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IT in healthcare should first be patient focused, electronic records need for the hour

Ali AsgarBohari, Director – IT, Zulekha Hospitals shares his views on the issues with healthcare IT and the need for electronic medical records.

What role does IT play in healthcare?

IT is not specific to healthcare. Even if you start a small shop, you need a computer to manage your accounting. In healthcare, IT is playing a major role in providing service to patients. If you wish to provide quality service – healthcare – to your patrons (patients), you need quality IT at the backend. Today, business processes are aligning to information technology everywhere – business needs IT. From electronic medical records (EMR) to social media, IT is required everywhere in healthcare.

Since you are starting a new hospital, do you think it is easier for you to bring IT in, since there are no legacy issues?

If you are starting a new hospital, implementing anything (IT) is not that challenging. In India, the challenge is in getting electronic medical records filled by the doctors. When implementing any solution that relies on EMR – and most of them do – there has been a challenge in convincing doctors to use them and get them to understand that it benefits them. However, for our upcoming hospital, I don’t see this as a bottleneck, because, we have already faced this problem earlier and have overcome it.

Do you think social media plays a role in healthcare?

Hospitals can use social media to disseminate information related to health and to market themselves. Since mobility is the in thing now, making your social media posts accessible on mobile devices is key.

What challenges do hospitals face in implementing IT?

The major challenge is to choose the correct technology that is required for your hospital. Going for technologies like smart cards without first having implemented EMRs is not optimal use of resources. Technologies must be chosen to help patients and doctors first, and everything else comes later. You shouldn’t be wasting time to find medical records of a patient – EMRs should be available to every doctor. My observation of the Indian healthcare system is that while resources are available, they are not always spent on the essentials.

What is needed to be done to bring analytics to healthcare?

Taking the example of the UAE, all hospitals there have to submit all patient documents like prescriptions, claims, etc., to a centralized government portal. In India, there is no such centralized government portal. Here, every state works has its particular health standard. A single standard should be created and should apply to all the states and be followed by every public and private sector hospitals. All patient related data has to be submitted on a single centralized portal. To bring any analysis and intelligence into an IT system, the most critical component is data. Without data, analytics and statistics simply won’t work. With the right kind of analytics, we can even promote medical tourism.

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