Anil Bajpai, Co-founder and CTO, Zigy.com, talks to us on how changing business scenario in Indian healthcare makes technology adoption and upgrade a must-have for all players in the industry.
What role is IT playing in the changing Indian healthcare sector?
All over the world, the focus is shifting from the organization to the customer (patients). Until now, in India and worldwide, healthcare was focused on the hospitals. The technology upgrade there (internal facing) has been very fast. Now the focus is changing, and the consumer is thinking of having his health information himself. So, with this change, or shift from the focus, consumer centricity has come up in healthcare. Because of this consumer centricity in healthcare, there is a need to address to the consumer directly.
Therefore, the technology adoption has also started shifting from healthcare providers like hospitals and diagnostic centers to how a consumer can utilize health related services at his wish, will and convenience, anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
Technology in healthcare has not been as advanced as in other industries such as communications, mobile or banking. Many people feel this (healthcare) is where technology upgrade is required now.
What gaps in the market are you trying to fill with Zigy?
The healthcare market in India is highly fragmented, yet there are not enough avenues for the consumer to convenientlyget the things required to meet his healthcare needs. The consumer doesn’t have a choice. We have medical stores almost everywhere, but there is no easy way to have access a large number of inventory items. We are limited to small number of items that are available at the nearby health store. This is where we felt, we could provide the consumer with a choice to have a large number of healthcare items at his disposal, using even a mobile phone. If the consumer is able order what he wishes to and the order gets delivered in time, it would be a great service to the consumer.
Also, given an aged population, there is a need for chronic medication. With the traffic problems in our cities, consumers may not be able to easily travel to medical stores. So, providing the facility at their doorstep is another service.
In spite of some initiatives being taken in this field, there is a huge gap between demand and availability of healthcare products online.
Bottlenecks for technology adoption in the Indian healthcare sector
Lack of standardization is a big impediment. Currently, hospitals, doctors, diagnostic centers, other service providers and medical stores do not adhere to any common standard in how data should be kept available with them or managed by them.
Another issue is that, nobody is thinking of the patient as the center of their universe. The center has always been their own facility, their own organization. Every hospital upgraded its own technology, but nobody thought of how patients can access (their own records). This wasn’t a focus at all.
Over the decade, nearly every consumer has a smartphone, and the consumer expects that his health related information will be available to him on the smartphone, instead of with only the hospitals or in paper form. A technology upgrade is needed to cater to this focus. Earlier, the focus kept the hospitals in the center and hence nobody had then thought of technology upgrades in patient facing areas.
However, in the coming years, there is no option but for healthcare providers to comeout with common threads along which data can be shared from one kind of organization to another. A consumer would like to know what his doctor has prescribed, what reports the diagnostic center has issued; take both these and go to a hospital for further treatment. For this, we need to have his technology in a standardized digital form which is common across the industry. There is no way other than going for massive technology upgrade in the next two years.
What is the next big thing you foresee in healthcare IT?
Awareness of the consumer and the consumer being the center of the universe will be the changes we will see. Not only in healthcare, but in other fields too, like entertainment, banking and finance, or in any other service industry like retail, it is the consumer that is now becoming the center, not the organizations. Technologies like smartphone, Wi-Fi, data connectivity even in rural areas – all have provided power to the consumer where he needs the services at his wish, will and convenience.
Since the consumer has the power, it will force the different players in healthcare to offer their services to consumers who are not always coming to them. So far, you had to go the hospital, and only then the hospital would talk to you. Very shortly, hospitals would have to go to the consumers. The consumer demands what kind of doctors there are, what facilities are available, the kind of post-operative care offered; and compare with different hospitals. From medicine manufacturers to retailers and hospitals and diagnostic centers, service providers will have to go to the consumer.