Analysts peg the Indian healthcare industry to reach $155 billion in terms of revenue by 2017. But are hospitals really using their money effectively? Narayana Hrudayalaya (NH) most certainly has been. The NH Group of Hospitals has been delivering on its promises of providing high quality, highly affordable healthcare services.
In this interview, the hospital chain's founder Dr. Devi Shetty talks about what IT can do to help lower the cost of healthcare in India and improve patient care by maturing beyond just being a driver for back-office work.
CIO: What do you think are the two biggest challenges of India's healthcare industry?
Dr. Devi Shetty: The greatest challenge is we need two million beds. There isn't that kind of a capital investment available in our country. There is a clear disparity in the expectations of the government. On one hand, the Indian government wants the cost of healthcare to go down, and on the other hand, they look at the healthcare industry to generate additional revenue for the government.
CIO: How does IT help tackle these challenges?
Dr. Devi Shetty: IT helps in reducing the costs of various operations in every service industry. Take a look at the number of financial transactions happening at NASDAQ--within a few minutes, billions of dollars exchange hands. The cost of transaction is virtually nothing. Another good example is supermarkets. Goods are bought, sold and maintained in huge numbers, and still there is hardly any transaction cost. This is possible only because entire services are run on efficient IT platforms.
All over the world, in healthcare, penetration of IT is extremely poor. I am not talking about using IT as a glorified typewriter for producing discharge/admission summary, data collection, and claim processes but 'patient care'.
CIO: Does IT bring in innovation in patient care at Narayana Hrudayalaya?
Dr. Devi Shetty: Firstly, at Narayana Hrudayalaya, we want to create a robust IT platform to control the finance department and quality of services. Post that, we want to get into patient care and outcome.
We are perhaps one of the few hospitals in the world where a balance sheet is created on a daily basis. A sophisticated ERP system on a cloud solution houses all the financial details about all the group hospitals.
CIO: You've been a poster boy for IT in the healthcare industry. Why do you think your peers don't use IT as much as you do?
Dr. Devi Shetty: The doctors who are at the helm of affairs in the healthcare industry and influence the policy/decision-making process belong to my generation. We grew up in a time when there were no computers. So, when we don't understand something, we are scared of it. Basically, since we are not comfortable, we don't want to make a fool of ourselves. Also, there is a hidden fear that it may reduce our importance.
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