Sumit Puri, Chief Information Officer, Max Healthcare

The healthcare industry is realising the power of Information and communications technology (ICT) and is gradually warming up to new technologies. Technology trends such as digital patient engagement, use of internet of things (IoT) solutions for pre-diagnosis, deployment of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to improve healthcare professionals’ productivity, and access to virtual healthcare or telemedicine are set to significantly disrupt the healthcare industry. Meanwhile, the scope of big data analytics in the healthcare industry is also immense. Technology leads of enterprises operating in the healthcare space share their views on emerging ICT trends in healthcare, the status of technology adoption and the future outlook…

How have the ICT requirements of the healthcare industry evolved over time? What are the key ICT solutions used by your organisation?

There has been significant improvement in connectivity, which allows anytime anywhere access to customers and employees. IoT combined with telemedicine is a big innovation, which is going to become important as we go forward. IoT devices transmitting vitals accurately to doctors from remote locations will become critical and will assist in the creation of a connected healthcare ecosystem. At Max Health­care, we are focusing on telemedicine in a big way. We have created a personalised patient portal, which gives access to all reports and digital health information placed in a centralised repository. It creates a digital health vault for a patient where you can link the family members on the same portal and have their reports uploaded as well. This can be done not only for reports generated at Max Hospital but also for reports from other hospitals. We are also looking at telehealth to improve the customer experience in remote locations across the country. At the same time, we are exploring ways to engage with corporates and schools.

What is the scope of big data analytics, AI and IoT in the healthcare industry? What are your plans for leveraging these technologies?

This is the age of personalisation and the power of choice has shifted to consumers from organisations. We are using singular systems like electronic health record (EHR), HIS, ERP, CRM application and e-prescription applications, which help us in creating a very effective data warehouse that can create an integrated and personalised view of all our customers. We have begun to leverage this information for big data analytics to enhance patient safety. For instance, we have partnered with research institutions like Deakin University, Austra­lia, to create a machine learning (ML) algorithm for predicting the possibility of readmission of heart attack patients. We are also exploring possibilities of leveraging AI for improving productivity. For instance, we are looking at how AI can help radiologists examine CT scans and MRIs. We are also exploring robotic process auto­mation, which is helping us in financial reconciliation. We are deploying national language processing for enabling structured data for e-prescriptions for doctors that are entering unstructured data in prescriptions to further improve MIS and patient safety.

Further, IoT-based applications complemented with bike ambulances or smart ambulances have helped us in improving point-of-care diagnostics. These help us transmit vital information of patients and optimise route times on a real-time basis to our command centre for patients in transit. With an average of 15 minutes reach-time of bike ambulances and 30 minutes of ambulances in the National Capital Region, we have been able to facilitate saving of almost 130 lives in the last 10 months, along with our operations command centre with this innovation.

What roles are telemedicine and m-health pl­ay­­ing in the delivery of healthcare services in India? What is your outlook for these services?

We have significant number of super specialist doctors of tertiary and quaternary specialities like oncology, neurology and cardiology at the Max Healthcare Group of hospitals and with the help of tele-consults and m-Health, we can actually percolate that knowledge to the remotest corners of the country. A person can get access to the medical advice at the click of a button. This teleconsultation process can be further improved by AI, possibly for triaging and initial diagnosis of patients based on the initial symptoms entered and patients’ vital information, which can then be supplemented further by specialist doctors. The recent launch of the Ayushman Bharat scheme complemented by tele-consults can facilitate health insurance services and benefit the un-insured population in a big way. The insurance assistance will also help get more of the uninsured rural population into the fold and encourage them to visit a primary healthcare centre. In the absence of specialist doctors at remote locations, these centres could be manned by trained nurses, paramedics or AYUSH doctors, who could use technological assistance to give a more specialised initial diagnosis to patients that can be augmented by senior specialist doctors through tele-consults.

“IoT combined with telemedicine is a big innovation, which is going to become important as we go forward.” Sumit Puri

What are the upcoming technology trends that will shape the healthcare industry in the next few years?

I see a lot more focus on prevention. Technology will play a bigger role in terms of customer engagement, allowing them to take charge of their own health, with health organisations supplementing that effort through timely interventions and personalised advice. I do see several collaborative partnerships in the healthcare ecosystem. For example, Max Healthcare has started forging partnerships with heal­th insurance institutions as well as with fitness band pro­viders, which creates a connected health­­care set-up for a patient to reduce lifestyle-related diseases through personalised, timely information. At the doctors’ end, technologies like ML and AI will help in reducing the non-standardisation of practices in the medical arena. Today, many technology use cases are prevalent in critical areas such as oncology, cardiology and pregnancy for enabling standardised treat­­ment protocols based on clinical outcomes, which will get refined further by ite­ratively introducing standards for clinical procedures and further dissemination and im­­provements in our clinical knowledge base.