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Issue of August 2005 
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IT in Healthcare

Healthcare has IT under its skin

IT solutions have improved the quality of healthcare services and led to a reduction in costs. by Newly Paul

The healthcare sector has been slow in IT adoption, but it is steadily catching up with other sectors that are using IT to conduct business. In a nation where there are over 15,000 hospitals and where the healthcare industry stands at Rs 1,03,000 crore, it is difficult to envision functioning without IT. Be it administrative areas or patient care, IT has given rise to a revolution and brought better services for the common man.

In hospitals, IT can be used in the administrative department for patient registration, billing or inventory management.

All-purpose Solutions

SRL Ranbaxy has implemented a customised ERP that includes lab operations, material management, billing, financial accounting, customer care, sales & marketing, logistics, clinical trial, instrument interface, and security. Says G Pillai, IT Head of SRL Ranbaxy, “We have implemented an end-to-end IT solution for all our business processes. Today, SRL is totally dependent on IT.” Similarly, Wockhardt has implemented a Hospital Information System (HIS) with 36 modules that cater to different sectors such as administration, laboratory functions, communication, financial accounting systems, and clinical data.

Fortis Healthcare has HIS that comprises Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), Management Information Systems, and patient monitors. PACS makes the quality of X-rays better, while the monitoring devices and Web access enable tele-counselling.

More IT in Healthcare
  • Updating of medical and para-medical people through e-learning.
  • Health education for the masses.
  • Healthcare call-centre.
  • Health information in vernacular languages.
  • Health kiosks with trained para-medics and digital equipment.

(Source: www.vi-labs.com)

IT Power Pill

HIS has been particularly useful in automating the functions of all departments so that they become paperless. Since HIS is Web-enabled, it facilitates two-way communication for patient queries.

IT has made rapid inroads in laboratories too. Laboratory results are stored using customised software which can be easily maintained and upgraded. IT in the form of health portals has been instrumental in disseminating health-related information.

Bitter Pill

A common challenge faced in implementing IT is related to the cost of IT projects. Though using IT-enabled services saves time and manpower, IT software can be expensive. Hence, a hospital needs to employ a solution that is not only tailored to its needs, but is cost-effective as well. According to Sunil Kapoor, Head, IT, Fortis, “The biggest challenge Fortis faced was ensuring that the software deployed expanded in proportion to its growing functions. In addition, the absence of implementation guidelines for the Indian healthcare industry made automation difficult.”

Sugar-coating The Pill

Different methods are adopted by hospitals to overcome challenges in IT implementation. Since cultural conditioning is a big challenge faced in IT implementation, employees need to be given adequate training. “Government hospitals such as AIIMS outsource IT implementation and ensure that its employees get the required training for working in an IT-enabled environment,” comments Dr R S Tyagi, Deputy Director and Head, Computer Facility, AIIMS. On its part, Wockhardt has resorted to intensive training for proper implementation of the IT projects.

Healthy Future

The annual government expenditure in the healthcare sector is 5.2 percent of the GDP. It is essential to make IT a strategic partner so that the scale of operations can be increased. The adoption of IT can indeed be beneficial to this sector. All that is needed is an open mind and a vision to serve patients better.

 
     
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