‘AI, IoT, 3D printing, AR/VR will revolutionise the healthcare sector’

‘AI, IoT, 3D printing, AR/VR will revolutionise the healthcare sector’

Sumit Puri, CIO, Max Healthcare, discusses the innovations and technologies redefining how healthcare is delivered.

The healthcare sector faces some unique challenges in providing better patient care and superior customer experiences. Sumit Puri, Chief Information Officer, Max Healthcare, believes that a combination of new technologies like IoT, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence can radically transform the way healthcare services are delivered.

What are the typical business challenges faced by healthcare providers like Max?
The typical challenges faced by healthcare providers are related to balancing operational costs and enabling customer convenience while ensuring high medical quality. Since life and health insurance penetration levels are still very low for a country as diversified as India, the out-of-pocket money to be spent by patients is almost 65-70 per cent, which is significantly higher than that of patients in developed countries, where the bulk of treatments are covered and out-of-pocket expenses are below 20 per cent on average. Also, given the fact that patients have a lot of complex multi-disciplinary medical conditions and the lack of standardisation of medical treatment protocols, it is difficult to measure and compare healthcare providers on quality parameters. On account of the lack of accurate comparisons, customer acquisition costs and bed occupancy ratios, even for large medical providers, still hover around the 60-70 per cent mark despite acute demand for healthcare and shortage of quality clinicians and healthcare institutions across the country.

How do you overcome these challenges with IT?
IT can be used to usher in more patient safety and enhancing customer convenience at affordable costs. IT systems like electronic health records, e-prescriptions, etc can increase patient safety by enabling transparency and standardisation of protocols. Best in class technologies like AI, Robotic Process Automation, IoT, and digital and mobile applications can enhance productivity, customer convenience, and also reduce operational costs. With proper leveraging of data analytics and integrated systems, we are able to streamline operational workflows and provide a lot of insights to further improve clinical and operational efficiency. For the first time, with the advent of digital and mobile technologies, IT is no longer being considered only as a cost centre, but is perceived as a source of creating wealth and business growth for the enterprise.

How are digital technologies changing the way healthcare is delivered?
Digital technologies are enhancing customer experience, reducing operational costs, and helping facilitate new business and operating models, which are resulting in new sources of revenue generation for healthcare provides. Through digital and mobile technologies customers can stay connected anytime, anywhere to healthcare providers throughout their lifecycle. For example, the [email protected] digital platform, which we have deployed, offers continuum of care for a variety of healthcare services, like physiotherapy, nursing, sample collection, medicine delivery, X-Ray diagnostics, etc, all at the comfort of patients’ homes with a focus on prevention of illness rather than curative treatment in hospitals. Our patient self-service portal facilitates creation of a digital health locker for patients with all diagnostic reports, e-prescriptions, etc available in a consolidated manner with the flexibility to link family members’ medical records, book and reschedule appointments on mobiles, order [email protected] services or emergency ambulance services, do online check-ins, besides availing of discounts on bookings, etc. Similarly, technologies like telemedicine and connected IoT devices that capture patients’ vitals and transfer information real-time over the cloud to clinicians can enhance patient safety with timely diagnosis and treatment. At Max Healthcare we have also equipped our paramedics in bike and smart ambulances with point of care diagnostic devices that enable them to transfer clinical information in real time to our command centre to ensure patient safety while in transit. Combined with clinical support and leveraging of technologies like GIS and Google Maps used in our ambulances, travel time is optimised with every minute saved potentially enhancing patient recovery and saving lives of several critical patients.

What new technologies will have maximum impact on the healthcare sector?
I think new path-breaking technologies like Artificial Intelligence, IoT, 3D printing, precision medicine, and AR/VR will change the way healthcare training and delivery is administered globally. Over time, technologies like AI, if trained well without presence of cognitive bias, will automate mechanical tasks, enhance accuracy in diagnosis, and augment the decisions and intelligence of clinicians and radiologists. Similarly, connected IoT devices and wearables will enhance patient safety and engagement on a real time basis. Technologies like eICU and 3D printing will make geographical distances history by improving access and reduce the cost of surgeries significantly. Augmented and virtual reality technologies will enable real time simulations of clinical models and enable better training of nurses, clinicians and healthcare providers, besides enabling digital marketing of healthcare institutions. Precision medicine and advancements in big data analytics will offer personalised care plans and treatment to patients by understanding individual patient parameters and symptoms over their lifetime. So clearly healthcare in the future is poised to undergo a quantum leap thanks to new innovative technologies already looming on the horizon.