Healthcare IT: The Need For Digital Database Of Patients

by Preeti S    Nov 06, 2015

CeBIT panel

IT innovations are redefining the way diseases are treated and convenience is delivered to patients. Be it clinical documentation, robotics or telemedicine, technology is transforming the healthcare segment. However, that’s no reason to be complacent, as there are several challenges that are hindering faster adoption of technologies.

That was precisely the focus of a panel discussion on ‘digital technologies transforming healthcare industry’ at CeBIT India recently, where Girish Kulkarni, Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Cytecare Hospitals & Medwell Ventures, said, data is available, but it is not structured so as to derive insightful value.

Also read: Why digitization, not the CEO brand, be a biz priority

What Kulkarni wants to advocate is the need for consistency of data across hospitals. “Currently, patient information is not shared between doctors. There is a need to bridge that gap. Data must be consistent for longevity of it,” he said.

Underlining the need to move from reactive to predictive form of healthcare IT, he emphasized on setting up a health exchange as a platform to store data and make it available across geographies.

Predictive analytics

With structured data and analytical tools, it may not be too far when one can actually predict the exact time of a cardiac arrest. Technology also offers the ability to read images without a radiologist or a doctor.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean technology would replace doctors, but it would certainly enable doctors to make better decisions, “ said Venkat Iyer, CIO, Wockhardt.

According to a Polycom study, by 2025 primary healthcare will be accessible to all citizens, regardless of distance thanks to the increased availability of broadband, mobile devices and applications. That would mean accumulation of huge data. Unless that data is analysed and used to drive efficient healthcare services, it would  just end up being in storage. 

That has been a primary concern of healthcare officials.

Also read: The next wave in digital healthcare

Iyer said:  “Clinical information is there but we are not analyzing or using it to identify diseases and treat them. Clinical value that we deserve is missing. Compared to the manufacturing sector, healthcare has a long way to go in IT.”

Panelists said that currently, only the doctor information is available on websites and the use of IT is limited to setting up appointments. Also, there is no common database of patients. 

Aadhaar-like database

Hosting a common database of patients and making it available to every doctor and hospital in the country isn’t possible with the efforts of some hospitals. It requires the government’s involvement. Panelists said the government must empower hospitals by enabling a system on the lines of Aadhaar. Aadhaar is a unique identification number issued by the government to every citizen in the form of a card.

Voicing a different view about government’s involvement, Vishal Gondal, Founder & CEO, GOQii Inc, felt that having more laws would not help.

Gondal made a very rational point, when he said: “The problem is not about information. This is a challenge of motivation. The challenge is about behaviour change experience. In the next 5 years, your mobile phone will be the ICU,” he said, explaining how one will be able to store every medical data about the person.

Will our phone be the next ICU? Wait and watch.