflow could look and how it will impact the patient and provider. The future is digital; we need to adapt to it as fast as we can.
- Remote patient management needs machine-to-machine and IoT. Do you think we can sustain these technologies in everyday healthcare in India?
The simple statistical fact in our country is that there is only one doctor per 1,700 citizens in India; the World Health Organisation stipulates a minimum ratio of 1:1,000. Further, the Union Health Ministry numbers claim that there are about 6-6.5 lakh doctors currently available in the country and that India would need about 4 lakh more by the year 2020. Also, with as much as 70% of the Indian population present in tier-2 and rural areas with abysmal healthcare facilities, there is always a risk of an increase in the mortality rate.
Thus remote patient monitoring - an action of monitoring patient's health without physically being present – is extremely essential and cannot be delayed any further. The integration of communication technologies into patient care has provided our professionals with a game-changing solution to deliver a superior quality of medical attention, remotely. Consumer health devices such as portable ECG monitors and blood pressure trackers have facilitated remote sharing of patient information. Doctors at Manipal Hospitals today can monitor health vitals of patients using a secure webpage where the information is shared by a mobile transmitter that acts as the medium between the device and the doctor.
All these can be manually monitored by a third party to perform tests that would otherwise require administration by a doctor. These tests are making remote checkups for device maintenance effective and convenient.
Technology such as this is providing valuable support to healthcare professionals, particularly in providing care to patients that need regular monitoring. A whole segment of patients that suffers from long term conditions including congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and diabetes stand to benefit from Remote Device Motoring (RDM) with the convenience of care without spending time at clinics.
Remote device monitoring systems, therefore, can change the way patient care takes place by massively reducing effort and error. Consequently, infrequent hospital visits are driving down costs and encouraging adoption.
- What would you recommend to the government for leveraging automation and IoT technologies for providing better healthcare across the country? What role should be played by the government in this?
There is a lot of scope for Internet of Things (IoT) in the Indian healthcare industry, and the government has rightly recognised it and is working towards it. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done. There is no doubt of the fact that this will have a huge impact on society’s complete transformation in the next few years. Some key roles that the Government can play are:
- Facilitate agenda strategy and adoption
- Supporting training and education
- Supporting development of smart concept companies and industries
- Enabling competitiveness and openness of the country’s markets, and
- Promoting best practices and modern business models.