Challenges In Healthcare IT: People Or Processes?

by Preeti S    May 11, 2015


Girish Kulkarni


With evolving needs of patient care, technology is redefining healthcare system. The emergence of an informed and independent patient has necessitated hospitals to challenge their own IT system to create new processes.

Ensuring ‘power to the patients’ has got Girish Kulkarni, CIO, Cytecare Hospitals, a wide recognition. He recently won the Best CIO award in Pharma and Life Sciences & Healthcare segment. The award was given by the CIO Klub in association with Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). In this interview with CXOToday, he deliberates on key decisions taken by him and the future trends in medical technology.

What are the challenges CIOs face in adopting new-age technology in healthcare?

A major challenge is getting doctors to adapt to technologies because our systems are different at different places. A doctor generally works at multiple hospitals. Wherever he goes, he has different systems to learn and adapt to. Actually, we are making his life difficult. He would be more than happy spending time with the Patients while using paper whereas he won’t be willing to spare that time to learn – unlearn applications & technologies. If we can get that adoption from surgeon, consultant or clinician, most of the challenges will be addressed. The key to the CIO here is to make it simple, easy yet a comprehensively – versatile – flexible solution to use, at the Point of Care.

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The other challenges normally pertain to either processes or people. Processes can be tweaked, but people with a mindset and attitude can never be changed. That remains a challenge from an adoption perspective. How are you able to crack into it? There is no point going bottoms-up only to train or teach people but it has to be combined with top-down push effort. The person on top of hierarchy should believe in the system and start using it first, before pushing others to do it.

More hospitals are trying to reinvent their brand with a new focus. Some have taken IT very seriously and are making sure that it is part of their brick and mortar setup. It is happening but we still have a long way to go, he says.

Your take on data-driven future

Very clearly we are at a stage of “How do I take my patient care from reactive to predictive situation”? It means I need to be ahead of the disorder that the patient is facing. I need to have information about the patient and his/her health system well in advance. This is possible with analytics and big data. With data, we will know what the patient is susceptible to. Given the pace at which technology is changing, the user is constantly demanding technology companies to do more.

   Also read: Top tech trends in healthcare

With the Internet of Things, there is a lot of data that is churned out. For example, with doctors already using Google Glass, there is a lot of reorientation in treatments done or surgeries performed. We are moving towards a complex and integrated technology  ecosystem and it is very difficult to predict beyond three years as where we are headed.   

Transparency, the need of the hour

Not many doctors or hospitals are transparent with their patients. If you can bring transparency at all levels, most problems between patients and hospitals will be solved. If the hospitals or the doctors are clear in what they are charging their patients, the latter won’t have any problem in paying. Technology is a great enabler in keeping the patients updated about the services and charges.

And patient feedback is important. At our hospital, we intend to use a very short, quick & effective feedback for that particular service. Suppose the questions about collection of blood sample can be: “Was it done on time? Did the nurse/doctor find the vein the first time or had to do needle multiple times?” This feedback is specific to the service and it need not be for the overall services. So, hospitals must go into minute details of patient care so as to ensure a holistic care.

Which decisions you think got you the Best CIO award?

The prime considerations of the award were the decision taken by the CIOs that ensured tangible business benefits and improvements. What was the business outcome? How did we make life of our customers easier?

Whenever a project originates, one starts defining the Business Benefits & Outcome and then works backwards to the drawingboard, mapping technology needs to achieve those goals. That is a departure from the past when everyone wanted to do everything that others did, without actually considering whether it was outcomes based or not.

In the app we implemented, it gives all stakeholders the flexibility to check patient medical records at multiple sources, so from doctors to caretakers, everyone can see every detail about the treatment.  It’s not restricted to just one hospital to a patient but multiple hospital source to a single patient. That gives one the ability to make better decisions.

From patients perspective, we addressed the agony of patients and reduced their waiting time. We have integrated even our routing optimization applications with our business app. The patient will exactly know where the care provider is, how much time he/she will take to reach. 

Second is convenience in billing. With our app, patients can pay online and the patient doesn’t need to follow up once the transactions are done.

In terms minimizing errors, we have already integrated devices on to our apps. The devices are plugged to tab and connected to patients. All information is transferred via Bluetooth, eliminating the need for manual intervention and hence the possible errors.

From doctors’ point of view, all the assessment template is automated on the platform and hence they don’t have to key in anything manually. The time to complete an assessment is standardised and has come down from 45 minutes to sub 5 mins. The Doctors now have 360 Degree view of the patients including all diagnostics & assessment data. The systems also provide for some predictive analysis wrt the possible disease codes and diagnostics. All these are practically keyboard less thus minimising the time taken to consult and / or to use the system more.

These are clear measurable and we started seeing the results from the first month itself.