Interviews

Adopting, training and excelling – IT @Apollo

Arvind-Sivaramakrishnan

Apollo Hospital lives by its mission statement – to bring healthcare of International standards within the reach of every individual. This can be achieved only by the adoption of modern technology to support the initiativesin healthcare that the organisation takes up. As a pioneer in corporatisation of healthcare in India, Apollo Hospitals group started in 1983 with its first 150 bed hospital in Chennai, and today has 9200 beds in 64 hospitals across the country. As one of the leading integrated healthcare providers in the country, it provides services across all the touch points of the healthcare spectrum- insurance, pharmacy, consultancy, clinics and of course, speciality hospitals. In various ways, the Group has touched the lives of over 45 million patients, from 121 countries, today.

Started with the mission of making world-class healthcare affordable, Apollo today does also has IT on its side. In a race to adopt the latest and most innovative technologies and steadily democratizing healthcare affordability in India, Apollo has rewritten quite a few rules in this 32 year old journey.

The group has been a pioneer in adapting international quality accreditations like JCI, and in developing centres of excellence in some specialities like Cardiac Sciences, Orthopaedics, Neurosciences, Emergency Care, Cancer and Organ Transplantation. Quality has been one of their strongest points and it is aided by technology applications that ensure seamless integration of medical records, hospital information systems and of course, their latest telemedicine initiative AskApollo.For the future there are biggest adoptions that will drive healthcare in India faster to their vision – affordable healthcare that will touch a billion lives- very soon. These and many more innovations are in store, says Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, CIO, Apollo Hospitals, in a conversation with Health Technology.

You have been in the healthcare IT for some years now. Despite rapid innovations, do you see any challenges in IT adoption across hospitals in India?

Optimistically, we are definitely better positioned than what we were 2- 3 years back. It is indeed true that despite rapid innovations, IT adoption is rather conservative. This is due to varied levels of IT literacy in the user groups. Change management and process reengineering are key to IT adoption. Healthcare IT initiatives cannot be viewed as a direct paper to computer transition. It involves workflow and process changes. This has to be managed with meticulous planning in the enterprise supported by effective training and end user support. In addition, the solution itself should ensure that they align with the healthcare workflow. It is absolutely essential that solutions align to the healthcare workflow and not the reverse. Cost of the computing devices and the cost of the core infrastructure are also some of the factors that contribute to the IT adoption in Healthcare institutions.

What technologies do you think are really working on ground level?

We cannot single out any particular technology. By our own experience at Apollo Hospitals, all technologies have been put to effective adoption. As I said earlier the adoption level indeed varies. We have deployed EMR, PHR, Big Data Analytics, Tele Health, mHealth, Health IT medical devices, iOT based medical devices, CRM etc. Each of these technologies have been working well and contributing very effectively to our operational, clinical and server excellence.

How do you see the cloud, mobility and social media technologies playing out in your sector?

All these technologies are definitely going to contribute to transforming healthcare with IT. They have all helped increase the accessibility and the scaling up of Healthcare. These technologies have clearly contributed towards healthcare being accessible 24x7x365. They have helped scale up healthcare operations and have contributed towards reducing the time to scale up too. Social media has been very helpful in connecting with patients and consumers and ensuring effectiveness of the care continuum.

How do you ensure that your medical personnel stay abreast with the IT developments in your industry?

Training …training and training. We have to be innovative in spreading the awareness. The traditional classroom based training will not be effective at all times. We can use some of the mobility and social media technologies to aide in effective orientation of technologies. Simulation techniques have also greatly helped. We have made some of the orientation as on-demand modules in our web based learning management solution.

Analytics is one of the most touted technologies today, across all sectors that can really drive business growth. In healthcare context, how do you think hospitals can best be using analytics?

Analytics is very important. We are seeing good benefits as it helps our operational, clinical, service and financial excellence. Operational analytics streamlines the hospital administration and ensures that we are constantly innovating our hospital administration and operations. This helps us reduce waste and adopt a lean and effective support system. Predicative and Prescriptive Clinical analytics helps us with constantly improve clinical quality and safety and improve clinical outcome measures. Analytics has also help us improve service standards in the health system.

M2M in terms of remote patient monitoring is rapidly catching up. Do you provide that service to patients?

Yes. We have a large telehealth practice in our health system. We have also launched M2M services “Ask Apollo”. Our tele health and M2M services are part of our core healthcare services. This has helped us ensuring very effective maintenance of care continuum and post hospitalization follow-up. Or M2M “Ask Apollo” service provides primary care consultations and also second opinion speciality based consultations.

Do you think telemedicine is the medicinal service of the future or is it still lacking somewhere?

TeleMedicine is clearly an efficient way to increase accessibility of healthcare. The adoption is indeed lacking and has not lived up to its potential. This is probably due to the limited awareness and education of the services associated to TeleHealth. The lack of strong regulatory guidelines is also a factor that has affected the adoption.

You have been instrumental in enabling Apollo group of Hospitals achieve the prestigious HIMSS Level 6 Health care IT maturity modelcertification. What next?

HiMSS 7.  We would like all our major hospitals to be at stage 7.  We are also working on ensuring all our hospitals are at the same level of Health IT that enable and support the clinical services. Our teams are already working towards these goals and we have getting our next set of hospitals to go through the formal assessment.

What is the best strategy for CIOs in the healthcaresectorto ensure adequate utilisation of technology innovations in the field?

We must partner with our clinical and operational teams. Our solutions should enable the health system. We should ensure that we have our ear to the ground such that our technology solutions add to the effectiveness of our health system. Our solutions should be simple such that they don’t add any overhead to the operations, reduce training and orientation overheads and in all reduce complexity and simplify workflows.

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