May 2007

Integrated Healthcare Management System

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The trend of providing integrated healthcare systems seems to be increasing in the developed countries as healthcare providers are realizing the multifarious advantages of it. Another project worth noting in this scenario is the latest project being implemented by Aetna. Aetna Inc. a US based insurer, is launching a new application to allow its 15 million members access to their healthcare information online. Aetna is offering the Aetna Care Engine Powered Personal Health Record (PHR) to 15 million of its clients, over the next year

The Indian healthcare industry has grown manifold during the last few years; with spends of Rs. 1030 billion on healthcare, which translates to 5.2 percent of the GDP. Of this, Rs. 860 billion belongs to the healthcare delivery market with 63 percent comprising the market for private healthcare providers (source: McKinsey Report, 2002). Although there is an yawning divide between the healthcare facilities available in the rural and urban India, overall the Indian healthcare infrastructure is fast improving with initiatives by the government and the private sector. The entry of private players has further spurred the development of the healthcare sector.

An important fallout of the development of the Indian healthcare industry has been the rise of medical tourism in the country. The fact that hospitals in the country are able to provide world-class procedures and healthcare at nominal rates(as compared to international standards) has proved to be a boon for the Indian healthcare industry. According to CII, India has the potential to attract 1 million tourists per annum, which could contribute up to US$5 billion to the economy. Clinical outcomes in India are at par with the world's best centres, with India having internationally qualified and experienced specialists. Indian must leverage its competitive edge to emerge as the world's healthcare hub.

However, at the same time, there is a serious lack of standardized systems and procedures across the healthcare industry in the country. The need of the hour is to integrate the healthcare sector in India, starting with integrating human resources and technological excellence with global accreditation systems, resulting in increased efficiency, thereby saving more lives. This can be effectively tackled by deploying IT extensively to enable the graduation to an integrated healthcare management system. However, there is still a largely preconceived and misconceived notion prevailing among the sections of bureaucracy and the medical fraternity that IT implementation can be a costly and cumbersome task.

Scenario in India

But despite the recent advances in Indian healthcare scenario, the comparison is marked when looking at the developed countries, where healthcare systems are much advanced and better managed than that of India. Countries like the US are much advanced on the technology front and the reason for this is the understanding of the benefits of IT implementation, and the support of the government for building a comprehensive healthcare infrastructure. Developed countries realize that better health management system is essential in today's day and age. This fact can be underscored from the recent initiative undertaken by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. As a part of the Federal government's objective of creating a Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN), the Dept. has commissioned Accenture to develop a prototype network for secure information sharing among healthcare communities. Accenture, along with Oracle, will be developing a fully integrated health information system prototype whereby they will be building an interoperable, standards-based network. Projects like these are being fueled by the public's need for a comprehensive healthcare solution and the healthcare industry in these countries will transform by way of projects like these.

The trend of providing integrated healthcare systems seems to be increasing in the developed countries as healthcare providers are realizing the multifarious advantages of it. Another project worth noting in this scenario is the latest project being implemented by Aetna. Aetna Inc. a US based insurer, is launching a new application to allow its 15 million members access to their healthcare information online. Aetna is offering the Aetna Care Engine Powered Personal Health Record (PHR) to 15 million of its clients, over the next year. In addition to allowing patients online access to healthcare information obtained from Aetna, the PHR will also allow users to update records with their own submissions, such as blood pressure readings taken at home. All these will be possible on a Microsoft SQL Server database and Oracle database, to add advanced analytics. These projects are a realization of the need of better health management systems and they only be actualized with the effective use of information technology.

With the maturity of the IT sector in India, the time has come for healthcare organizations in the country to look at solutions that can automate and integrate business processes, accelerate staff hiring and training, lower supply chain costs, improve financial information, enable information sharing across the organization, enhance service to consumers, and ensure the security and privacy of patient information. The challenge is to do all these while still increasing the quality of care. Today, healthcare organizations across the world, be they large ones or mid-sized, private or government, confront enormous challenges, which include spiraling costs, staffing shortages, increasingly strict regulatory requirements, rising patient expectations, constrained reimbursements and more. Healthcare organizations in India need to realize the importance of implementing IT into its core operating systems. Not only will it enable an increase in efficiencies and reduction in costs, but will also provide for a uniform standard based system across the country. The Indian healthcare industry has to work extensively towards this end, as today, only a handful of private sector hospitals in the country have deployed IT to increase efficiencies.

IT Adoption

Mid-sized hospitals and clinics can either adopt IT in a phased manner depending on their immediate needs or go in for the entire healthcare segment offerings, thereby adopting IT across the different departments of the hospital at the same time. They can go in for the Patient Data Management System in case their requirement is to integrate business and clinical information for improved decision-making. To enable secure patient and provider collaboration they can go in for the Collaboration System along with the patient data management. In order to recruit, develop and retain their much in demand healthcare workforce, they can opt for the HR Management System, while in order to increase administrative and material management efficiencies, they can opt for the Procurement, Materials Management and Accounting Systems.

Whatever be the case, mid-sized healthcare organizations should seriously look at world-class solutions instead of restricting their search to low-end packages. This is possible by the fact that vendors like Oracle have tailored solutions to the needs and concerns of the healthcare segment. The other factor to be considered is to go for trusted solutions from reliable vendors, something they aren't getting from smaller vendors who may shut shop in a downturn.

Oracle, with its powerful combination of technology and comprehensive business applications is well poised to cater to the needs of the healthcare industry. Numerous healthcare organizations across the world are already relying on Oracle products and services to achieve an integrated healthcare management system for improved patient care, reduced medical error, improved research and regulatory compliance and reduced costs, by consolidating all clinical, administrative, and financial information into one integrated healthcare data infrastructure. Oracle is a leader in the healthcare industry with over 300 healthcare providers around the globe running Oracle applications; its presence spans across the globe and includes both private and public sector.

Oracle is able to provide not just specific healthcare solutions but also helps them implement an integrated healthcare management system. Oracle solutions are tailored to meet every requirement of healthcare institutes; the applications enable them to speed implementation, optimize performance, streamline support, and maximize their ROI. Leading hospitals across the globe like Hospices Civils de Lyon of France, Cardiff & Vale NHS Trust of UK, Valley Baptist Health are already utilizing Oracle's offerings for the healthcare sector and are experiencing the benefits of a truly integrated healthcare management system. Developed countries like the US are on the fast track to integrated healthcare systems. However, a country like India still has a long way to go in terms of achieving this set-up. The hospitals here have to start with basic IT infrastructure, then only can they consider migrating to an integrated management system. For the Indian healthcare sector to achieve its true potential and for India to emerge as a global healthcare hub, there is an urgent need for healthcare institutions across the country to adopt IT. Today hospitals, be they private or government, need to go in for integrated healthcare management solutions to address the needs of the entire organization and create a standardized framework of treatment. This would not only help in improving the patient experience, but also would improve efficiencies and reduce costs across the entire organization. The Indian healthcare industry has a great advantage on its side with medical tourism booming; all it needs is increasingly adopt IT to be at par with if not go ahead of the developed countries, in the healthcare segment.  

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