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‘Adapting to the digital era requires a shift towards a flexible and risk-taking mindset’ – ET HealthWorld

New Delhi :Rekha Dubey, CEO, Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital spoke to ETHealthWorld’s Prathiba Raju about how the hospital overcame the challenges faced by the pandemic. She further elucidates how the focus is more on strengthening the digital footprint of the hospital.

What were the main changes or strategies introduced in your hospitals due to the pandemic? What were the profitability challenges faced during COVID-19 and what are the measures taken to mitigate these challenges to improve sustainability?

COVID-19 pandemic affected more than 50 million individuals worldwide. As a tertiary healthcare organisation, we were right in the centre of the pandemic. While we managed the crisis situation, as a healthcare organisation we simultaneously geared up to manage similar situations, if they arise in the future, thus investing in strengthening the technology infrastructure.

The disease preponed the digital adaptation in the healthcare system by a couple of years with the whole nation and all medical facilities adopting new innovations. The digital revolution opened up new frontiers in medicines and treatment, a trend that has become visible during the COVID-19 pandemic. At our hospital, we understand that it’s important to let go of outdated business processes and trust newer technologies and the results they can get. We know that conventional methods of treatment will not work anymore. Adapting to the digital era requires a shift towards a flexible and risk-taking mindset.

We have been working towards digitalisation to empower patients. The idea is to keep the best outcome for patients at the centre of all activity. Telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI) enabled medical devices, and electronic health records (EHR) are just a few examples of digital transformation in healthcare at our hospital, which are completely reshaping how our health professionals interact with patients, how patients’ data is shared and how decisions are made about patient’s treatment plans and health outcomes.

COVID-19 has been a time when everyone had to come together without thinking about profitability. Priority was to ensure the right offerings including PPE kits, containment zones, right medication, oxygen cylinders, ventilators and the best possible treatment at affordable prices and also for free to the needy. We concentrated on working towards developing the infrastructure, hiring the right talent and adapting digitisation and new technology to be prepared for similar situations in the future.

What is the status of the financial performance of the hospital has it rebounded? What are the measures taken to sustain or boost revenue and profitability over the next couple of years?

Financially, the hospital has been stable for years. We have the best possible technology with state-of-the-art infrastructure at an affordable price range which attracts patients from in and around Maharashtra and also from other destinations for planned surgeries and treatments. Investing in digitisation and strengthening the adaptation of AI and robotic surgery has been one of our focus points. Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than just a digital transformation trend in healthcare. It’s not about profitability but investing in areas which need upgrading to provide the best care and treatment to our patrons.

How has the pandemic helped you to prepare for VUCA- volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times conditions?

COVID-19 was a time when all medical staff were working rigorously and there was an inflow of patients which had never been seen before. Since the disease was unknown, a method of diagnosis and treatment was being worked upon, many lost their lives due to not getting beds on time or the ill effects of COVID-19. The situation was very volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, especially across healthcare facilities as new vaccines, medications, and treatment modalities were being advised by the government as researchers understood COVID better.

The pandemic taught us how to manage these situations, today many facilities have containment zones, trained medical staff to deal with a crisis situation like this, additional beds, digital adaptation to offer treatment remotely and virtually, advanced technology and much more.

The use of digital platforms increased during the pandemic and looks like it is going to continue to grow post the pandemic. But, how will these digital platforms alter existing operating models of hospital spends, insurance etc? Can you give some examples?

Digitisation is here to stay and is the future of the healthcare system. It streamlines everything for the doctor, optimising systems which result in better outcomes for patients. Technology helps in reducing the risk of human error, assists in offering expert healthcare consultancy in remote areas, helps in lowering the cost of treatment and there are many other benefits. Telemedicine ensures initial consultancy can be provided to a patient in remote areas over the phone and proper medication and tests can be advised. Recent surveys show that 85 per cent of clinicians used digital platforms for patient interaction during the lockdown.

Digitisation in hospitals is reshaping how health professionals interact with patients, how patients’ data is shared and how decisions are made about patients’ treatment plans and health outcomes. Digitisation of records allows the doctor to access patient data from anywhere. It also helps the patient to keep all information in one place, without anything getting lost and maintain proper records. Since all records are in one place, it also helps insurance companies to access all data easily and reduce the scope of false data and the cost of verification.

What kind of long-term impact will the health open digital ecosystem (ODE) have on private hospitals?

The health open digital ecosystem (ODE) will lead to the growth of the nation including both private and government hospitals. A balance needs to be maintained with regard to privacy and security to ensure a robust and integrated healthcare system in India.

What kind of revenue graph are you looking at for 2022 and can you tell us which segments of your operations are seeing the highest growth? What are your expansion plans for the next few years? What are the strategies that you have outlined for the expansions?

During the pandemic and now, providing the right care and cure remains the priority. Being a healthcare organisation, it’s difficult to mention a specific speciality as all departments are equally important. We understand that it’s important to let go of outdated business processes and trust newer technologies and the results they can get. We know that conventional methods of treatment will not work anymore. Deciding which emerging technology is worth investing in is difficult. And once the decision is taken it’s important that the team agrees to adapt to the change. At times it’s challenging. However, our belief is that digital transformation provides a positive impact of technology in healthcare, which is helping us strengthen our foothold.

We have the best infrastructure, technology and expert doctors on our panel to upgrade each and every department with better technology and tools to deliver faster and better treatment options. We have recently invested in the urology department where we have replaced our 100-watt laser machine with a 120-watt laser machine with Moses technology which can crush stones better, leading to no blood loss, less complication and shorter stay. We are heavily investing in the department of prevention to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Organising health camps, and investing in handy scanners to ensure early diagnosis. Further, we have got the latest technology in the neurosurgery department which ensures precision in cutting tumours, we have introduced robotic surgery in the oncology and prostate department. Introduced AI which assists in treating cancer patients through genomics. AI’s sophisticated pattern recognition helps patients to access less painful therapies. In medical imaging diagnostics, this technology helps radiologists spot details that escape the human eye. Thanks to technology patients get better treatments and lesser costs and doctors can streamline their workflows and provide more holistic healthcare options. Our focus is on spreading positivity and strengthening the digital footprint of the hospital.

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