EMR promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in India
Healthcare providers in India are slowly recognising the benefits of electronic medical records (EMR) to deliver efficient, advanced and cost-effective healthcare.
The growth is led by increased participation by private healthcare providers, advancements in digital technology, adaptation of smartphones, improved government reforms, and a pressing need for delivering patient-centric care, according to Ahimanikya Satapathy, CEO of DocEngage, which markets software aimed at helping clinics and home care providers into optimise operational workflow.
“Physicians want a framework that simplifies their day-to-day operations and enables them to deliver valuable experiences to patients," Mr Satapathy said. "Patients, on the other hand, want outcomes that improve their decision making. The expectation gap between physicians and patients can be narrowed down through technologies like EMR."
DocEngage is one of the innovative start-ups in the Indian digital healthcare space that is trying to empower healthcare providers with an integrated framework that provides EMR storage, laboratory management, inventory tracking, appointment scheduling, invoice management and revenue analytics.
Mr Satapathy said that while the popular motive for using EMRs was cost-reduction and process optimisation, healthcare providers are looking beyond the ROI-based model and focusing on delivering value-based care.
“Lots of IT companies try to build an EMR infrastructure with the focus on storing medical records using avant-garde technologies in order to reduce operational costs, without taking into perspective the outlook of patients towards it," he said. "Frankly speaking, I don’t think that’s the right way to approach it.
"I believe that technology should not break the existing healthcare system, but rather cater new ways to improve it. In geographies like India, where affinity towards technology is low, digital healthcare solutions like EMR should focus on delivering value-based care to the patients, while providing simplified and composable workflows that improve the overall productivity of physicians."
Mr Satapathy defined value-based care as digital healthcare solutions that should focus on creating outcomes that matter most to patients and physicians, while mitigating the cost to deliver it.
“With the Indian healthcare sector getting more competitive, healthcare providers need to shift towards delivering faster, better and cost-effective healthcare," he said. "The decision making now needs to be proactive and data-driven."
According to a recent Gartner report, Indian healthcare providers are estimated to spend $US1.2 billion on IT products and services in 2015, an increase of seven per cent from 2014.
However, citing the fact that Indian healthcare is a $100 billion market, Mr Satapathy said that the overall IT spending in the healthcare sector is largely disproportionate, and would only gear up in the next few years.
“If you look at the numbers, they tell you a different story," he said. "Sure, we have increased our spending on technology, but Indian healthcare is a huge market, with great upside potential. If healthcare providers have to keep up with the pace, they would need a scalable architecture to support their sprightly growth.”
A recent report from Equentis Capital showed that the $100 billion Indian healthcare sector is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years at an impressive annual rate of 15 per cent, with projections expecting it to reach $158 billion by 2017.
Mr Satapathy said the biggest challenge for EMR-based solutions in the Indian healthcare sector was not adaptability, but rather the lack of a centralised and regulatory approved digital healthcare infrastructure.
“We say that health is wealth, but in practice, we don’t imbibe it," he said. "We have a centralised wealth repository tracking the monetary transactions of every citizen in the country, but we don’t have a centralised healthcare repository that keeps a record of every citizen’s medical transactions.”
India's Office of the Registrar General (ORG) runs two initiatives on open health data: one called Sample Registration System (SRS), a demographic survey with a sample size of eight million people and Annual Health Survey (AHS), which collects data on 161 indicators from 25 million participants.
Though there have been certain moves towards encouraging open health data by the Indian government, including the recent collaboration at Healthcare DataPalooza with HSS for leveraging national level health and demographic data, that data is yet to be made accessible enough to tech-entrepreneurs for developing innovative healthcare solution.s
The problem seems to be a lack of sophisticated digital infrastructure that can collect anonymous patient data and provide secure access to IT providers for extracting actionable healthcare insights.
“The first step towards creating an effective open health infrastructure in India is to create a standardised healthcare repository that’s accessible to every healthcare provider in India," Mr Satapathy said. "We need to ensure that healthcare providers commit to sharing patient data anonymously and we need to provide secure means for allowing tech entrepreneurs to access it."
Although western healthcare systems have been actively adapting EMRs and open health data initiatives, there have been lapses in security that has led to compromises of sensitive medical information. Mr. Satapathy believes that, since India in the initial phase of adaptation, it needs to take cues from these systems, and develop clear, secure and regulated ways on how open health data can be accessed and used.
“We need to find a balanced approach for our digital healthcare system, rather than being too socialistic like UK or Canada, or too capitalistic like the US. The government needs to create a pragmatic model that not only looks good on paper, but is also secure, implementable and scalable.”
The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) is actively working towards establishing a uniform national standard and developing a common EMR repository for India.
In addition, the recently launched Digital India campaign is also expected to trigger technological transformation in the lot of diverse sectors in India, including healthcare, with Indian companies pledging to invest more than $70 billion in the campaign.
With 70 per cent of Indian healthcare being unorganised, the large influx of capital, combined with government reforms and revived entrepreneurship spirit, would only boost the growth of India’s traditional healthcare sector through smart digital solutions like EMRs.
Posted in Asia Pacific Health IT