Technology in Healthcare - where's the value?

Rajaram Iyer, Senior Vice President, Mankind Pharma Ltd | Wednesday, 09 January 2019, 13:00 IST

Mankind Pharma is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in India, started its journey in 1995. Presently, the organization has 11,000 employees and is heading towards a turnover of INR 50000 million.

Technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), IoT (internet of things), Blockchain, VR (visual reality), Big data, cloud computing etc. are the current buzzwords. Use of these technologies has progressed a lot in last couple of years. They are increasingly making a difference in the way we do things and are changing the fundamental architecture of the industry. Though in infancy, these technologies have shown great promise and no doubt that future belongs to these technologies.

Though it is certain that emerging technologies will impact the healthcare ecosystem, however we will have to access the impact and understand, if we are using technology only because it is available or are we using it because it really makes an impact. The impact has to be measured on the core elements of healthcare delivery. Healthcare delivery has several players ranging from hospitals to physicians to pharmaceutical companies to pharmacy chain to diagnostics. If we have to make an impact, then we must create value which transcends all the elements and eventually improves the life of the patient. Patient is central and is the core theme for the healthcare industry to exist. Hence the key question is how do you measure the impact of technology on healthcare? Alternatively, what is the value it generates for patients?

No doubt that the new technologies will change the narrative of the healthcare industry but the key outcome should be measured by the impact it brings to patients life. Most of the current interventions are focused on enhancing convenience, which no doubt is an important aspect, but is not the central theme. Any new technology should enhance patients’ quality of life.

"Growing healthcare cost is concern with all major countries and lot of efforts are being put to decrease this"

We should create a framework based on which impact for each technology should be measured. This framework should be the guiding principal. Some of the key elements of this framework are: does it improve the clinical outcome, does it make the medicine more effective, does it help in reducing the healthcare cost etc? Detailed review of these elements is presented below:

Will the technology improve the disease outcome?
The core purpose of any medicine is to treat the disease and hence the core measurement criteria should emanate from there. The key measurement criteria should be improvement in disease outcome. Any intervention or improvement we do in healthcare should impact the disease outcome. Big data analytics have really proven useful in analyzing disease patterns during clinical trials and have thrown some very interesting insights. These kinds of improvements are really a good scientific advance.

Will it make medicines aff ordable or will it improve access?
Growing healthcare cost is concern with all major countries and lot of efforts are being put to decrease this. The current approaches are primarily directed towards reducing the cost of medicines by promoting generics etc. This is an area which needs some fresh thinking, as traditionally, industry has only focused on one side of the story i.e. cost of medicines. Use of technology can open new avenues for cost reduction and can completely redraw the healthcare model which will be very agile and completely devoid of fat.

Will it improve patient compliance?
Patient compliance or adherence is an important aspect of healthcare delivery and if we can improve that by technology, then that will be a significant achievement. Clinical outcome can be significantly improved, if there is strict adherence to the drug, especially in chronic diseases. Patient compliance means ability of patient to take required medicine on time. If you look at reasons for non compliance, they vary from just being a remembrance (patients forget to take medicines on time) issue all the way up to the cost of medicines (inability to buy). Patients don’t comply, as they can’t afford it. Technology will have to work on both the aspects.

Will it improve the accuracy of treatment?
Big data and AI has made some very significant improvement in the way we run clinical trial. With the use of big data, companies are now able to predict more accurately. Earlier, randomized controlled trials were the only tool to get insights and those also were very specific to the disease under study. With the advent of big data and the enhanced analytical capabilities, it is now possible to draw meaningful insights from variety of sources including HER (electronic health records), genetic profiles, wearable devices, etc. There is lot of data which is unstructured currently and if we can mine that using the new tools available, then that will present unique insights about the disease patterns. Data mining with such unstructured data can provide lot of relevant insights and can throw unique patterns which will be very helpful in predicting exact interactions and can make medicine very targeted, hence efficacious.

There are multiple technologies which are being applied and explored in the healthcare industry, however, it is very important to have the right metrics for the measurement of success. Patient experience is the central theme and any improvement in that must be the primary objective of all these new technologies.

Technology should be means to an end and not an end itself. We should look at current challenges and find technologies which can improve them. This will go a long way in making the healthcare experience a great one.

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