Mobility & Healthcare

By Ninad Raje, Director & CIO, HealthAssure

The healthcare sector in India has witnessed a paradigm shift in the last few years. Earlier, the industry had a singular focus on disease-care. The practice was primarily citizen funded, with primary care, secondary care and tertiary care facilities fulfilling the need, in severe medical conditions.

But today, with an overkill of super-processed foods to timeless work-shifts; lifestyle upgrades come with an inbuilt compromise on general health, demanding better awareness as well as high specialty care. In addition, the overall increase in the buying power of public morphed healthcare into a service oriented industry, holding the patient at the center of its universe.

Mobility: The Game-Changing Transformation

Healthcare providers across the globe are facing high pressure and challenges due to increased patient volumes, resource crunches and regulatory requirements to improve the quality of service and responsiveness. To meet these challenges, it is essential to have the right tools that would improve the workflow and staff throughput, to streamline the communication and interaction among the multiple stakeholder and to provide quick and secure access to critical real-time information. The healthcare service industry has already evaluated new ideas, strategies and technologies to meet quality standards. The widespread consumer adoption of mobile computing devices for day-to-day life is proving that mobile devices are the best delivery channel for quick and convenient service access.

Mobile enabling of the healthcare services facilitates on-demand access to time-critical information leading to accurate and timely patient assessment and right treatment and meaningful collaboration between healthcare providers, diagnostic service providers, insurance providers ensuring better care to patients at an affordable expense.

The global medical device and mobile health monitoring market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 43.3 percent from 2013 to 2019*. The global market value should reach beyond $8 billion in 2019*. The rise in communication tools, a large aging population, and more prevalence of chronic diseases are all bringing greater growth for the mobile health market.

Key Drivers of Healthcare Mobility

Addressing the Real-World Needs: The healthcare industry is heavily dependent on data. It is very essential for the doctor, nurses or other healthcare professionals to access the past and present data of a patient to make a quick decision on what treatment or medication needs to be done on a patient in an emergency. Introducing mobility into the electronic data storage and retrieval system will act as a catalyst to provide near real-time response.

Consumer Empowerment: In today’s technology-enabled world, most of the people are ‘smart consumers’, and most of them are heavily dependent on high-end smartphones or touch-pad devices for their day-to-day activities and it is easy for them to receive information and access data or service through these devices and channels than through any other media or channels.

Convergence of Technology: As technology is advancing, we are witnessing technology convergences in many of the focus areas. The emergence of unified communications is a real-world example for this. Unified communications and technology convergences provide desktop computing experiences in small form factor mobile devices leading to data access anytime and anywhere are key driving factors for bringing mobility in the healthcare industry.

Regulatory Compliance Requirements: As healthcare procedures are becoming more complex, government is imposing strict regulatory compliance guidelines to ensure patient safety and privacy, such as EMRs (electronic medical records), EHRs (electronic health records), HIPAA & HITECH privacy rules. The healthcare service providers are forced to adopt electronic systems and mobility to comply with these regulatory requirements.

Power of Cloud Computing: With the Software-as-a-Service cloud model, many healthcare-related requirements such as EMRs can be implemented quickly and safely with easy access anywhere.

Mobility Solutions in Healthcare

Healthcare Everywhere!

Driven by the rise of new technologies, more & more healthcare has moved from hospitals and clinics to homes and communities. From smartphones to social media to sensors, new tools are empowering consumers with more information and control over their healthcare decisions—and physicians with more options for where and how they treat their patients.

Following mobile technologies and solutions have completely changed the healthcare landscape:

The rise of ubiquitous connectivity: From inter-operable electronic health records to cloud-based computing and data storage, continuous innovation has kept us connected and informed, everywhere we go.

The power of smartphones: Smartphone technology has put health information—and applications—into everyone’s hands. With “The medicalization of consumer devices,” smartphones are monitoring vital signs, measuring calories and helping consumer manage their own health in every possible setting.

The new right care, right place, right time approach: Care delivery has transitioned from acute care settings to local clinics and retail environments. A new system of care has emerged - treatment by the lowest-cost providers, including pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This has been made possible due to mobility.

Electronic Health/Medical re­cords (E H/M R): These systems improve medical practices because they are enabling patients and doc­tors to view data in real-time, they contain a patient's history & diag­noses, lab results and radiological imagery, medications and immuniza­tions, treatment plans and progress, transmit information to patients wirelessly through email or secured portal, provide automated workflow for doctors, allow access to evidence based tools for providers, make it faster and simpler to share health records between hospitals, doctors and patients.

Moreover, cloud based EHR systems are revolutionizing the adoption of EHR in India.

Telehealth: This disruptive technology is bringing forth a paradigm shift within the healthcare eco-system. Patients and consumers can now remotely connect with doctors and medical facilities not just in India, but globally. A recent study (by Geisinger Health Plan) has shown that the odds of a patient being admitted to the hospital were 23 percent lower during the months they were enrolled in the telemonitoring program.

Telehealth services improve medical practices by:

• Providing better outcomes because patients receive timely access to specialists.

• Avoiding excessive admissions or re-admissions and unnecessary transfers because patients and doctors receive better and faster information.

• Reducing costs for physicians and managers by not having to keep additional staff on hand to specialize in areas where services are needed on an adhoc basis.

• Benefitting underserved areas by extending doctor's & patient's reach without having to keep the budget of a large-scale facility.

Reducing costs to both hospitals and patients because specialist resources are more efficient.

The Indian context

In India, there is a significant need to focus on mobile solutions given the access issues, especially in rural areas. A rural patient requiring care does not want to travel to a town or city as it would mean loss of daily wages in addition to the expenses for their travel and stay. In this case, affordability and accessibility accomplish similar outcomes. An example of mobile healthcare delivery is the mobile eye surgery unit developed by the Healthcare Technology Innovation Center (a joint initiative of IIT Chennai and the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India). Here, a world class patient preparation room and a world class surgery theatre are created in two buses that are connected to each other with a custom designed walkway. The two buses travel to remote locations and aid the doctor in performing cataract surgeries.

Another example is a mobile Hospital, which has delivered mobile healthcare to close to 6 lakh patients since its inception in March 2006. This is not a medical camp, it is an entire hospital recreated on the premises of government schools for a day. The mobile bus unit is a diagnostic center and the generator. All other equipment required to recreate all the departments and corresponding pharmacies (Radiology, Medicine, Surgery, Orthopedics, Obstetrics & Gynecology, E.N.T, Dentistry, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, Dermatology, and Psychiatry) is carried on a separate bus.

I firmly believe that, Mobile enabling of the healthcare services facilitates on-demand access to time-critical information for accurate and timely patient assessment and right treatment, meaningful collaboration between healthcare provider, diagnostic service providers and insurance providers to deliver better care to patients at an affordable cost.

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