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“IoT and robotics will change the future of healthcare”

Lakshman Sharma, CIO, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, on how healthcare is embracing the digital revolution. By Satyaki Sarkar

While he’s been in the IT industry for over 17 years, Lakshman Sharma entered the healthcare space in 2007 with the Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute. In 2015, he joined the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, where he looks after the entire IT infrastructure. Here, he talks to us about bringing the institute up to speed with the digital age and how mobility is affecting the hospital sector.

“Mobility is now plays an extremely major role in the hospital industry,” says Lakshman. “People look up doctors online, check their ratings, their reviews, and their specialisation, as well as their entire portfolio. They use this to make a conscious and informed decision about the treatment, the hospital, as well as the doctor to go for, even before coming to the centre. Reports are available online, on computers and smartphones. It’s become completely automated. All the data needed is sent digitally to patients and doctors. This has led to real-time diagnosis of critical issues, helping them get treated immediately.”

Hurdles faced
“However, the major problem with implementing any digital mobility solution is adaptability. For example, doctors earlier would write prescriptions on paper. Now they have to fill in each and every point in the EMR or electronic medical record system. This takes them out of their comfort zone. We’ve tried to make the system and interface as user-friendly as possible, so that minimum human effort is required. Additionally, we have provided assistance and additional manpower to senior doctors for this purpose, until the process becomes easier and more familiar to them.”

Going paperless
“We have implemented the use of a digital document system to record and maintain patient data. We scan the hard copies and feed it into the system, where it is organised and stored safely. However, due to government requirements and MBBS guidelines, there are still certain records and documents that need to be preserved in a physical form.

“We have also an online portal and an app that helps patients reap the benefits of this digitisation. For instance, diabetic patients can regularly download trend analyses of their check-ups directly through the app and don’t need to come to the hospital to collect reports and images. Doctors can also use the same app to check records, update prescriptions, and so on.”

Automating internal functions
“When it comes to internal functions, we’ve implemented digital mobility to control all our locations from our headquarters. Modules and training sessions are also given online. However, at the moment it isn’t possible to automate all the internal functions, so we have a mix of digital and human-based operations. To help, we’ve started looking at adopting IoT and intelligent devices. On any given day there is a plethora of instruments and assets that need to be used at one location, and manual tracking is not always efficient or accurate enough. So we are in talks with a number of technology companies to come up with the means to track them using IoT-based software and devices, through RFID tags and readers.”

Larger role for robotics
“Human interaction will become a thing of the past. Robotics and smart devices have already become a large part of medical processes, with doctors, surgeons and medical professionals adopting modern technology more and more to eliminate human error, reduce the effort needed, and increase efficiency.

“One of the major changes we’ll soon see is that most treatment procedures will become automated, with no need for human interaction. A number of companies are already working on health devices for diabetic patients that will automatically monitor their blood insulin levels, and notify the doctor as well as the patient when a shot is needed, which the device itself will be able to administer.

“Similarly, a large part of the healthcare sector will become completely automated, and doctors and healthcare providers will move into more intense, sensitive issues that need an expert human touch. Machines will perform most of the menial or trivial tasks, while human beings will be called upon only in extreme instances, where a machine cannot utilise human instincts and senses.” 

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