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3G and Wi-Fi will be key drivers to further productivity for us

Founded in 1985, Max Healthcare India has many firsts to its name. In 2000, Max Medcentre, Panchsheel Park, became the first medcenter with OP facilities and daycare surgeries. In 2002, Max Hospital, Pitampura, was the first hospital to be ISO certified as well as the first high-end secondary care center in north Delhi. In 2004, Max Heart and Vascular Institute became the first super tertiary care facility with advanced cardiac life support ambulances and air evacuation service. In 2005, Max Hospital, Patparganj, became the first multispeciality tertiary care center in east Delhi. In 2006, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, became the first multi, superspeciality tertiary care location.

From winning awards for excellence in healthcare to having a commitment towards world class scientific learning and treatment, Max Healthcare is constantly on the lookout for new and innovative technology. Talking more about such initiatives is Neena Pahuja, CIO, Max Healthcare Institute. Excerpts

Which telecom (ICT) technology will be the key driver in the healthcare industry in the days to come?

Telecom today is a very important part of hospitals for productivity and accessibility. There is need to access patient's records, provide timely billing, and also enable a platform for collaboration between clinicians. We were earlier on point-to-point hospital connectivity and now moving towards MPLS. This is to improve the quality of service, as telecom is the base infrastructure requirement for us today. However, we strongly believe that 3G and/or Wi-Fi, once available with desired SLAs and performance, will be key driver to further productivity improvement and will bring in a lot of changes in the way we work today. We have Alcatel TDM exchanges compatible with IP exchange and Alcatel IP exchanges in the main hospital. Telecom technology is not merely an enabler; it is becoming an essential requirement for patient care. With 3G technology, soon healthcare will be like a bank ATM where the doctors and patients will interact using 3G technology on the mobile phone. 3G, for example, can enable the doctors to view ECG/X-Ray or other images, and even monitor the patients in an emergency while on the move.

Convergence and WLAN as well as cloud computing are coming to India in a big way. Do you plan to implement any of the new technologies in your business model?

We are looking at cloud computing in terms of private storage clouds as well as public storage clouds for patient data. Using this technology, patients will be able to access their reports themselves and get information on treatment, medication, etc, without having to travel to the hospital. This will also help in the health information exchange in the hospitals in India as well as abroad. We are talking to Microsoft, HP, Dell for introducing these options, and it should be ready in Q3 of the next financial year.

As the economy recovers from the recession, what are some of the new technology solutions you are thinking of introducing? How focused will the investments be in terms of improving bottomlines?

We are thinking of introducing the technology solutions mentioned above. In terms of investment for IT and technology, approximately 7% to 8% of our revenue will be reserved for it.

How big is bandwidth a constraint for you when it comes to connectivity and what are you doing to solve the problem?

Currently bandwith is not a constraint as we have good connectivity after having invested in a lot of lines, both fixed and wireless.

With further delay in 3G auction, what other technology options are you looking at employing? How has the delay affected your plans to achieve better connectivity across your various centers in India?

It has not delayed anything. As of now, we have good connectivity; Wi-Fi was going to act as an additional wireless connectivity. We are planning to introduce Wi-Fi in all the major hospitals in the next financial year, and are in consultation with Gartner for this. However, that aside, we are looking forward to 3G. As of now, we already have POCs in telemedicine, mobile applications, unified communications and video conferencing. We are looking at introducing videoconferencing for patient data across all hospitals, Max and others, as a more refined way of videoconferencing.

How have your IT and communication budgets changed over the past one year? Any specific mandates in terms of implementation that you would like to highlight?

There has been no major change, since the pharma industry did not suffer due to recession. However, there has been a slight improvement of the budget for this year. We are working on EHR (electronic health records) It is a big project in which health records of all patients will be made available to patients and hospitals to facilitate easy and fast diagnosis and treatment. First this will be implemented internally for use of the hospital staff, and then later it will be made available to patients.

Any plans of implementing mobile CRM for your medical representatives who are on the field?

We are partially active in this field, but aim to make it complete in terms of, say, mobile alerts that would help in increasing the productivity. Currently, this has been implemented for admission procedures, but we plan to develop this process further. It should be ready within six months. Developments in this regard would be for new requirements, like for the information to be sent to all patients in the form of alerts for specific problems that is based on individual diagnosis. This would go a long way in improving interactivity between patients and hospitals.

What are the major challenges that you are facing as a CIO/CTO in terms of technology/network constraints in your organization? There are no major constraints as such. However, unlike other countries, in India we have too many patients visiting doctors, thus there is a scenario with too many patients and very few doctors. Abroad, this problem has been solved to a great extent by means of online interactions. Thus, the need of the hour is innovation to convert voice to data and prescription to data effectively. Are you looking at vendor consolidation and planning to renew and renegotiate contracts with your IT and network providers? How have service level agreements (SLAs) changed over the period of time with your vendors? Dell has been our vendor for a long time now, and we have just closed a deal with them now for a ten year contract. Online security is a big issue for CIOs and CTOs today. How have you secured your networks to make them more robust? What is the current security solution that you are using? Our security solutions are in place as of now, but we are planning for IPS also. We have also geared up to become HIPPA-compliant, which is a special security solution for the healthcare industry. Thus, there will definitely be more investment towards security solutions in the current year for intrusion prevention and HIPPA.
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