Prasad Nagaraja, Delivery Head, Information Technology, Columbia Asia Hospitals, India

The Indian healthcare sector has so far had a conservative approach towards adopting IT and telecom solutions. However, of late, it has increased its uptake of information and communications technology (ICT), realising its potential in delivering better healthcare. Going forward, m-health, telemedicine and the increased adoption of big data will help in extending healthcare services to remote pockets of the country. Senior executives of enterprises operating in this space talk about the emerging IT trends in healthcare, the status of technology adoption and the future outlook…

What role do ICT solutions play in the healthcare industry? What are some of the ICT initiatives undertaken by your organisation?

ICT enables the integration of various ch­a­­nnels of communication to provide multiple solutions across enterprises, especially healthcare. In general, the adoption of ICT in India, particularly in healthcare, is still at a nascent stage. In my opinion, the healthcare industry is still struggling to find and engage with reliable virtual private network or leased line service provi­ders who deliver on high uptimes. The choice of such service providers is limited. Therefore, ICT is still a couple of years away from becoming a reality here.

How are the telemedicine and m-health segm­ents expected to evolve in the Indian market?

Reliable and robust broadband connectivity that is generally available to large sections of society is fundamental for telemedicine to become a reality. In developed countries, this has taken off well and the adoption rates are significant. In India, falling 4G data tariffs and internet penetration hold the key to the growth of telemedicine and m-health in the next few years. The fact that needs to be highlighted is that patients and consumers of healthcare should have a seamless experience when compared to face-to-face meetings, especially for routine diagnosis and reporting. This is possible only if broadband connectivity is available beyond the pockets of big cities, in remote locations as well, where access to healthcare centres is limited.

What is the scope of big data analytics, cloud and IoT in the healthcare industry?

The scope of big data and analytics for the healthcare industry is immense. Many healthcare providers are either unaware or unable to evaluate the intrinsic value of the data they have built up over the years. One area where analytics can help is in following up on patients as a part of post-care treatment. Similarly, cloud can play a significant role in providing quick scalability and ubiquitous access for better organisational computing and data storage. Finally, IoT has the potential to disrupt the out-patient department business that we know today. The efficient deployment of proven IoT solutions can boost proactive diagnosis and care administration, especially in remote areas where access to quality healthcare services is limited.

What are the key IT and telecom-related challenges faced by healthcare enterprises? How can these be resolved?

A key telecom-related challenge is to achieve a reliable and mission-critical service level in connectivity. While the cost per unit of connectivity has declined steadily in the past decade, the quality of service has not kept pace. Further, healthcare enterprises are stuck with legacy systems with rigid data structures, and are finding it challenging to digitally transform and adopt SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) tools.

What are the key technology trends likely to be witnessed by the healthcare industry in the next few years?

In my view, technology trends such as digital patient engagement, IoT in pre-diagnosis, robotics in healthcare, AI to im­prove the productivity of healthcare professionals and virtual healthcare or tele­medicine would significantly disrupt the healthcare industry.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by  Prasad Nagaraja are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Columbia Asia Hospitals India, or any other entity of the group.

“Digital patient engagement, IoT, robotics, AI and virtual healthcare will disrupt the healthcare industry.” Prasad Nagaraja