Deepak Singh, Director Strategic Initiatives & Planning, G7 CR Technologies India talks on how cloud computing could change the healthcare scenario as we see it and the advantage it provides to tackle pandemics such as the one we are faced with currently
I write this at a time, when the world is battling one of the worst pandemics in the last three decades. As I write this, COVID-19 has already spread its tentacles across 162 countries, consumed over 117021 precious lives and has jeopardised the health and well being of another 1844863 human souls. It is ironical that an organism invisible to the naked eye can wreak such havoc. But then history is laced with many such examples. While it is unfortunate; it does present us with an opportunity to look beyond conventional wisdom, shed conservatism and embrace technology at a faster pace to better manage and in some cases prevent health hazards.
Why technology? Back in January 2020 when I first read about Corona virus, my intellectual curiosity drove me to history of pandemics, in this otherwise beautiful world. Since the turn of the 20th century, the world has witnessed five major pandemics. From 6th Cholera pandemic in 1910-1911 to the Flu pandemic in 1968, millions of promising lives were lost; in one of the cases a 3rd of world’s population was infected. While there have been flu outbreaks since 1968, none as deadly as the one’s before 1968. The time period post 1968, interestingly, coincides with development of personal computers and more importantly the emergence of information and communication technology. Being a technology enthusiast, it was natural of me to think, whether technology had anything to do with better management of flu outbreaks post 1968. While I do not have enough data points to conclude technologies role in pandemic management, subsequent to 1968; it’s safe to presume that it has played an increasingly important role as evidenced in the recent past.
If technology can save lives, why aren’t we seeing more of it in the healthcare vertical? Historically healthcare has been the slowest to adopt technology. Further, it has seen far less disruption than other industry verticals. While there are varying opinions about the slow adoption rate; four things standout,
- Life and death nature of the industry
- The regulations that govern healthcare and the resultant silos created due to privacy concerns
- Top quality yet affordable healthcare
- Industry approach – detective vs preventive
The very same life and death nature of the industry makes it imperative for healthcare stakeholders to embrace technology and innovation, as time assumes paramount importance. Further, I am an advocate of data privacy but wouldn’t prioritise it over a human life. Accessibility to patient information across geographies to authorised personnel only will save a lot of time and effort for all parties involved and improve the decision-making process. An electronic health record is the need of the hour and with smart use of technology it can be implemented within the framework of the regulations. Similarly, right technology can save significant cost for healthcare providers thereby making it affordable. Lastly, modern medicine is overwhelmingly reactive than proactive. The approach, “Get sick, Seek help” is an expensive model and fraught with dangers.
I reiterate, the importance of technology in healthcare cannot be underrated and all the challenges I have discussed thus far can be addressed with effective utilisation of technology. The advent of cloud technology is a revolution of sorts. Cloud computing technologies, if implemented and used appropriately, addresses all the of the concerns mentioned above. The advantages of cloud computing far outweigh the perceived risks associated with data privacy. In fact, cloud service providers undergo more scrutiny and are required to comply by any and all privacy standards, including but not limited to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
I have the privilege of hosting a health-tech start-up on cloud, that provides a secure, compliant and fully integrated platform for adherence and patient management. Healthcare staff can log into their portal to register and follow up with patients, whose adherence reports from any of their integrated technologies appear side-by-side including 99DOTS, evriMED devices and VOT. Their application powers, Government of India’s healthcare platform which supports the full digitisation of the cascade of care and is used by every healthcare worker across the country for activities spanning patient management of details, diagnostics, adherence, DBT payments, treatment outcomes, test results, and follow up.
Apart from being safe and secure, cloud provides elasticity and scalability. Daily / seasonal peaks and troughs in workload create a sudden increased demand on the system. Instead of spending budget on additional permanent infrastructure capacity to handle a constant yet temporary workload, this is a good opportunity to use an elastic solution. The additional infrastructure to handle the increased volume is only used in as pay-as-you-grow model and then ‘shrinks’ back to a lower capacity for the remainder of the duration. One of the largest chain of hospitals happens to be our client and they have effectively utilised the clouds elasticity for their benefit. Their IT infrastructure experiences peak volumes every morning and evening and on weekends and the clouds elasticity helps them manage their infrastructure without manual intervention. It scales up when the demand is high and scales down when the demand reduces. Other features and functionalities of cloud, for e.g. storage and networking, provide connectivity, mobility and accessibility to information. This drives collaboration and faster sharing of information over a secured network. One of our clients is a leading pharmaceutical company and hosts a patient management system on cloud. Through this application client manages the distribution and administration of insulin pen, sending real-time alerts to patients and reminders for refills.
In a nutshell, through a pay per use model, cloud provides a cost effective and efficient way of utilising the best technologies which would otherwise be very expensive, due to high capital expenditure involved in procuring them. Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of things are all available on a cloud platform and are easy to use unlike the traditional methods. These advanced technologies have the potential to drive a new wave in healthcare industry that of preventive healthcare. These systems if used appropriately have the ability to predict future health outcomes and present an opportunity to mitigate them even before you are infected or affected. Healthcare community has a wonderful opportunity to promote healthy and happy living by providing preventive healthcare through the use of technology, especially cloud.
“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”