Amidst the big hope and hype of analytics, there is one sector that has definitely lagged behind in adoption. Healthcare analytics is fraught with a data deluge, overcoming legacy architecture challenges and a lack of perceivable value has led to the slow adoption among key stakeholders – insurance providers, pharma and hospitals. While on the surface, being analytics-driven may sound promising but integration with complex healthcare software isn’t all smooth.
In an interview with Analytics India Magazine, Madhu Aravind, CEO of Searchlight Health, Bangalore-based healthcare analytics company, also a subsidiary of Piramal Enterprises Limited spoke about the growth opportunity, key stakeholders and emerging technologies in healthcare analytics. He also emphasized how making analytics meaningful for healthcare practitioners is crucial to success.
Searchlight Health has partnered with 85 leading hospitals, including Apollo, Manipal and Sagar Hospitals and primarily focuses on Hyderabad Chennai and Bangalore market.
Slow adoption in healthcare analytics
Healthcare analytics worldwide is in an early stage. In India it is at a very nascent stage and 60% of the healthcare analytics market is based in the US. With data growing in size, it means stakeholders have the opportunity to realize big gains, but it seems like transitioning to an analytics platform and deriving value is the biggest bottleneck. Citing the reasons behind slow adoption, Aravind explained, “Take an example of a hospital where most of the software they use is for workflow management, optimization, and resource management, where it is not fundamentally changing the way they work”.
Hospitals, physicians and practitioners are not averse to new technology be it in imaging or in researching tool to help them get better outcomes. But what they essentially want is value additions, he added. Case in point – a hospital adopter would want improved revenue, better patient outcomes and 10x value than before.
“Today, the reality is there is non-standard data and unstructured data sitting in the traditional legacy systems. What has changed is the ability to process data as it is and convert it into something more meaningful, tangible both from an operational, clinical and financial perspective. These initiatives happened only in the last few years,” explained Aravind.
Piramal Enterprises – no stranger to data and analytics
Piramal Enterprises Limited is no stranger to data analytics. The healthcare heavyweight acquired health analytics company Searchlight Health two years back to reportedly make developments in creation of analytic tools, new solutions for key stakeholders and capturing data regarding the Indian healthcare system. Searchlight Health has lent technological depth and engineering skills to the parent group.
According to Aravind, at Piramal, data analytics has been a worldwide focus. In the recent years the group has trained its eyes on the Indian market, enabling first movers to deploy analytics solutions faster. “We are the entity through which focus in India. It is a two way-street for us, where many of the solutions deployed for worldwide customers similarly are applicable in Indian context also,” he shared.
To put things in perspective, Piramal Enterprises focuses on pharmaceuticals, financial services and information management and made a foray in healthcare information segment with the acquisition of Decision Resources Group in 2012. DRG is known for providing web-enabled research, predictive analytics through proprietary databases and consulting services.
Healthcare opportunities are endless for stakeholders
Healthcare analytics focuses on three areas – financial, operational and clinical side. And there is an increased focus on the clinical end with data driven parameters that can drive effective outcomes. A new trend gaining ground worldwide is precision medicine, fueled by the rise of machine learning that enables healthcare practitioners to deliver personalized care.
To put things in the Indian context, our country, India is famously pegged as the world’s biggest health destination, yet there are no personalized treatment paths in areas such as cardiotherapy. Aravind posits a possibility where one can rethink clinical delivery using data analytics. “Earlier, clinical knowledge was derived from observations from a small subset of people. With the availability of large amount of data and computing power today, one has the possibility of creating specific clinical insights that can be the basis for personalized medicine” he explains.
Besides, making informed care choices and unlocking patient insights, hospitals can leverage analytics solutions to drive operational efficiency, get a better picture of marketing activities. “Healthcare providers like know to their strengths, how to manage a facility better and where should marketing spends be. Big data solutions can help improve quality and utilization of resources,” he added.
Data analytics change the healthcare game for key stakeholders
- Better clinical decisions for care providers
- Data analytics can show hospitals where they are performing better and areas that need improvement, such as allocating budgets for marketing or improved inventory management
- Insurance companies can construct better policies with all the data at hand
Can data transform health insurance sector
According to LexisNexis, a leading provider of business research and risk management services, health insurance is a loss-making business for several general insurance companies, especially in India, with the segment plagued by waste and fraud. Predictive analytics can uncover risk possibilities while social analytics, especially machine reading of images and text can give better context.
According to Aravind, most of the health insurance products offer limited coverage, as there is a lack of information that is needed to model both premiums and cost. “In reality, if insurance companies have to be truly successful, they would need to create innovative products that can address the diverse needs of the middle class, driving adoption from current 5% to more than 30%. To that end, big data gives promising opportunities,” he said.
The recent technological advances in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing only surfaced in the last decade, thanks to the rise in computing power. “What will determine the success of technological prowess if people are able to create solutions that either a doctor can use to better patient outcomes, or allow hospitals to run more efficiently and enable insurance companies to scale coverage exponentially,” he added.
As Aravind emphasized, healthcare analytics is still in a nascent stage and will take time to mature. Globally, hospitals are saving millions of dollars through reduced readmissions, wait times and improving patient follow up care, India is also seeing the stirrings of healthcare revolution. Last year, Manipal Hospitals jumped on the Watson bandwagon and deployed the comprehensive tech platform for oncology. Fortis Hospitals have also taken a data-savvy approach.
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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.