Right click on lifesavers

Updated: Feb 13 2006, 05:30am hrs
Imagine HCL Technologies designing and developing medical devices such as blood glucose monitoring system and dialysis equipment for healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson. Sounds improbable but true for the $764 million IT behemoth that has so far restricted itself to product engineering and technology services, applications, infrastructure and BPO.

HCL Technologies, like other Indian IT firms Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Satyam Computer Services and Infosys Technologies has identified design and development of medical devices as the new growth engine for healthcare.

The healthcare segment, globally acknowledged as a significant IT spender, will continue to present a significant opportunity for Indian IT services, ITES-BPO and biotech companies, going forward. While some work is being done by Indian software and services companies in the field of healthcare, much more still needs to be done,'' Says TCS Advanced Technology (including life science R&D) Centre head M Vidyasagar.

Consider this. Cognizant is providing solutions for electronic prescribing and improving chronic care for US citizens under the Medicare drug programme. Infosys has developed a web-based document management solution for the Indian subsidiary of a global pharma giant, struggling with the challenges of managing vast and diverse content. Wipro Technologies has developed an outpatient pharmacy system for a healthcare IT firm. HCL Technologies is providing solutions like clinical trial and data management on drugs and devices to Synchron Research Services.

FOCUS AREA

Manufacture of medical devices used in cardiovascular, orthopedics, respiratory, ophthalmic, neurology, urinary, disposable, infection and more.
R&D in drug discovery; development of genomics;
proteomics projects and bioinformatics solution development
IT BIGGIES
Cognizant
HCL Technologies
Infosys
Satyam Computer Services
Wipro Technologies
Global medical device market size $100 BILLION

The next wave of growth for IT firms, says HCL Technologies vice-president of global life science practice Pradep Nair, is the design and development of medical devices. A Frost & Sullivan report estimates the global medical device market at over $100 billion, of which $43 billion was generated from the US market last year.

Says Mr Nair, Today, medical devices form the backbone of the healthcare delivery. They cover the entire spectrum of prevention, screening, diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation and contribute significantly in improving the quality of life while reducing cost of healthcare. Interestingly, HCL Technologies and Wipro have set their sights on the manufacture of medical devices and other IT firms are fast catching up too. With big margins, the life science segment contributes 10-12% of HCL Technologies' overall revenues, while for others, the percentage is similar or slightly less, but fast growing.

The medical industry today is influenced by increased patient population, preventative therapies and a focus on healthcare cost containment," says Mr Vidyasagar. As a result, this industry is characterised by high level of innovation, intense competition and shortening of product cycles.

Healthcare is an information-intensive industry. India has strong chances of tapping the potential in IT-enabled healthcare like medical transcriptions, telemedicine, and the back-office work and software application in health. adds Ernst & Young life sciences practice head, Utkarsh Palnitkar.

According to a recent report by Kotak Securities, the country could become a powerhouse in global pharma outsourcing generating as much as $1 billion within the next five years.

The IT requirement within the global healthcare industry is being driven by the need to manage and reduce rising medical costs; regulatory reforms such as the HIPAA enactment in the US, and the NHS plan in the UK; an increase in IT spending by the US healthcare industry, which is expected to enhance IT budgets to $17.3 billion by 2007, up from $15 billion in 2003; an increase in IT spending by the healthcare industry in western Europe.

With the US healthcare industry increasingly under pressure due to regulations and the need for cutting costs, there is a huge potential for Indian IT companies to tap this market, says Mr Nair. Indian IT firms can offer global healthcare companies significant benefits in the following areas:

improvement in administrative billing practices and clinical treatment services through the introduction of expert information systems, computer-based patient records.

access to advanced technological solutions including data warehousing, document imaging, Internet solutions, expert information systems and telemedicine

Manufacture of pharmaceutical and medical devices.

India is forging ahead in developing novel biopharmaceuticals, generic drugs, diagnostics and handling contract services right from R&D to manufacturing. With a strong patent protection system in place, and, focus on manufacture of medical devices, we are making the grade as a knowledge-based innovative player. No longer will disease management and drug discovery be a 'hit and miss' or 'hunch and gut feeling' affair, says Mr Palnitkar.