Flipsides of Healthcare Innovation

By Niranjan K Ramakrishnan, CIO, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital

Participating in series of Healthcare Technology Summits, round table discussions on IoT, outcome presentations on extensive surveys on innovations, and misinterpreting all available statistics during various conferences, as an Industry Expert one may want to question, do these innovations mean anything to a common man? 

World Bank’s World Development Indicators suggest 62.4 percent of total population in India is still absorbing the responsibility for managing the expenses for their own health. What’s the role of innovations in common man’s concerns towards healthcare expenses? As a common man, do I pay extra for improving the standard of services for the healthcare providers? In the trade-off between the quality and cost while dealing with innovation in healthcare, is the healthcare consumer at the receiving end? 

Dr Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, National Health Service (NHS, UK) said “We need to fundamentally rethink our attitude towards quality and cost objectives. To date, our approach has often been 'let’s seek to improve quality and worry about the financial implications at a later date' or 'we need to reduce costs”. In Indian context, where predominantly out of the pocket expense drive the healthcare system, it would be appropriate to say, innovations should focus on reducing the cost to the consumer without compromising the quality standards.

4 big Cs which are the 4 major aspects of healthcare service that impacts the end consumer are: 

•CURE - Core clinical services, 
•CARE - Overall experience while availing the healthcare service 
•COMFORT - Through various resources including human services 
•COST - Payment options and methodologies.

Successful role of Healthcare Innovation can be measured by the intent of enhancing the quality standards in offering the Cure & Care. But in true sense of Indian healthcare, we shall appreciate and adopt an innovation, should the new era technology become the catalyst to deliver the best comfort with lesser cost to the end users of healthcare. 

Measuring the clinical efficiency of innovation to ensure that quality is improved without compromising the patient safety is the biggest challenge. Evaluating the market size and valuation of the business in the healthcare innovation before launching the product, through a normal supply chain increases the uncertainty of the success of the innovation. With so many similar but departmental solutions, culturally, healthcare industry is unenthusiastic in taking risks and contemplates the solutions that were proven. 
With the volume of the consumers waiting to avail the healthcare services with the limited infrastructure, every stakeholder is totally time-pressed and adopting innovations may not on be on the priority list with the high-stress environment. The above challenges faced by the innovative product inventors adds up to the cost of distributing, implementing and owning the solutions and these costs are passed on to the patients and healthcare consumers.

Any innovation that was conceptualized and designed to resolve challenges faced with affordability, availability and accessibility issues and keeping in mind that money is not the only outcome of the innovation would be well adopted by the healthcare industry. Innovations should cut the cost and not the quality of the care. Old age telemedicine solutions and new age virtual health innovations addressed availability issues but not the affordability rather it increases cost to the patient. Recent mobility solutions that are promoted as eCommunity solutions, eAppointment, Queue management, ePrescription and EMR Solutions, etc do not necessarily save money for the healthcare providers nor patients. 

Lack of evidence and data to project the value of the investment and return on the investment on how these innovations really saved money or increased the revenue for the healthcare providers adds to the hesitation for the adoption.

Fragmented approach towards innovations brings in another challenge to the healthcare providers in establishing a digital road map and accommodates and addresses various issues faced.  Non-availability of the Hospital Specific Technology Road map and eHealth Framework, issues with interoperability among the HIS (ERP) vendors with the new age innovations also puts the hospital in bigger trouble.

Dealing with the real-time use cases of how innovation could do these wonders, there are initiatives across the industry by the healthcare CIO community, eGovernance initiatives and other forums are unveiling series of events and programs that will change the way all the stakeholders of Indian Healthcare would get the high-quality care beneficiaries they expect and deserve, at a cost our nation can afford. 

Motivation for any Innovation should not be just attracting the Venture Capital Funding by building database that could be mined out with huge capital valuation. Alternatively, innovation should be a possible solution to an unresolved challenge in the industry that affects each and every one of us. 

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