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Covid-19 is Accelerating Digital Transformation in Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained the healthcare system not only in India but worldwide. The unabated crisis has led to huge demand from the existing infrastructure which has further exposed vulnerabilities of the healthcare and pharmaceutical supply chains. There is a huge demand and supply gap for healthcare facilities and increasing demand for health care workers threatens to leave some health systems overstretched and unable to operate effectively. Gaia, a Mumbai-based tech company that works on smart city services is also working with hospitals across some of the major Indian cities, is striving to bridge the gap in the healthcare sector with smart technology solutions. In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Amrita Chowdhury, Director and Co-founder, Gaia, explains some of the critical challenges in the healthcare system and how the company with the help of technology is helping healthcare sector during the pandemic.

CXOToday: In terms of technology usage, what are the current challenges in India’s healthcare system?

Amrita Chowdhury: Healthcare is a primary and essential segment for both corona and non-corona related medical services. However, healthcare delivery – both in India and globally – is poised for disruption. Even before the Covid19 pandemic, digital transformation of the healthcare segment was being considered to enable Digital Patient Experience Management and seamless delivery of services at every patient touchpoint through integrated solutions. The current pandemic, after the immediate term, will only fast track this transformation. 

In India, the challenge is slightly greater due to fragmentation of healthcare systems and low current levels of digitalization in the ecosystem, notwithstanding certain early adopters. The challenge gets further exacerbated because any solution needs to be delivered with India-conscious complexity at India-conscious value for money. 

CXOToday: How is Gaia’s interconnected healthcare model helping in efficiency, quality and productivity?

Amrita Chowdhury: Healthcare systems and hospitals are dynamic and complex spaces where medical care needs to be complemented with a seamless orchestration of non-medical staff, assets, processes, and services to deliver quality care. Our modular Digital + Artificial Intelligence + Internet of Things (IOT) solution stack enables healthcare providers to measure, monitor, and improve service metrics. The solution consists of several elements. 

Following things that we need to ensure include- 

  • Workforce Management to enable seamless delivery of tasks and services
  • Real time location tracking for staff and assets
  • IOT Based Monitoring of critical systems and spaces
  • AI Based Optimization for dynamic task allocation
  • Dynamic Service Orchestration for event driven and data driven workflows
  • Cognitive Workflow Automation for data led optimization, alerts, and escalations
  • Visual Command Centre Dashboards for data analytics and data driven decision making and service delivery optimization
  • Hygiene Monitoring to ensure sanitation safety service levels 

Together, these elements improve efficiency of operations, quality of care, and productivity of staff and assets. In turn, they help deliver better patient care and over the long term, optimized cost of healthcare delivery. 

CXOToday: What are the existing digital adoption barriers to ensure quicker and controlled patient as well as manpower engagement?

Amrita Chowdhury: Healthcare delivery has relied on manual human-aided orchestration of services and staff to manage healthcare operations and patient care. The biggest barrier to adoption is mindsets and change management, rather than technological. Today, technologies are seamlessly integrated, easy to deploy, and driven by value-conscious principles. Hospitals and healthcare providers need to consider longer term efficiency impact to aid decision-making and leverage management driven vision to ensure change management, adoption, and capability building at every level within the organization. 

From the patient perspective, the reliance on human connection has been important. However, given widespread adoption of digital and social tools, along with the new pandemic led “social distrust” which is already moving many industries towards contactless processes, patients would be open to adopting digital processes and systems. Hospitals need to ensure they implement systems, solutions, and dashboards that will enable them to meet the changing patient requirements and comfort with digital systems. 

Several well-known hospitals have been early adopters of our solutions for service orchestration and manpower management, and we expect greater digital transformation in hospitals once the immediate pandemic related considerations subside.

CXOToday: How can analytics be used for more accurate and consistent patient feedback?

Amrita Chowdhury: Hospitals need to understand patient experience at every care touchpoint- from Out Patient Departments to In Patient Rooms to the overall Exit Process. Several procedures and illnesses may require follow-ups or the hospital or doctor or nurses to remain in touch with the patient over an extended period of time. 

Patient feedback can be used to measure, monitor, and manage care metrics at every touch point over time. Comparative analytics can be used to compare performance by shift, by time, by staff, by ward, by service type. Comparative analytics can be used for a single hospital, or compare multiple hospitals in a network. Over time, it can be linked with staff performance and motivation, as well as patient engagement and recovery management. 

Several hospitals have adopted patient feedback monitoring as a standalone mechanism or integrated into hospital workflows, and we anticipate more hospitals to consider these in the future. These solutions bring 100% increase in visibility and 30% or higher improvement in productivity almost immediately after deployment. 

CXOToday: What are your views on managing facilities better in a social distancing world?

Amrita Chowdhury: Social distancing is creating the competing pressures of managing facilities with fewer staff and managing facilities to a higher level of hygiene and sanitation safety standards. Given this, workforce and site optimization will be critical. Digital, IOT, and AI based tools will enable hospitals and healthcare systems to manage sites, spaces, equipment, assets, and staff better. 

CXOToday: What is the future of smart cities after COVID-19? How can the healthcare sector aid in the development of smart cities?

Amrita Chowdhury: The Covid19 pandemic has brought into focus the notion of coordinated delivery of public health services and emergency care. At an aggregate national level, India spends a very small fraction of its GDP in healthcare initiatives. Our per capita presence of doctors, nurses, healthcare establishments, equipment, and systems are one of the lowest in the world. Under Smart Cities Mission, the planned initiatives and budgetary outlays for health specific initiatives was very small in most smart cities. However, at the same time, the cities that had already implemented various tech solutions have made effective use of all health related, CCTV and command room technologies to serve citizens. Several have used new digital technologies for delivery of essential services and emergency health services. Gaia repurposed its hospital service orchestration solution to enable hyper-local last-mile doorstep delivery of essentials and emergency services for the 4.4 Million residents of Agra District. Our solution connected 800 city organized retailers for food, milk, groceries across 101 wards to enable delivery connections during the peak of the lockdown. It enables citizens to raise emergency requests in 9 categories which are being served by the 600 volunteers of Agra Civil Defense in partnership with Agra Smart City.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com