IT boosts operational efficiency among doctors
10 March 2011
Shashank ND, only 23, built Practo – a software for doctors - when he was a student of National Institute of Technolog at Surathkal.
While he simply wanted to see how he could develop a product, for Ajay Bajaj, a dentist in Mumbai, Practo is almost like his secretary. It gives him his daily schedule on his phone, reminds his patients of their appointments and costs him only Rs 700 a month.
Conceived at the entrepreneurship cell of a college, the software is now used across 500 practices - a portent for things to come in the healthcare space which will spend close to Rs 520 crore on information technology services this year.
While information technology has been a crucial lever of healthcare delivery as well as organisations, the perceptible change taking place today is that small dispensaries and clinics - not to talk of smaller hospitals - are using technology to beef up back end and streamline operations. And to boot, much of these software is coming from home-grown IT start-ups.
Bajaj, who has seen business jump roughly by 30% post Practo use, considers it to more than a software. It records all his patient data along with their medical histories and photos which can be accessed from anywhere. His 12-year-old clinic use to run a software that wasn't easy to use and was bulky. "I completely replaced the earlier software I had with Practo as soon as I was introduced to it. It's extremely reliable and efficient, and has improved the clinic's patient retention in a big way," says the 35-year-old medic.
The use of software for accounting and billing purposes at hospitals has always been there but now tech solutions are expected to do much more and players like Practo - and even Srishti Software, which does similar work for hospitals - are realising this.
Shashank and his partner, Abhinav Lal, met a lot of doctors when the product was being built and during these interactions, they learnt that doctors find it difficult to manage their clinics and dispensaries since most records are manual and after a while, become cumbersome to maintain. The other neglected aspect was confirming patient appointments and maintaining their reports.
Srishti's clients include Narayana Nethralaya in Bangalore and Tata Chemicals Hospital at Mithapur. While Practo focuses on the operational aspects of a clinic, Srishti's Paras solution is designed for the clinical functions. The solution has features like directly linking a CT scan to a patient's record.
The company provides the hospital with a digital imaging and communication device which tags every scan to patient information like age, gender and doctor in charge.
Enhanced features like these helped Srishti win a project to build an enterprise resource planning solution for the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Center (RGCI), winning the bids against IT big guns like Infosys,Wipro and TCS. "Srishti had a clear roadmap for us and we were looking for something simple and easy to adapt. We found that what the bigger vendors offered was rigid and if we wanted customisation, we'd have to pay through our nose," says S Sundaresan, the director of the institute.
Ease of use is also what makes Practo so popular. "We wanted Practo to be easy and addictive," says Shashank, who along with partner Abhinav registered a company called Nabo Medical Solutions in May 2008 to sell Practo.
The duo also encourages doctors to maintain a website of their clinics. "The idea was to open the clinic online and have a web presence," said Shashank whose The firm is focusing only on clinics and OPDs(outdoor patient department), mostly in the metros, and expect to enrol close to 1,500 customers over the course of the year.
Paras also tracks inventories and maintains a register of diseases, which is primarily a database of the symptoms, the demographics that it affects and the possible treatments. This helps government-run hospitals like RGCI to predict, and possibly prevent, the outbreak of epidemics. Apart from the proficiency in the clinical aspects, Paras can be used for traditional IT-driven functions like billing, admission and discharge.
The earlier software was heavy, which made it slow, and was not scalable. Which meant there were long queues and chaos happened when the system crashed," said Sundaresan.
Ex-Wipro veteran Ramesh Emani -who used to head the billion-dollar telecom and engineering solutions business at India's third largest software firm - recognises the opportunity in the healthcare sector."In India, computerised operations are not implemented very well. Leakages and loopholes have to be patched up," he says.
Insta Health Solutions was floated by Emani in 2008 to bridge this gap. It focuses on mid-tier hospitals and specialised centres in south India, providing over 70 live customers with an ERP solution that covers both administrative and clinical functions.
Shriram Vijaykumar, founder and CEO of Nephrolife - a speciality dialysis centre in Bangalore - testifies for Insta Health Solution. "The benefits we receive from the software are three fold: helps in managing cash and credit, helps in following up with patients and also saves their time and cost. Thanks to Insta Health, we are the first hospital in South Asia to network the dialysis machines and capture the data sdirectly into the medical record," says Vijaykumar.