by Shubhra Rishi

Manipal Hospitals Use Wearables to Improve Patient Care

Jun 19, 20145 mins
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By creating a mobile app that’s linked to a wearable device and the company’s HIS, the hospital increased revenue, and enhanced customer experience.

Company:  Manipal Health Enterprises Technology:  Wearable Technology No one said that the business of saving lives was easy. Ask the medics and they will tell you that it’s challenging, demanding, and sometimes even melancholic. But wearable technology is bringing back the cheer in healthcare.

But it’s only recently that wearable technology is finding a place in the healthcare enterprise space. It had always been a technology used primarily by consumers. According to a recent Accenture study, 80 percent of consumers in India are likely to buy fitness monitors in order to track their health and wellness. While companies such as Google and Nike account for maximum share in the digital fitness device market, new Indian start-ups are inventing wearable devices to cater to the young health-conscious Indian consumer.

For instance, Goquii is a wearable fitness tracking device that monitors calories burnt, determines sleep patterns, and measures distance covered by the wearer, thereby connecting him—in real-time—with a trainer via phone or video calls. Le Chal is another wearable smart device that connects to a smartphone via bluetooth and calculates calories measuring the distance covered by the user. Another wearable ring, developed by a Kochi-based engineer, is fitted with sensors that can detect swipes, finger taps, and makes a user’s palm behave like a digital touch interface to interact with different digital gadgets.

The popularity of the technology among consumers is encouraging enterprises in the healthcare space to leverage its power. These healthcare chains feel that wearable devices can now provide people suffering from chronic diseases, pregnant mothers, and heart diseases with a better chance of being attended to in a timely manner. They are looking at wearable technologies as a breakthrough in clinical care.

Among them, is Manipal Hospitals. The Rs 800 crore healthcare chain is looking for opportunities to generate revenue and expand capacity in order to double its sales in three years. And one great way of moving in that direction is providing a great customer experience. “The investment in wearable devices, is to purely deliver services to provide patients a continuum of care, both inside and outside the hospital premises,” says Nandkishor Dhomne, CIO, Corporate Office, Manipal Health Enterprises.

After a joint decision by various stakeholders, the company decided to implement a mobile app—coupled with a wearable device—that provides pregnant mothers—and their doctors with real-time access to health data.

This mobile app is connected to a wearable fetal monitoring system. This lightweight wearable sensing device—when worn by a pregnant woman—collects critical information such as fetal heart rate patterns, labor progress, and uterine activities and transmits it to her doctor. The doctor, in turn, can access and make informed decisions in real-time inside the hospital or remotely on a tablet or a phone.

The device is suitable for both prenatal care as well as during active labour and delivery. “The wearable device provides a combination of remote sensing technology with a software solution that is integrated with our hospital management system,” says Dhomne.

In a large country such as India, where 51 babies are born every minute, such wearable devices can ensure safe delivery for mothers. While mothers are rejoicing with their new-borns, heart patients are also breathing a sigh of relief. The hospital has leveraged another wearable device which is designed to assist cardiologists in monitoring and assisting heart patients. The team at Manipal has access to critical information of patients suffering from angina, myocardial infarction, and post cardiac procedures such as stents and pacemakers. It also provides information to doctors about cardiac arrests—all on their smartphones and tablets. The wearable device can monitor patients at home, without inconveniencing them to frequently visit the OPD. Dhomne says that the use of wearable technology has certainly given Manipal competitive edge over other healthcare institutions. “It has given us the opportunity to move away from lab-centric to user-centric diagnostics,” he says.

The hospital did not spend a dime on any infrastructure-related costs. “The biggest challenge for us wasn’t IT but it was overseeing change management for doctors, physicians, and nurses,” says Dhomne. Persistent communication with them helped in making this solution a success.

The IT team along with the solution providers and partners played a crucial role in ensuring optimal training for the hospital staff every step of the way. The IT team at Manipal also made the solution provider’s wireless cardiotocograph (fetal monitor) work over its corporate Wi-Fi network with more than 99.999 percent availability. This was extremely crucial as it acted as the lifeline for getting patient data to the physicians and nurses seamlessly and help them serve more patients efficiently.

Taking the example of how a consumer-centric glucometer revolutionized the treatment of diabetics, Dhomne says that patients are likely to benefit from a horde of medical-grade wearable sensors available today. “Integrating the wearable sensor data with advanced analytics that take advantage of the cloud will provide major breakthroughs in how healthcare is delivered in the future,” he says. It has been six months since Manipal Hospitals has rolled out the wearable solution to its patients. “The innovative solution is aimed at meeting the latent needs of our patients and we are focused on delivering revenue and customer satisfaction for our patients in the near future,” says Dhomne.