Indian healthcare is a US$ 100bn industry[i], yet India struggles to provide quality healthcare to massive sections of its population. 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas, which face a 60% shortage of doctors.[ii] Public hospitals, the primary source of care for rural low-income populations, are often dysfunctional; private hospitals promise better quality, but are unaffordable and inaccessible to populations outside major cities. With the penetration of smartphones, internet, and computers, hospitals in India are ushering an era of digital healthcare. Apollo Hospitals (2016 revenues: US$ 890mn[iii]), a chain of 64 hospitals across India (and abroad), is one of the first Indian hospital chains to fully digitize its entire value chain and offer integrated digital solutions to its patients.
Apollo embraces IoT as a business tool rather than a technology initiative to provide effective inpatient care, post-discharge care, and preventive health services. Through its digital efforts, Apollo creates value for its existing patients and attracts new patients by offering improved access, quality service, speedy diagnosis and treatment, and better clinical outcomes. Key aspects of Apollo’s digital business model include:
Telemedicine: Apollo creates access to healthcare in remote areas by setting up a hub-and-spoke telemedicine model in which doctors in cities consult patients in far-off locations over the internet. With 115 telemedicine centers[iv], Apollo operates one of India’s largest telemedicine networks to ensure last-mile-delivery of critical healthcare services. To further extend its reach, Apollo is collaborating with the government to connect 60,000 frontline health workers across India to specialists.
Disease Management: Apollo uses IoT to empower patients to manage their health once they leave the hospital. For instance: SUGAR, a diabetes management initiative, enables constant monitoring of blood sugar levels using IoT-enabled technology that also creates personal health records, which patients can share with clinicians through the system to get expert advice on managing their sugar levels.[v]
Apollo Health Hiway: Apollo’s National Health Data Network connects 200,000 doctors to each other to map changing disease patterns, alert the medical community about emerging health problems, and make more informed decisions[vi].
Patient Mantra: When patients come in for tests, a patient tracking and monitoring system based on RFID and IoT enables the hospital to manage the flow of patients through various departments, saving patients time that was previously spent waiting for a procedure to take place, and allowing the facility to serve more patients each day, due to added efficiency.
Apollo is striving to connect medical equipment to information systems so that all devices can be connected to a larger network, which in turn is connected to a monitoring system. To reduce IT expenditure, Apollo’s Hospital Information System is on the private cloud and takes care of the entire supply chain and the medical administration, while also blending into the electronic medical records for doctors.[vii] Key elements of Apollo’s operating model include:
Remote ICU monitoring systems: Apollo’s e-ICU network virtually connects all of its ICUs such that a team of experts can constantly monitor critical patients in distant facilities, and suggest treatment procedures after assessing medical history and real-time heart rates of patients fighting for their lives.
RFID-IoT: Using an RFID-IoT-based patient tracking system, Apollo hospitals manage daily bottlenecks and maximize utilization across different departments by seamlessly moving ~250 patients through a series of upto 26 diagnostic procedures daily.[viii]
Unique Hospital Identification (UHID): UHID ensures patients across India have a single electronic instance of their health records, which can also be integrated into wearable medical devices. UHID combined with IoT substantially speeds up diagnosis and treatment since doctors can now access radiology and CT scan reports anywhere through tablets or smartphones and provide suggestions to the care teams.
Apollo Center of Excellence: Apollo’s IT-enabled quality-control platform monitors 25 quality parameters across hospitals to benchmark against global standards.[ix]
Medication Management System: An automated drug database provides electronic alerts for all drug-drug and drug-food interactions to improve safe administration.
Leverage Big Data and Predictive Analytics: Apollo already uses digital platforms to obtain patients feedback and must leverage big data to improve service delivery and drive innovation through predictive analytics.
Train doctors and patients: Apollo must proactively address the concerns of traditional health professionals who are resistant to IoTs by training them on the value of going digital to serve patients more effectively and efficiently. Similarly, Apollo should train and educate patients to seamlessly transition to digital interactions.
Prioritize m-health: Smartphone penetration in India is expected to grow to 520mn by 2020[x] and Apollo must bolster its m-health capabilities to tap into this market.
Build interoperable platforms: As Apollo strives for scale by working with other stakeholders such as the government, it will have to transition away from proprietary platforms to open platforms that can be freely shared, adopted and customized to local needs.
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[i] India, and Healthcare India. “Healthcare Industry In India, Indian Healthcare Sector, Services”. Ibef.org. N.p., 2016.
[ii] IndiaSpend, (2012). Rural India Faces 60% Shortage of Doctors. http://www.indiaspend.com/sectors/rural-india-faces-60-shortageof-doctors; Business Standard, (2011). 70% Indians live in rural areas: Census. http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/70- indians-live-in-rural-areas-census-111071500171_1.html.
[iii] Apollo Hospitals Group Annual Report 2015-2016, https://www.apollohospitals.com/apollo_pdf/annual-report-year-2016.pdf
[iv] Center for Health Market Innovations, Access Health International,. Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF). 2011.
[v] Sethu, Kavya. “Current State Of Internet Of Things (Iot) In India – IOT League”. IOT League. N.p., 2015. Web.
[vi] “Apollo Hospitals Group Celebrates 25 Years Of Touching Lives”. Apollo Hospitals. N.p., 2009.
[vii] Economic Times,. “How Arvind Sivaramakrishnan Is Driving The Digital Agenda At Apollo Hospitals”. 2015.
[viii] “Patient Tracking Solution – ‘Patient Mantra’ For Apollo Hospitals – RTLS/RFID Based”. Icegen Computing.
[ix] “Commitment To Excellence | Indraprastha Apollo Hospital Delhi, India”. Apollohospdelhi.com.
[x] Ernst and Young,. Future Of Digital Content Consumption In India. 2016.