The first wave of Covid-19 in early 2020 has challenged our existing healthcare delivery channels in more ways than one and forced us to evolve and acknowledge the gaps that exist. Second wave only worsened it further.
Coronavirus pandemic has brought the focus on the healthtech sector like never before. During the Covid-19 pandemic the number of people opting for telehealth or telemedicine has increased exponentially. The traditional model of in-person consultations is getting redefined as patients’ and doctors have started interacting with the help of technology. The second wave of the COVID-19 has turned out to be a watershed moment for the health-tech industry. As people try to ride through the situation with utmost precautions and avoid visiting hospitals which are already under stress, adopting teleconsultation seems like a wise option. In an exclusive interaction with financial Express Online Dr Rajesh Gupta, Vice President, Clinical Transformation and Digital Product at Myhealthcare talks about current Covid-19 crisis, health technology and combining best clinical practices and innovative digital technology in building the next generation of clinical care and specialty care ecosystem. Excerpts:
What do you think developing countries like ours should do to improve our healthcare systems?
India’s healthcare sector has made global headlines in the past few months. The covid crisis has deepened in an already strained sector that has resulted in widespread distress affecting lakhs of people. The sheer gap in the number of doctors and healthcare professionals available as compared to the need shows a huge shortfall along with the absence of an efficient patient-care ecosystem. Shortage of medical equipment, medicines, covid care centers, hospitals, lifesaving drugs, vaccinations – all contributed to the situation India is in right now. As a developing country with the world’s largest population, needless to say India needs to heavily invest in its healthcare system. It needs to completely revolutionize its healthcare delivery ecosystem and make way for cutting edge technology in medicine.
Hospitals and healthcare organisations focusing on the use of digital platforms in enhancing patient-care delivery, remote care monitoring and managing patient care continuum need support. The pandemic brought forth the gaps in primary care delivery where physical OPDs, doctor consultations were the only channels. This brought virtual consultations that now are the need of the hour for both primary and secondary care across all hospitals. The future needs to see further growth of telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, home healthcare, e-pharmacy, e-diagnostics, tele-ICU services and more. Newer technology enabled options for patients and providers in terms of preventive care and better healthcare access need to be developed, along with a huge push towards a proactive speciality health management care for urban and rural spaces.
Why do you think our healthcare system collapsed in this time of crisis?
With an already stretched healthcare sector, where the doctor-population ratio is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000, the second covid wave pushed our healthcare system further, eventually leading to its partial collapse that resulted in lakhs of people losing their lives. Early warnings of a severe second wave by doctors, scientists and global health organisations should have seen preparations by the authorities towards building a strong healthcare ecosystem; but what it witnessed was ignorance, shortcomings and inertia on the part of stakeholders. In an unprecedented situation, hospitals turned away critical patients, ICUs overflowed with bodies, patients died due to unavailability of oxygen cylinders and cremation centers had waiting lines.
Apart from huge lapses in the healthcare system, lack of timely government intervention saw covid peak. Crowds at election rallies, insufficient advocacy for masks and social distancing, and religious gatherings were huge contributing factors to the complete collapse of our healthcare sector. Oxygen plants were not in place, vaccination drives were slow, circulation of misinformation and authorities pushing the blame on the other saw little improvement in the situation. The gaps in the system have raised important questions that governments and authorities need to take cognizance of. While efforts are being made to slow the spread of the virus, they might have come a little too late.
How did your journey begin in the smart healthcare space?
Let me begin by taking you through my academic journey. I am a qualified MD Physician and a PMI certified project manager with an MBA in Hospital and Health Systems Management. I am also certified in science of safety in healthcare from John Hopkins University. My educational background along with rich experience of working closely with top clinicians and healthcare leaders has helped me lead clinical transformation and EMR adoption in hospital networks. During my professional career in the smart healthcare space, I have managed several major hospital IT automation projects such as iSOFT eHIS Implementation at Artemis Health Institute, VistA EMR implementation at all Max healthcare hospitals, and Patient Record Management Systems Implementation at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute allowing me to translate my learnings to help develop a complete patient-care delivery ecosystem.
I led the clinical transformation at Medanta – The Medicity Hospital at Gurgaon for 4 years where I was instrumental in setting up India’s first mobile EMR that is today benefitting more than 800 doctors with ability to provide care to patients anytime, from anywhere. Prior to joining MyHealthcare, I also led the Medanta operations and IT pre-launch team in setting up and operationalising 1000 bedded super specialty Hospital in Lucknow. At MyHealthcare, I lead the Clinical Transformation and Enterprise Ecosystem Platform which combines the best clinical practices & innovative digital technology to build a cutting-edge hospital management, patient care and specialty care ecosystem.
How does MyHealthcare leverage technology to enhance healthcare access?
The first wave of Covid-19 in early 2020 has challenged our existing healthcare delivery channels in more ways than one and forced us to evolve and acknowledge the gaps that exist. Second wave only worsened it further. We pivoted in no time to introduce MyHealthcare Virtual Consult Platform bringing the entire healthcare delivery system (hospitals, doctors, nurses, allied services, pharmacy, and home care services) for patients on a single mobility platform. We then enhanced our technologically advanced setup to offer specialty healthcare in the form of its latest initiative – MyHealthcare@Home. Designed to support patients and hospitals amid the acute shortage of hospital beds and other resources, it offers primary care for those under home isolation or with mild covid symptoms. The command center of MyHealthcare@Home allows the medical staff to track vitals, read patient notes, view medical history, prescribe medicines among other services, all in real time. It also lets the patient alert the hospital and make an emergency call in a dire situation. The hospital care team can assist the patient, take readings over video and monitor the physical condition of the patient. Vital alerts & patient alerts are delivered to the hospital care team command centre allowing the doctor or nurse to take necessary action. This system is put in place to not only empower the patient with access to every possible healthcare service, but also to help hospitals, clinics and doctors to monitor multiple patients from a single platform.
It offers the already overloaded medical professionals a support that saves time and equips them with data to provide quick assistance. For doctors and care providers, the ecosystem enhances their efficiency with the portal’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR), which has been designed and developed by clinicians. The use of augmented intelligence and AI based voice to text functionalities contribute to delivering a faster and more accurate diagnosis. Administrative functions are reduced through automation and data driven frameworks such as clinical decision support systems, polypharmacy & drug reaction alerts help improve the quality of diagnosis.
Remote patient monitoring integrated with the EMR helps in creating a care continuum ecosystem. Moreover, with Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices at its core, hospitals are able to use MyHealthcare to keep track of patient’s BP, ECG, sugar levels and monitor overall health. With access to digitally advanced technology, IoT devices and use of AI and Ml for predictive diagnostic analysis in the future, it aims to aid caregivers in formulating better and more targeted patient care plans. My experience in managing major hospital IT automation projects in the past have helped me build a specialty healthcare ecosystem with MyHealthcare that dedicates itself to providing the best possible solutions for the health and wellness of people.
What role do you think technology will play in the future in healthcare?
The past couple of years have seen digital transformation and access to the mobile internet as game-changers, especially in the health-tech space. Both are being widely used to cater to every possible patient-care need, from portals that notify vaccination slots, use of social media to help with medical resources like oxygen concentrators, hospital beds, to virtual medical consultations, e-pharmacy services, and even tracking oxygen and other vital levels sitting at home.
Technology, data and digital health solutions are expected to address the overall healthcare ecosystem – be it a doctor consultation, pharmacy delivery, diagnostics, home healthcare or remote patient monitoring. The covid induced pandemic, especially the disaster struck by its second wave has changed everything. Adopting technologies that are strengthening the healthcare delivery channels is now the prime focus, something that the health-tech startups have pioneered flawlessly. Some start-up health-tech portals also allow the digitisation of health records which helps in the accuracy of diagnosis, building patient longitudinal history, reduce medical administration errors and offer timely warnings, alerts to prevent severe medical crises. Understanding the need for IoT devices and their impact, tech giants such as Google, Apple, Samsung and others are also pushing a whole new gamut of digital health applications for monitoring heart rates, ECG, blood oxygenation, blood pressure, pulse rate and blood sugar levels and more. Several healthcare organisations and doctors are also embracing the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in adding value to the quality of care delivered to their patients. The tools integrated with AI help transform the healthcare delivery model by automating the everyday processes in the sector and providing improved patient outcomes.
The technology helps caregivers and medical professions in formulating a more targeted patient care plan thereby improving the overall health and wellness ecosystem. The role of technology augments access, delivery and outreach of services crucial to human existence. It is an aid that is already making our society a safer place to live.
Tell us about your interventions to support the covid crisis
With mobility being a severe constraint, MyHealthcare is focusing on bringing virtual consults, diagnostics at home, home care, home isolation management and pharmacy at home into a common care ecosystem. The patient and their families have access to doctors from India’s leading hospitals and are able to manage all their care needs from the MyHealthcare app. MyHealthcare’s aim is to leverage data and digital technologies to provide a seamless and sustainable healthcare delivery system. Its services are designed to assist hospitals and clinics with a continuum patient-care system and scale their digital healthcare roadmap.
With the onset of pandemic, the platform was able to enhance its services and lend support to the healthcare sector amid a crisis. It brought virtual consults, e-diagnostics, home care, home isolation management and e-pharmacy into the common care ecosystem. Recently our partner hospital and clinic doctors have used our digital EMR and virtual consult platform to connect with patients. This convenience has seen a great acceptance from patients, especially during the last few months. Our interventions like MyHealthcare@Home have also allowed patients to be monitored from the safety and comfort of their home amid the recent chaos over the lack of sufficient hospital beds and other resources. Moreover, in an effort to further offer primary specialty care, MyHealthcare is providing air and ground medevac for emergencies. This service entails safely transporting a patient from their location to another city hospital, post the confirmation of admission. It includes arrangements for ambulances, chartered flights, doctors and nurses to help the patient during the journey.
Driven by partnerships, MyHealthcare supports the Max Hospitals group, the Fortis group, BLK Super Speciality, PSRI Super Speciality, Aakash Healthcare, Breach Candy Hospital, Nanavati Hospital, Primus Super Speciality, Woodlands Multispeciality, Vimhans Nayati Super Speciality, Neotia Healthcare group and many others. For patient monitoring we have partnered with Omron (blood pressure and pulse rate), AliveCor KardiaMobile (ECG and heart rate) Accu-Chek (Blood sugar monitoring), along with Artemis Super Speciality hospital in Gurgaon and Antara and would be adding more partners in the future.