Why standardisation and interoperability of data is central to the development of healthcare sector
As the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the world lives in 2020, it also transformed the healthcare sector with the help of technology by way of boosting the quality of services and improving access to them.
India’s healthcare sector is one of the largest in the country, both in terms of revenue and employment.
The sector comprises various fields that have tremendous potential to reduce costs of medical services and improve patient outcomes. Technology is going to play a key role in enabling these outcomes. To that end, the government has set up the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) to provide the necessary support to make the digital health infrastructure of the country more inclusive.
To understand the factors that are shaping India’s healthcare ecosystem and the scope for opportunities, YourStory in association with AWS, organised a CTO roundtable featuring prominent stakeholders who’ll share their perspectives on catalysts that can enable the growth of the sector.
Interoperability and standardisation of data key to enable success of National Digital Health Mission
The first session of the CTO roundtable featured Anurag Saxena, Principal (Public Health; Payer Provider and Government Solutions, IQVIA) and gave an overview of the various initiatives that IQVIA is consulting on with the National Digital Health Mission, including pilot projects and aiding expansion of several others.
Anurag talked about the company’s vision to create a stronger digital healthcare ecosystem in the country that would support universal healthcare coverage. “We are trying to replicate the success of digital payments and UPI, where the government created the backbone infrastructure and private players provided compatible applications. We are trying to digitise healthcare in the same way.”
Anurag then explained the key pillar of such digitisation is the standardisation and digitisation of the health records of patients and healthcare professionals to ensure easy access and interoperability. He then explained that the core building blocks that need to be developed is a ‘Health ID’ for patients, a doctors’ registry and a health facility registry. He also spoke about applications that have been developed to help healthcare providers generate personal health records, and electronic medical records without any hassles.
Anurag also explained how the NDHM sandbox has been developed by the government as the foundational infrastructure for private players to create applications. “It is like a test environment where you can play around with APIs and NDHM technology for application development and testing...The idea being to eventually become a health information provider to share in a seamless manner.”
PaaS and SaaS crucial to meeting the healthcare needs of the country
The next session featured Dr Pankaj Gupta, Head — ACCESS Health Digital, where he spoke about the various initiatives of the think tank in implementing the National Digital Health blueprint and its building blocks.
“We are working on (building) the infrastructure, platforms and software as a service (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) offerings,” he said. With regards to IaaS, Dr Pankaj explained that they were already closely working with AWS, given that it is one of the largest cloud service providers in the country.
On the PaaS front, he also spoke about how they are enabling startups looking to develop healthcare solutions by building repositories such as Health Data dictionary, value sets and code directories on CSV and XML, among others.
Talking about the SaaS platform, he said, “We are creating telemedicine bundles, and helping primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare providers stay up to speed (with their healthcare services),” he said, mentioning that ACCESS Health Digital’s primary market were medical facilities with less than 50 beds that appear to be thriving in Tier 2 and 3 regions as they make up 90 percent of all hospital beds in the country.
He also made a case for how PaaS and SaaS offerings are crucial for meeting the healthcare requirements of the country and for building healthcare standards specific to India that are accessible by all, as opposed to importing them from other nations.
The opportunities and challenges of India's healthcare sector
The next session was a panel discussion that featured prominent members of the healthcare and HealthTech industries and was moderated by Amitabh Nagpal, Head of Startup Ecosystem in India, AWS and Kousik Rajendran, Solutions Architect and Healthcare specialist for Amazon Internet Services Private Limited (AISPL).
The panelists were: Venkatakrishnan S CTO and Head - Research and Development,Pvt Ltd; Chandrasekhar K, Founder and CEO, Forus Health Pvt Ltd.; Nidhi Jain, Founder and CEO, KareXpert; Dr Anand Mahalingam PhD, Head of AI , ; Nidhi Mathur, CBO, Algorithmic Biologics and ex-COO, , Algorithmic Biologics; Ramanan Laxminarayan, Founder and Board Chair, HealthCubed; Sanjeev S MD and Chief Executive Officer, Meddiff Technologies Pvt Ltd; Ravi Gupta, Chief Scientist – Bioinformatics RandD, MEDGENOME; Vaibhav Tewari, Chief Operating Officer, ; Anirban Chakraborti, E-Business and Product Head, Medicare; Alok Kumar Vishwakarma, Director Engineering, ; Pawan Jain Co-founder and CTO, InformDS ( ); Abhimanyu Bhosale CEO and Co-founder, (CrelioHealth); Rajat Garg CEO, ; Gaurav Bagga, Head of Product and Engineering ; Zainul Charbiwala Co-founder and CTO, Health; and Ashish Shinde Technology Lead, .
The panelists spoke about the key opportunities and challenges faced by these sectors in the past year. These opportunities included: a rise in enterprises leveraging data in an analytical way, right from personalisation of healthcare to disease management; a rise spend on technology by stakeholders, especially among small and medium-sized healthcare providers; the popularity of telemedicine e-pharmacy; increased quality of applications as increased demand drove innovation and efficiency of processes; and the government’s efforts in building a blueprint for the National Digital Health, among others.
Some of the challenges that the panelists discussed included: the resistance to adoption of technology that many healthcare providers and retailers of pharmaceutical products have; rising healthcare costs; issues with data entry that can hamper standardisation and interoperability of health-related data; and lack of awareness around informed consent among patients; among others.
The panelists also shared their insights about the importance for adopting a long-term approach towards improving healthcare services in the country, the need to incentivise healthcare providers to adopt technology by crafting solutions that boost their revenue streams, and the need for greater policy interventions in the sector.