(This article is authored by Venkataraman Subramanian, CTO, Columbia Asia Hospitals)
Technology is no longer confined only to the realm of IT and BFSI sectors, but has permeated to the Healthcare domain in India as well. Healthcare organisations are looking to information technology investments, be it in Cloud, Big Data, Analytics or Data security, in creating and optimizing value through technology consistent with the organization goals. It’s important to understand as to how exactly technology is playing a dominant role in shaping the healthcare sector.
Cloud is less of a technology decision and more of a business decision for them:
The technologies that are used in cloud are not brand new and already existed before. The difference is that these are now available on a different model for the business to procure and consume. So in this sense, the adoption of cloud is really not a technology decision – rather it is an indication of how a business is willing or able to accept a new model of technology consumption.
The question is what motivates or deters a business.
Unlike a traditional IT procurement cycle, cloud acquisition of either infrastructure, platform or software is very fast and so is the possible migration and decommissioning. Moreover, the entire focus on technology adoption can now be on what the business wants rather than what comforts the IT team. Much of the complexity of provisioning, de-provisioning is simplified if not eliminated. With cloud, product parameters like performance and elastic scale are available by default and the time to recover from an outage or disaster is really fast.
So, cloud is less of a technology decision and more of a business decision for us and other health industries. However, the onus of architecting such an ecosystem lies jointly with business and IT. In some sense, cloud bring the IT more closely to the business than ever before.
Data privacy and Data security in healthcare being tackled by healthcare majors
Privacy and data security has several dimensions. While there are standards and guidelines available, how each organization navigates through the maturity levels is contingent to the culture, commitment and pace of the organization to bake security and privacy into the organization. We have to be very careful not to overtly restrictive. Every security measure needs to be monitored for effectiveness and value it adds to the business. I would look at the following areas to tighten security and privacy within the organization: Infrastructure, Data, People, Process, and Compliance & Applications.
Technology investments by multi-speciality hospital
Hospitals invest heavily in operational medical technology like Operation theatre, imaging, and laboratory equipment like any other industry in their respective areas of operations. Manufacturing it has taken several business. The integration of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) with operational processes has been slower in healthcare in comparison. However, the scenario is changing especially with proliferation and wider acceptance of technology driven, human enabled mind-set. For Example how would you imagine, a software automatically controlling the access points to OPD (Out Patient Department) stations to a doctor who is on leave and rerouting the same OPD station to a second orthopaedic with inputs from the appointment engine that records a higher number of orthopaedic appointments for the day. This is a case of dynamic resource provisioning without human intervention but facilitated by human workforce. Another example of investment would be on decision support using EMR (Electronic Medical Record), including both structured and unstructured data. To that extent the investments in technology by multi-specialty hospitals will pick up momentum.
Shifting focus to ‘Cloud first, Mobile first’ approach in Healthcare
Cloud first, mobile first is not a question of “if”, it is more a question of “when”. It is a deal maker. Whether we build or buy software or compute resources, this is a given. We need to recognize something important here. What will happen to the IT team invested in traditional skills – how fast do they need to change? What structural changes need to be made? How do we enable the upskilling process? IT has always attracted talent that shows a relatively higher degree of learnability – “Knowledge workers”. As more and more self-service options come up for the business, they are going to feel overwhelmed or empowered. Consider a business that is hierarchical, where VPs are accustomed to have secretaries, who book meeting rooms and perform other related jobs. But suddenly the company invests in Office365 where meeting rooms are configured as resources where only the meeting organizer has to provision himself or herself for. How will this be perceived now?
IoT – The true convergence
Internet of Things is the manifestation of the coming together of most existing technologies. Devices, networks, elastic computing, data analytics are all important ingredients of an IOT solution. Let us take an example. Suppose we want to track the cycle of use and disposal of surgical towels in the OT (Occupational Therapy). How should we design the towel dispenser? What fail-safe mechanism and manual overrides should be built in it? How do we secure the dispenser from authorized access? How do we transmit data from the OT to the EMR (that could be cloud hosted)? What happens in the event when there is a network failure? How do we then use the OT records in the EMR data for inventory optimization and charging without a human being having to enter these manually? Can we model the OT consumption of medical supplies to discover a model that allows a better pricing model? So, in totality, we have a complete convergence of various technologies and processes including security, data analytics and cloud that can be brought together for the implementation of a single IOT business case.
With so much happening in the healthcare domain, it’s not difficult to fathom a time when technology would occupy a more pivotal role within the organisation.