Over the last five years, the adoption of artificial intelligence in the healthcare industry has grown significantly. It has been widely reported that by 2021 the market is expected to touch ₹431.97 billion. From improving patient outcomes, levelling out the doctor-patient ratio and driving a wave of personalisation, AI has disrupted several segments under healthcare - hospitals, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, medical insurance and telemedicine. Given the spate of recent developments, hospitals are also undergoing a transformational wave and upping the ante by digitising operations and offering AI-enabled healthcare solutions. This week we spoke to Raviganesh Venkataraman, CEO, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals to understand how he’s building a partnership ecosystem to drive the Uberisation of Healthcare through and collaborating with innovators to provide AI-enabled solutions. on top of his agenda is also positioning Cloudnine as an employer of choice for today’s tech-savvy professionals.
Analytics India Magazine: Tell us about your role at Cloudnine and what are the key areas you have been addressing since you took over?
Raviganesh Venkataraman: My journey in the healthcare sector started with Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in April this year. As the first mover and pioneer in this sector, my efforts along with the other founding teams have been focussed on the ability to innovate constantly. Innovations across customer experience, clinician engagement, staff training, technology intervention, through both medical and digital means to further enhance outcomes have always helped us set a high benchmark of excellence. One of our key distinctions has also been the fact that we are extremely transparent in our service offering and that has helped us cut through the otherwise hard to traverse industry mechanics on pricing. We have provided over 70000 mothers a truly Cloudnine experience as they gave birth to their bundle of joy! There is frankly no greater accomplishment than seeing the smiles on faces and joy in the eyes of these families.
AIM: What is your overall strategic and technological direction at the hospital chain?
RV: We live in a digitalised world and hospitals are no different. Hence we are in the process of digitising every aspect of customer interaction. Today’s customer is exposed to digital solutions in virtually every aspect of her life and she has come to expect that as the new normal. There is an expectation of obtaining the same “swipe on the smart-phone convenience” even in her interaction with doctors. While we have provided digital solutions for many doctors right from the inception, we find that a lot of doctors actually don't find enough time to use these tools or are perhaps not too comfortable typing information using a keyboard. To overcome this challenge, one of the first things we have done (and we’re perhaps the first chain in the industry to do so), is to encourage the use of digital pen, for the doctors who are not comfortable typing. With this intervention, 100% of our prescriptions will get digitised - all items just need a tick with a digital pen after which the software is automatically updated.
As a next step, we will be deploying AI tools that analyse all this information and bots that read and transcribe a doctor’s handwriting with ease. This to me is the fundamental piece, where all our hospitals and doctors are going the paperless route. Every moment of transaction between the doctor and customer is being captured simply, neatly and precisely using digital means.
Further, all this is available at a click of a button or a swipe of the finger to the customer on her smartphone. What we are trying to do is to put the power in the hands of the customer and this is a big shift for the healthcare industry. Digitisation here is crucial to making the transformation of healthcare to a customer-centric industry.
One of the biggest focus for us has been our app – the “It’s Our Baby” app. The app while it empowers the customer, helps us in generating lot of customer insights that open up new possibilities of business. We've always been looking at an ecosystem which comes together for the customer. And in this regard, we have never been shy of looking at new-age companies, new-age startups to get incorporated.
AIM: How is analytics being used to optimise and improve hospital operations?
RV: Analytics plays a very critical role in hospital administration as it helps to adapt and improve clinical outcomes, operational efficiency of the businesses, healthcare financing, etc immediately. Most importantly it helps in spotting patient condition changes in intensive care units, helps in offering personalisation of the experience. Our in-depth approach on our customers and doctors, and towards analysing requirements before initiating projects, we have also focused heavily on building an inhouse team to service our technology requirements. This means that initiatives such as the “It’s Our Baby” app and Cloudnine DigiDoc have been developed with an internal team of developers, that has given us immense control on the speed of execution as well as the ability to evolve the product as we go - following a typical iterative approach for achieving “Product Market Fit”.
We have split our systems into “Systems of Engagement”, i.e., the systems that interface with customers/ doctors and “Systems of Records”, i.e, back-end systems and databases. As a strategy, we focus on building our own Systems of Engagement while working with robust Systems of Records.
AIM: As Cloudnine plans to expand footprint in Bangalore, what kind of technology can augment operations?
RV: Not just Bengaluru, we aim to expand our technological prowess in all the markets and centres. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to establish our services in every major city in this country, and in most cities, we can set up more than one unit and that gives us the distinct advantage of being able to grow our volumes significantly for many years to come. We are further developing collaborative models of capital deployment and also a CAPEX light model which would further open up a lot more cities of choice for expansion, to provide us rapid scale.
AIM: Will we see a wave of personalisation in-patient care just like we see in other consumer-facing industries like retail, finance and e-commerce?
RV: Our focus at Cloudnine is about building deep customer relationships at every stage of their journey with us. Each patient is unique seeking individualised and personalised care. I would like to share here an example of a survey done by our in house teams where we spoke to many customers and doctors and conducted various surveys. It was clear from this effort that the activities that the customer performed with Cloudnine during their pregnancy journey could be broken into 3 buckets.
- Core Activities which are primarily their interactions with the doctor, for which they come to the hospital
- Enhancing Activities that help in enhancing their interaction with the doctor, e.g., their lab reports, scan analysis that helps in better consultations
- Enabling Activities that mainly support the above e.g., billing, etc.
We realised that to provide convenience, ‘Enhancing’ and ‘Enabling’ activities, to the extent possible, must move into the customer’s phone. Hence we developed and embarked on the “It’s Our Baby” app journey. We are committed to what I call the Uberisation of Healthcare through our Tech interventions. We are looking at all our customers coming together as a large ecosystem. We are bringing in a set of partners who will support this ecosystem with their products. So the mother and child, which is the core of this ecosystem, is supported by not only Cloudnine but all of Cloudnine cohorts in having a great journey, superb celebration for this absolute grand moment in their life, which is the birth of their baby.
We have therefore intensified our digital efforts – both for our customers as well as our doctors. We see ourselves as pioneers in using digital technology in healthcare and one can expect many innovations in this space from us in the years to come.
AIM: Can you share details about your IT team and what areas do they function on? Are you partnering with any third party vendors to store data in the cloud etc?
RV: We're amongst the first organisations to have a full-fledged 30-member team led by a Chief Digital Officer, who looks at all elements of digitisation in the entire business. This was something Cloudnine drove right from inception. This team also includes in-house developers who have driven our core technology efforts. We use AWS and other partners wherever needed to save our data on the cloud. Technology has been to use build robust systems of records through partners while systems of engagements are developed in-house for greater control, swift action.
AIM: Is there a HIMS in place? Going forward are you planning to float a chatbot?
RV: Yes. We have a robust HIMS which acts as the backend for our customer app efforts. Recently, new tools have been designed to simplify the interaction between customers and chatbots. Our Chatbot or visual assistants help in booking appointments, retrieving lab reports etc and providing recommendations to the customers from time to time for all their common queries and questions related to their pregnancy journey.
AIM: Your thoughts on how future tech like AI can transform healthcare?
RV: In my view, AI is transforming the healthcare landscape in India as it increases the ability for healthcare professionals to better understand the day-to-day patterns and needs of the patients they care for, and with that understanding, they are able to provide better feedback, guidance and support for staying healthy. It helps in the personalisation of medicine and the hospital experience for every patient. In other words, technology applications and apps encourage healthier behaviour in individuals and help with the proactive management of a healthy lifestyle. It puts consumers in control of health and well-being.
AIM: Is there any analytics team in place and what areas do they function on?
RV: Yes. We have analytics ingrained into our core functional teams. The key focus areas are - marketing analytics (focused on acquisition, retention), app analytics (focused on improving engagement and ARPP from the customer) and some aspect of financial analytics are also covered in the current scheme of things.
AIM: Going forward what's the agenda for 2020 and how tech can help consolidate the hospital chain's position in the market.
RV: The need of the hour is to build a large talent pool showcasing the career growth opportunity in this sector. We want to be positioned as an employer of choice for the talent available in the country. At the same time, we also want to be preferred service provider for our customers. We will continue encouraging more start-ups in MedTech as well as digital engagement to develop and provide for specific areas of pregnancy care and new-born care as our country offers a tremendous scale of the opportunity. We will continue to invest and innovate on low CAPEX healthcare model + insights from customers to provide a more personalised experience.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.