Covid-19 pandemic exposed underlying vulnerabilities in the healthcare infrastructure: Nidhi Jain, KareXpert

‘Patient care and patient management processes have changed dramatically in the last 18 months or so; healthcare providers are looking for innovative ways to connect to patients for providing remote care. ‘

healthcare infrastructure in India, COVID-19 , SaaS, healthcare IT solutions, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Nidhi Jain, KareXpert
'Teleconsultation and telehealth which were earlier the backbenchers have become the need of the hour. '

The Covid-19 crisis had a catastrophic impact on the Indian healthcare system, which was already grappling with inadequate infrastructure, a low doctor-to-patient ratio and an acute shortage of trained manpower. Indian hospitals were extremely short-staffed, and the pandemic left them overburdened with a sudden influx of Covid-19 patients. This left them with no time for handling customer queries, managing appointments and other administrative tasks. The second wave of the pandemic witnessed a heightened adoption of cloud-native technologies, with an increasing number of hospitals (both large and small) moving their IT operations from legacy systems to the cloud. The rising cognizance of cloud computing and the agility, scalability and cost-optimization benefits it offers, drove the wide scale implementation of SaaS-based healthcare solutions across India. SaaS solutions not only brought higher operational efficiency and streamlined patient management flow but also helped in minimizing human errors. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online Nidhi Jain, Founder, KareXpert talked about healthcare IT infra, impact of Covid-19 and more. Excerpts:

Has the pandemic highlighted the need for an advanced healthcare infrastructure in India?

Definitely. The Covid-19 crisis, in many ways, has helped break the status quo of the healthcare IT industry. It is the pandemic that has exposed the underlying vulnerabilities in the infrastructure of both public and private healthcare facilities.

Healthcare providers are seeking innovative tech-driven models to deliver better integrated and accessible care, increase operational efficiency, and generate higher returns. The leading healthcare providers and hospitals are proactively and fundamentally reshaping how the industry operates and how care is being delivered. While the recipe across providers varies, common among these new business models are delivery of hyper-coordinated care, better collaboration among stakeholders, and the use of Big Data and advanced analytics. Such models intend to reorient traditional healthcare towards a more integrated healthcare to provide high-quality, accessible and affordable care.

Teleconsultation and telehealth which were earlier the backbenchers have become the need of the hour. These technologies have enabled the facilitation of many different business models like virtual care, remote care, home care etc. IoT devices for storing patient data that can be monitored from anywhere are also seeing an uptick in demand, furthering the possible use cases of home care, extended remote care etc. These shifts are highlighting the importance and pertinence of advanced, tech-based healthcare infrastructure in India.

How cloud-based SaaS is becoming the future of Healthcare?

In this rapidly-changing healthcare landscape, providers are looking for healthcare IT solutions where new requirements and support is taken care of as managed services so that they can solely focus on the integrated and quality patient care with better operational efficiency. However, the traditional healthcare IT companies face challenges while building applications which are cloud-native, mobile-ready, and AI/ML ready. This is where SaaS providers come into play, helping create an open ecosystem that enables constant innovation with end-to-end managed services. This is something that no on-premise, in-house solution can provide.

I would like to give an analogy here. If I want to watch on-demand video content today, will I buy a DVD player or will I subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime or other OTT services? The answer is quite obvious. Every new technology has its own time and scope of application, and if we don’t change we will become extinct – history is witness to the same. From an infrastructural perspective, the cloud is a one way street, the sooner we change it, the better. We have seen the change also in the past two years for the cloud technology adoption. I have no doubt in my mind that cloud is the only way forward for healthcare providers. However, there is a word of caution here, i.e. if hospitals are thinking of changing the hardware, they must focus on the software side at the same time. Not all healthcare software solutions are cloud-native and cannot scale quickly with the growing demands.

Are the hospitals now more receptive towards digital transformation than they were 2 years ago? Please elaborate.

Yes, Hospitals are more receptive. Before the onset of the pandemic, digital healthcare was in the ‘nice-to-have’ category, but now it has come under the ‘must-have’ category. Hospitals are incorporating advanced technology-based solutions into their operations to generate more business efficiency, improve staff productivity and, most importantly, increase patient satisfaction.

How is digital transformation going to help in patient management in the coming 2-3 years?

Patient care and patient management processes have changed dramatically in the last 18 months or so; healthcare providers are looking for innovative ways to connect to patients for providing remote care. Digital tools – cloud-based solutions in particular – have made this transition to virtual consultations very seamless. Even after the pandemic subsides, I believe patients will continue to opt for telehealth services on the back of comfort and convenience. Eventually, the entire healthcare ecosystem will become open, adding to the demand for integrated healthcare IT solutions.

How do you foresee the growth of the healthcare domain in India?

The healthcare domain will grow exponentially in India as well as across the world in the coming years. Recently, a McKinsey research paper has estimated the digital healthcare market to be worth $100 billion in value by 2025. Earlier, the digital adoption in the healthcare sector was very slow, but the COVID-19 crisis has certainly acted as the catalyst for the healthcare IT industry. HIMSS defines the digitization level from 1 to 7. I would say in India, the HIMSS level of small and mid-sized hospitals before the pandemic was at around 0-1, whereas the number went up to 3 for corporate hospitals. Now, healthcare providers are looking for maximum digitization for integrated and connected care. This push towards digitization is one of the key growth drivers of the healthcare sector.

How KareXpert is streamlining the cluttered Indian Healthcare industry

While building our solutions, we did a thorough analysis of both the Indian and the global healthcare industry to identify the pain points of providers. Few of the common themes we have observed from our research are constant change requests, application support concerns, disjointed experience because of multiple point solutions, mobile readiness, data security, and lack of expertise in the in-house IT team. With KareXpert’s cloud-native, mobile-first and integrated SaaS solution, we address these challenges through a platform-based approach. It is a no-coding platform offering 50+ pre-integrated modules with 450+ applications, thereby allowing healthcare providers to access all of their IT requirements on a single platform. This enables a higher level of collaboration among different departments (diagnostics, radiology, pharmacy etc) within a hospital/healthcare facility and results in a more consistent and continuous care delivery. We continue to partner with AI, ML and IoT solutions providers to further accelerate the digitalisation of hospitals and their processes.

We also provide a pre-integrated data lake where hospitals/healthcare institutes can store vast amounts of patient and clinical data in a consolidated manner. We have partnered with PwC to conduct security audits to ensure privacy and security of that data. Google has termed our 50+ modules as “ G Suite for Hospitals” – a recognition we are really proud of. Digital healthcare transformation is the key mission of KareXpert, and we plan to contribute to the creation of an open digital healthcare ecosystem.

What kind of challenges do you face while connecting with hospitals?

Whenever companies bring new technologies or category-first solutions, there will always be the initial resistance. As for KareXpert, the main challenge we have faced is the apprehension of hospitals about the journey to cloud. It is quite challenging to break their notion that migrating to the cloud is complicated and involves numerous steps. Secondly, a large percentage of hospitals that we contact express their concerns around cyber security, especially from the PII/SII perspective. However, the pandemic-induced digitalisation has provided a push towards increased cognizance of cloud computing platforms and their use cases. Cloud is the only solution to support the growing needs of today’s fast-changing world, and at a time when 5G is rolling out, hospitals cannot afford to continue operating on traditional legacy systems. When it comes to cyber security, we have implemented HIPAA-compliant cloud infrastructure for all applications and we have also partnered with PwC for conducting regular security audits. Moreover, KareXpert is the first healthcare company in India to have been certified by AWS foundational architecture review.

Which all hospitals have you partnered with till now?

We have seen exponential growth since our commercial launch in March 2021. We have formed partnerships with providers of types and sizes, from 10+ bedded hospitals to large hospital chains comprising 15,000+ beds to standalone clinics. So far, we have onboarded Mahindra Group Ophthal chain of Center For SIght, Tata Steel Group of Hospitals, Reliance Foundation Hospital, Paras Hospitals, to name a few.

How much funds have you raised so far? Please share the details of the investors.

We had received Rs 30 crore in funding from Jio Platforms Limited in 2018. The capital infusion enabled us to develop 50+ healthcare modules which are ready to serve the global market. These SaaS-based B2B applications are cloud-native, mobile-first and AI-ready, and are built upon an in-house, no-coding platform to offer 4X download time.

What are the growth plans for the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years, we plan to onboard 100K hospitals globally. Our 5-year plan is aligned with KareXpert’s vision to create an always connected healthcare ecosystem.

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