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HTM Speaks With Dr. Ruchi Dass, CEO, HealthCursor

Dr Ruchi Dass is an award winning Physician from India with a Post Graduate in Preventive and Promotional Healthcare and with medical technology applied expertise. She is a part of the ICT4D team India and is judging the most coveted “GSMA’s Best mHealth Innovation Awards” since its inception aimed at identifying the excellence and innovation in mobile communications that can be of significance to Healthcare.

Dr Dass serves on several Advocacy and Advisory Boards in Health Informatics, Telemedicine and eHealth associations

  • CuRE Expert Panel- Canada India Research Centre of Excellence (CIRCE), Quebec, Canada
  • Innovation Leader->UN Commission, Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, Washington DC,USA
  • Jury->GSMA's Best mHealth Innovation Awards, Barcelona, Spain
  • Advisor-> Commonwealth Connects Program, ICT4D- African, Asian, European, and Caribbean member states
  • IPIHD Member-Global Innovators (World Economic Forum + Duke University + McKinsey & Company), Durham, North Carolina, USA
  • HIMSS 2013 Innovation Community Member; Reviewer- Mobile Health Annual Conference Education, New Orleans, LA, USA
  • Chair->Health on Mobiles Group, India

She has been featured in leading dailies like Financial Times, Business Weekly, Times of India and contributed to several Medical Journals listed with PubMed, IRMA, IGI Global etc. and has in particular worked, as an author, market researcher and business strategist on a large variety of projects and reports related to the deployment of ICT systems in emerging markets.

Prior to becoming a “Thought leader” for m-Health, She led the Business development and Operations of Lifetime Wellness (An Apollo Group Initiative). Apollo is the largest private Healthcare chain in Asia and third largest in the world. Specialties:Public Policy Government Liaison Mhealth, Ehealth, Healthcare IT, Wireless Healthcare, Telemedicine Pharmaceuticals -Competitive analysis, financing, franchising, mergers and acquisition Healthcare Business Consulting Healthcare Social Media Marketing Ministry of Health Regulations and Legislation Trade Organisations Medical Technology and Devices

Please introduce yourself, you current role in the healthcare IT marketplace, and your background and experience in healthcare information systems:

A big hello to all the readers of Healthcare Technology Magazine! My name is Dr Ruchi Dass and I have been working in the healthcare ICT space especially Telemedicine and mHealth across 53 Commonwealth Nations. Currently, I am an Advisor to the Commonwealth Connects Program and running a consortium called “HealthCursor” aimed to improve healthcare delivery and health outcomes for millions of people in the world using Information Technology.

What are the mobile and wireless applications in demand from the healthcare industry today and how will they develop in the next 5 years?

Mobile technology is being adopted in most countries at a very rapid pace. While the type of devices being sold and speed of cellular networks (2G vs 3G vs 4G) varies from market to market, the healthcare industry is leveraging the use of this pervasive technology. From a consumer’s perspective, health tips, find-a-doctor, wellness and disease management applications are popular. Providers on the other hand are making significant investments in technology in the hospitals/clinics – EHR/EMR, telehealth, remote patient monitoring and related solutions are in demand.

5 years ago it would have been hard to imagine that Facebook and Social media will be such an intricate part of our lives. With the increasing adoption of smartphones and leapfrogging cellular technology, it is quite conceivable that we will see a significant mobile revolution in the next 5 years. Every industry whether it is finance or retail or healthcare will jump on this mobile revolution to stay connected with their constituents. From paying for your groceries to speaking with a doctor, the phone will become indispensible more so than ever.

Changes in the delivery of healthcare, technology and public finances will have an impact on the shape of the healthcare market. What does the future hold and what will that mean to your organization?

As I mentioned above, we are yet to experience the full force of the mobile revolution. With the changing technology and healthcare landscape, significant investments will be made in the healthcare ICT that will take advantage of the mobile platform.

Governments, Providers, Telecom operators and other stakeholders will increase their investments and will look to leverage mobile platforms for healthcare delivery. The pace of adoption will directly depend on the cost of mobile devices, speed and coverage of high-speed mobile networks that will allow a broader population to use this technology.

As a healthcare services company, we have already invested in mHealth and ICT for the past few years and have deployed several solutions in 67 different countries. As the adoption of mHealth gains popularity and business start to realize revenue from their investments, we hope to grow with the rising tide and become part of several implementations around the world.

What has been the impact for healthcare providers, insurance underwriters and third party claims administrator’s who invest, harness, and adopt wireless and mobile technology and applications?

Providers are beginning to leverage tablets and mobile phones to share information between physicians, nurses and other medical professionals. Wireless tablet technologies are revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare - from looking up drug info, prescribing medication to reviewing EKG’s, iPads and smartphones are starting to play an integral role in healthcare. Healthcare organizations are also leveraging mobile technologies to help consumers stay healthy and manage their health better – prescription reminders, wellness tips, glucometers that connect to smartphones are becoming popular. As a result of technology, people are becoming more aware of their health and are able to manage their chronic conditions or diseases better due to the availability to reliable information at their fingertips. Healthier people mean more money for insurers and 3rd party claim administrators. Hence insurers are also investing and promoting the use of mobile technologies.


How can mobile and wireless technologies drive change in national healthcare systems?

Partnerships amongst healthcare providers, telecom operators and Government in mHealth will provide better exposure to National Health Programs. Timely and judicious use of emerging medical and ICT technologies and evidence based treatment methodologies will ensure better awareness and availability of healthcare solutions amongst the masses and in-turn better health outcomes. It has now become a common knowledge that robust IT driven healthcare systems bring in interoperability, efficiency and scalability in processes and for the consumer Affordability, Quality, Relevance and Convenience to access healthcare.

Wireless and mobile technologies can deliver cost and time savings, an improved work-life balance and speed up response and communications. How can the mobile healthcare worker or home healthcare provider agency leverage these benefits, whilst enabling productivity gains and long-term cost savings?

Mobile technologies have enabled physicians to have access to clinical decision support systems on one hand and healthcare workers access to training, symptoms triaging, drug information, data collection and EMR at their fingertips. This has enabled healthcare workers prescribe medications, treat patients using telehealth, and expand their reach into remote rural areas while sitting in their offices and as a result saving travel and time costs. Technology has also improved the healthcare workers work-life balance by allowing them to have access to healthcare information whenever-wherever they are so they can still be accessible while providing consultations and care for their patients. Wireless technologies are evolving to become sustainable systems built-up on current infrastructure and providing benefits including long-term cost savings and greater efficiency, decreased risks and liabilities, as well as new business opportunities, increased asset values, and improved public image and stakeholder relations.

What medical conditions and vital signs may be remotely monitored, using mobile and wireless technologies?

Good question! And the Answer is almost everything! While I sit and write this answer, a healthcare organization somewhere in the world is working on leveraging mobile technologies to measure a new vital parameter and solve a new problem. Right from diagnosis through self sampling; to home health monitoring through glucometers, sleep apnea monitors, peak flow meters, ECG/EKG devices; to immunoassays and controlled drug delivery methods – medical device manufacturers are making use of sensors based on wireless technologies. The day is not far when Body Area network will reduce office visits and physicians will use the data collected from these sensors for prescribing medicines rather than manually determining characteristics of inspection, auscultation, palpation, and percussion amongst their patients.

Aging populations, a shortage of professionals, long waiting lists, and proposed cuts in funding in healthcare systems like the NHS in the UK, how can wireless and mobile technologies assist the patient manage their own health, whilst also maintaining their independence?

Mobile phones have become an indispensable part of our lives. They are personal devices that we carry with us wherever we go. The healthcare industry is taking advantage of this very fact to deliver personalized information to a consumer and also give the consumer access to pertinent information from their fingertips. From delivering personalized health tips to the consumer, keeping the aged connected to their caregivers, prescription order and refill reminders, schedule appointments, tele-health consultations and remote monitoring etc. everything based on mhealth is contributing to independent living and the mobile phone is playing a vital role in helping patients manage their own health by making more informed decisions.

How successful are the implementations of mobile and wireless technologies in healthcare systems, and how well do physicians adapt to the change of approach in communications and work flow?

In my opinion, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. While there have been a lot of pilots in the mHealth industry, there have been only a few large scale implementations. Like most new ventures, businesses are dipping their toe to determine how to generate revenue using this new channel. At this point in time, new business models are emerging to take advantage of mobile and wireless technologies.

Historically, physicians have not been leading adopters of new technology. However, recent studies have shown that physicians are adopting mobile solutions at a faster pace than ever before.

What benefits can mobile and wireless technologies deliver to an insurance company?

Insurance companies make money by managing the health risk across their members. If they can keep their members healthier, they will make higher margins since their costs will be lower. The growing population of chronically ill patients is the biggest challenge for health insurers. Those with chronic diseases account for 81% of hospital admissions, 91% of all prescriptions filled, and 76% of all physician visits in the US. By leveraging mobile technologies, insurance companies are working to ensure that their constituents have access to health related information at their fingertips so they can lead healthier lives. Apart from this, mHealth is of interest to Insurance companies as adopting wireless technology means faster, accurate, efficient, cost‐effective, and quality coding; supply chain management; case management; meaningful data, analytics use, and population studies.

In my recent work, I have seen some interesting ways health insurance companies are getting into the mhealth loop. This is when they partner with Pharma companies and regulatory bodies for clinical trials, drug monitoring as well as pharmacovigilance to bring in better health outcomes for the Insurance holders.

Finally what forecasts may you share with us about where you see the mobile and wireless industry developing, and what opportunities will exist in the healthcare industry 5 years down the line?

In the mhealth world, it’s all about rate of adoption; more adoption means more business and better scope to expand. At this point in time, forecasts will only be a hypothetical since the industry is growing at a rapid pace. Innovation need to be sustainable as well. A robust mobile health platform will contribute to better safety and efficacy in therapies, drugs, and devices; better safety and efficiency in care process; better care outcomes and value; better care access, control, and management and hence the opportunity is huge both to innovate and implement. 

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