Internet and smartphones have disrupted almost all aspects of living and lifestyle. Healthcare industry is no exception. Individuals across the world are actively seeking trust-worthy web/mobile applications to monitor their health and well-being. These platforms are expected to be the new frontiers of engagement and the healthcare providers have a vested interest in it. However, will they proactively take a lead in championing this new frontier? Or a pure technology/data science company seize this opportunity? Disruption seems imminent and efforts/initiatives are underway from both the parties.
Forward-looking medical institutions are embarking on an internal transformation to redefine healthcare delivery models. In the new-normal, doctor-patient engagements enabled by web/mobile platforms will no longer be active-passive but transparent and collaborative. This model is often referred to as Patient Directed Care (PDC). PDC refers to (but not limited to) the many practices and technologies adopted by hospitals/patients to monitor/manage aspects of their health and well-being. Some of the early adopters have successfully demonstrated improvement in the quality of service and reduction in cost/time of delivery.
To elaborate, healthcare providers are able to,
- Do more with less: Support more patients with existing resources (people/equipment)
- Prioritize: Data helps in efficiently prioritizing and scheduling of appointments
- Visibility and planning: What resources are needed, when, and how much
- Time management: Efficient reallocation of time, thanks to better visibility and prioritization
The Vantage Point
The hospital ecosystem (the institution, doctors, insurers, and government) is at a vantage position to drive large-scale and successful initiatives over the pure tech aggregators.
Decades of operational experience and insights are captured as knowledge within few seconds. The PDC tools can transform the valuable insights/intelligence into a tangible and scalable technology framework. The success is closely tied to blending the delicate medical workflow involving multiple stakeholders into a technological tool that the patients love to adopt.
Insights from the Healthcare Ecosystem
Localization is an absolute necessity
The PDC tools are not meant to replace existing care delivery channels and practices, but complement them
Incorporate checks-and-balances into the system to identify and alert in case of anomaly
Data analytics for insights, optimization, and flagging out anomalies
Define the workflow among the users (patients, pharmacy, doctors, insurers, etc.)
Assign responsibilities for timely intervention and course-correction
Hands-on training for end-users
Does it seem challenging? Yes, of course.
Is there an opportunity? Yes, just as big.
A Success Story of Public Healthcare
made Efficient by Web/Mobile Technologies
The largest mHealth implementation in the world—in terms of population served—used a public-private partnership model (as per a case study recognized by WHO in its publication dated Dec 2016). Within six months, the platform served 11 million people and the initiative is still in the pilot stage!
The mobile platform provides on-demand training and information to frontline health workers using the multimedia-enabled content. It provides a job-aid for registration, tracking, counselling, reporting, screening, and referral. In the backend, the platform facilitates monitoring of demand, supply, and consumption of medicine stocks. A powerful BI algorithm strives to identify patterns for insight and anomalies that demand quick-intervention.
The immediate benefits for FHWs include their ability to better counsel, persuade, and manage beneficiaries using vernacular, multimedia-enabled, intelligent (uses individual service delivery data to guide health information delivery) job-aids. ANMs can produce automated service delivery reports and reminders. Block programme managers find the benefit in their ability to track high-risk pregnant women and new borns and health worker performance using the real-time dashboard. And of course, the beneficiaries appreciate receiving timely services alerts and health information as SMS and voice calls in their local language, which has improved health indicators of mothers, babies, and families.
The platform has been successful in complementing the existing workflow in a non-intrusive manner, eliminating human error, increasing efficiencies, prioritizing tasks, optimizing logistics, reducing wastage, ensuring service delivery, monitoring the quality of healthcare, and lending valuable insights. A strong capability of the platform is to sift through millions of health records, and identify the cases of High-Risk Pregnancy (HRP) in real-time, and prompting timely intervention.
A Surprise Discovery
Furthermore, it so happened that the platform alerted the program managers of an unusually high consumption of Iron Folic Acid (IFA) tablets in a particular region. A detailed inspection, prompted by the platform revealed nutritional deficiencies endemic to the region. This was a huge discovery and a moment of success for data analytics capability of the platform.
The credit for the project success chiefly goes to the state government for their pioneering and bold steps in revolutionizing public healthcare. This success-story also underlines the scope of opportunity for healthcare providers. It is perhaps that opportune moment for healthcare providers worldwide to put that brave-step forward.