Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, CHCIO, Apollo Hospitals

The Indian healthcare industry has increased its uptake of information and communications technology (ICT) solutions such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and internet of things (IoT) for improving disease diagnostics and healthcare delivery. Going forward, m-health, telemedicine, cloud consulting and big data analytics are set to significantly disrupt the healthcare industry. However, the increase in treatment cost owing to the adoption of high-end technologies remains a key challenge. Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, CHCIO, Apollo Hospitals, talks about the emerging IT trends in the industry, the status of technology adoption and the future outlook…

What are the key ICT trends shaping the Indian healthcare sector? What are the ICT initiatives taken by your organisation ?

The golden triangle of access, affordability and quality is of supreme importance to users when it comes to healthcare. To deliver on these expectations, the healthcare industry has been leveraging technology through ICT-enabled initiatives such as e-heath, m-health and telehealth. The industry is deploying a mix of traditional and disruptive technologies like mobility, big data analytics, cloud, AI and ML to ensure that the overall care process is effective as well as cost-efficient. We also see IoT or internet of medical things gaining traction, enhancing operational and clinical efficiency.

At Apollo, we look at technology as fundamental to our strategic roadmap to achieve efficiency and excellence at all levels – clinical, operational, financial and services. We are using AI and ML in workflow transactions, and prescriptive and predictive analytics to achieve operational efficiencies. We have a mobility platform called “Ask Apollo” through which we provide remote services such as tele-ECG reading, tele-radiology and virtual consultation, irrespective of the patient’s geographical location.

What are the key challenges faced while deploying new-age technology solutions? How can they be resolved?

When looking at technology deployment challenges, the first thing that comes into play is change management. By that, I not only mean managing resistance to technology, but also ensuring that there is effectiveness of design. Thus, it is important that technology adoption takes place as an organisational theme and not merely as yet another IT initiative. Second, it is important to select a technology and solution provider that can effectively support organisational objectives for sustainable benefits. Cost, design and usability are the other two important factors to be considered.

What are the key areas in the Indian healthcare industry where new-age technologies such as AI, ML, IoT and cloud can be deployed?

We see a robust deployment of disruptive technologies such as AI, ML and analytics in the area of preventive medicine. India has high incidence of non-communicable diseases such as cardiac, cancer-related, diabetes, hypertension and even unhealthy lifestyle-related diseases. Here, tech solutions can be used to infuse evidence-based practices. Further, AI, ML and analytics are being used for precise and speedy diagnosis as well. By embedding AI or ML algorithms, the process of accurate diagnosis, and consequently, effective treatment can be made faster. We are looking at analytics and IoT to achieve operational, financial and service prudence.

How do you think deployment of the electronic health record (EHR) system potentially transform the healthcare sector? What are the roadblocks in its implementation?

It is important that every patient has a longitudinal health record, which mentions every health condition that the person has had during lifetime. It helps in easy diagnosis, preventive care, smooth coordination of care and follow-ups between multiple disciplines. EHRs will significantly benefit in improving patient care and the overall health delivery, and also reduce complexity in the process. The foremost roadblock for EHR adoption is a lack of awareness regarding its need and benefits.

What are the key technology trends to be seen in the healthcare industry over the next few years?

We will see the usage of AI and ML algorithms in every aspect of health delivery. Big data analytics will be used for predictive and prescriptive care. Also, IoT or internet of medical things, is gaining a high degree of acceptance in the overall heath delivery process.