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Healthcare is poised for an IT revolution that has touched the Banking, Financial, Insurance and Telecom industries and has seen innovative trends in the form of Electronic Medical Records, Online Patient Booking Appointment Portals, Hospital Information Systems, Mobile Applications, Portable Device based applications and others but the challenge really is channelling these experiences into a single effective platform.

Imagine a new paradigm of a healthcare ecosystem where a patient (let’s call him Mark) has an ailment, says a skin rash. Mark logs into a website to review the top 3 dermatologist’s in the locality and reviews their available timings. Mark then books a slot with one of the doctors as per his convenience at the nearest clinic/hospital. Thereafter Mark receives a link to download a mobile app and even otherwise receives appointment alerts which work as reminders for the doctor appointment. The mobile application shows Mark the exact location of the clinic/hospital using Google Maps. Mark can also pay up front for the doctor consultation using his credit card (The hospital may also incentivize up front pre-paid appointments). Mark’s contact information also serves the purpose of clinics and hospitals floating marketing/promotional material.

Mark arrives at the healthcare provider at the designated time for the doctor appointment. The receptionist already has basic information about Mark but can still feed in additional information and collect any patient dues using the Hospital Information System. Mark visits the doctor and he reviews past medical history, completes his assessment and prescribes the diagnostics/medication. Mark then gets his tests done and the doctor completes a follow-up examination after which Mark goes home. At this point in time Mark can access his diagnostic report or vitals data collected or any other medical information through his mobile application or his patient portal. Mark’s latest billing information is also updated. He is also free to post any review about the doctor from his experience on the website.

If Mark has queries or wants to get in touch with his doctor about his progress, he is assigned a designated number or can chat with the practitioner using a messenger. The patient may also be allocated an emergency number. Patient Educational Material regarding his ailment can also be pushed to the patient through the mobile application.

Mark could also update his medical record regarding additional Over the Counter Drugs that he has or periods of minor illnesses or medical conditions that he experiences. The Electronic Health Record can build over periods of time into a globally relevant platform but this requires all disparate systems to be integrated into a single platform. The platform could also evolve clinically to remind the patient on taking his medications/visiting his doctor, displaying the nearest pharmacy, alternate drugs of the same generic composition, stock availability, drug prices, doctor fees, lab test fees etc.

If Mark decides to visit another care giver for another ailment or condition or maybe for a second opinion, all his medical records can be electronically shared by Mark with the respective care-giver or practitioner. In fact Mark may also decide to show only sections of his medical record as is necessary.

This sort of consumer or patient focussed journey could revolutionize healthcare delivery in India where doctors’ would then be more sensitive to every patient interaction since they would be concerned of their online ratings just as the number of positive restaurant review could determine the number of patient returns.

Data integration across disparate systems has considerably eased with the widespread adoption of HL7 which is a format of sharing of data in a structured pre-defined format and such a common platform is no more a distant dream to achieve. Of course this revolution can also only evolve as high speed internet adoption increases across the country at affordable costs and hospitals/clinics also adopt the right IT systems. But honestly, if we could rely on which restaurant to visit, which country/hotel to stay/vacations or which electronic product to buy using ecommerce websites why not have complete access to my patient medical records online?

Posted by Arun Joseph Varghese

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