Healthcare in India is a mixed bag of public and private organizations. Healthcare spending has always been the achilles’ heel of the Indian government, while private healthcare has its own challenges. The wave of digital transformation has opened new paradigms in healthcare information technology. Cloud, analytics, 3D-printing, telemedicine, robotics, wearable technology have set the pace for innovation in this sector.
The wide deployment of technology in healthcare is inevitable and is the need of the hour. According to Nasscom, Indian healthcare IT market is valued at USD 1 billion and will increase by 1.5 times by 2020.
Frost & Sullivan also projects massive growth in healthcare information technology. Healthcare IT in India will reach USD 1454.7 million in 2018, according to the research firm.
But the fast adoption of technology will also lead to massive vulnerabilities when it comes to securing patient data. According to IDC, healthcare ransom attacks will double by 2018.
As IT decision makers in healthcare organizations adapt to new technologies, security remains their top concern.
IDG spoke to three top decision makers in the healthcare sector in India, to get their perspective on the IT deployment priorities in their respective organizations. Veneeth Purushothaman, CIO, Fortis Healthcare, Venkat Iyer, Global CIO, Wockhardt and Irshad Saifi, GM-IT, Sun Pharma spoke to us about the challenges and the road ahead for Indian healthcare information technology.
Which technology changed the game for your company in the last two years?
Veneeth Purushothaman: When it comes to a technology that truly led to a transformation, it is the cloud. Fortis Healthcare moved to the public cloud 24 months ago. With all the advantage and ease that the public cloud has, it has especially helped us be more nimble. Moving to public cloud and enabled us to extend our services anytime anywhere for our clinicians and customers.
Venkat Iyer: In the pharma space, we are investing heavily in the areas of manufacturing and quality. As we supply our medicines to highly regulated markets like US and Europe, we have to ensure a very high reliability of electronic data based on which batches are accepted or rejected. So we are investing in quality management systems, online document storage and approvals. We are also extracting manufacturing machines data for analysis to stay ahead in the game.
Irshad Saifi: There are multiple technologies that have helped rush in digital transformation for us. A few among them are standardization, globalization, moving to cloud, analytics and deploying big data. In the upcoming years, the industry will benefit massively from key technologies such as automation, Industry 4.0 and IOT.
As a decision maker in your company, tell us about the main roadblock you’ve faced.
Purushothaman: The biggest challenge was to get to a single process and to standardize the various applications in the company. We achieved that partially by integrating our backend systems into one single application. The next step is standardization of Hospital Information Systems.
Iyer: We are growing from strength to strength. We are becoming more and more paperless. We had to get ourselves ready for the GST rollout and we migrated from TAXINJ to TAXINN which is a prerequisite to GST which should rollout by second quarter of the coming financial year.
Saifi: Compliance still remains a major item to address in the pharmaceutical industry. The best way to address compliance is to ensure that the company buys technology that meets regulatory needs and its entire lifecycle is being managed via integrated processes so that it meets compliance and business expectations.
What is your wishlist for the government to ease the woes in healthcare?
Purushothaman: There are various bodies working on the public-private partnership model in healthcare. We at Fortis are very keen and actively working to facilitate the PPP model in the country.
Iyer: When it comes to pharma, the current focus is how GST shapes up for the industry. After all the preparations that we have done for adapting to the new tax structure, we are looking to get the final GST law getting passed by the government.
Saifi: At the top of the wishlist would be increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in healthcare industry. Another thing that the industry can benefit from would be increased depreciation benefits.
Considering the vulnerability of healthcare data to breaches, how do you protect the data in your organization?
Purushothaman: Data is king for any enterprise but in healthcare, since this involves private information about a customer’s treatment and medication it is even more important that it is safe and secure. We are on the public cloud from a very established international provider and this gives us the benefit of a state-of-the-art infrastructure which provides multiple layers of protection to our data. This level of security which otherwise would have been too costly for someone with an on premise data center. Apart from this the data is encrypted in motion and we’ve been working with the business users to increase awareness on information security. Information security and data security begins at home from within the company and business users; the biggest threat is the lack of awareness within the user community.
Iyer: We have invested majorly in data security in both pharma and hospital. We have delployed various tools for web protection, email protection on the cloud, DDOS protection, advanced persistent threat protection. We also monitor malicious activity and ransomware aggressively.
Saifi: Protecting intellectual property has always been a challenge for all sectors and it becomes more important for pharmaceutical. This needs to be carefully handled and as a starting point the basics needs to be set right. The complete lifecycle of information security which is people, technology and processes matters the most. Information security as a whole need to be addressed. There are good amounts of technologies available in the market today to detect and prevent data leakage. But an organization needs awareness, the right information security people and strong processes to handle and secure the data. Technology alone would not help protect it.
What is the road ahead for healthcare industry?
Purushothaman: Technology in healthcare is beginning to become a game changer than just as enabler. I would not rush to say 2017 is that year when the change would happen but the change has begun and by 2020 the technology adoption in healthcare will be good. Many of the large players in this sector have grown inorganically and therefore are having multiple systems and processes. The current focus is on consolidation and standardization of processes and to provide a seamless and consistent experience to our patients.
Iyer: Last year was a year of up and downs for the industry. While transformation remains slow, there is hope that it will get better, and improve over last year. The deployment of technology has massively helped the way we store and process data, and at the end protect it. I’m positive about healthcare IT doing better than it did last year.
Saifi: Companies are now looking at IT to be a game changer and adding values to the business instead of just providing IT services be it supply chain, manufacturing, sales or distribution. Traditionally, IT was seen just as a support partner but now they are really making a difference to the bottom line in the organization. The adoption rate of new technologies and innovation has been very significant, and this is expected to increase in the coming years.