Guest Columns

My Health Account: Can I do Internet Health?

If money is widely considered as “Wealth”, there were many innovations done to safeguard the wealth. Supported hugely by technology, such innovations have created an avenue for the mass customers to track their wealth and feel a sense of higher security. Starting from the revolution in the simple bank account management to evolution of technologies to simplify the complicated equity and mutual fund management, technology has really shown its true colour in creating value to the community. Understanding financial market has had never been so easy without the introduction of innovative technology.

The concept of health account is the same as your bank account. The way bank account creates, holds and manages all of your finance requirements; the health account would create your health records, holds all the records for retrieval and would help to manage your health in a better and more effective way. Many times there is a strategic approach gap between health account and the Electronic Health Records (EHR).

Many of the hospitals have initiated the efforts in this direction which is often termed as EHR. EHR systems enable hospitals to store and retrieve detailed patient information to be used by health care providers, and sometimes patients, during a patient’s hospitalization, over time, and across care settings. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calls EHRs, “the next step in continued progress of health care that can strengthen the relationship between patients and clinicians.” Even with a huge perceived utility of EHR, the implementation is very low. Although EHR penetration is growing at 13.5% in India  many hospitals are struggling to deal with challenges like limited knowledge and application of IT in the desired area, shortage of trained manpower, sizable initial investments, physician and staff buy-in, training to the hospital staff etc.

While the challenges are genuine for the successful implementation of EHR, I personally feel there is an issue in the approach of implementation of EHR. Almost all the strategic papers on EHR state that the value derivation for the hospital operation, quality of care for the said hospitals. However, it has not spelled out the value being created for the patients, thus the demand component from the patients are completely ignored. Positioning of the EHR from patient perspective would definitely help in bringing the EHR in fast track.

Another strategic issue of EHR is the lack of integrated approach. Most of the times the strategy revolves around the hospital and the Information Technology (IT) solution providers, leaving other major players like diagnostic centers, pharmacy, insurance companies and training institutes and consultants. It must bring them into the fold if the EHR in India would make an impact in the health care industry.

The EHR must be people centric. The awareness programme would also be initiated so that the patient feels he is empowered and a considerable amount of value is being provided through the health account. This may be powered by issue of the health cards, which can be resembles like credit and debit cards and also functions like them as well. The way the bank accounts are tracked for any transaction and financial status, the people with health account can track their health related transactions like various diagnostic parameters, annual health check up report and take a holistic view of the overall health status. The account must be done on a web based application, so that customers can access their account any-time any-where. This would enable the patient to do the “Internet Health”.

The hospitals here are synonymous to banks for opening of health accounts. Hospitals must take a lead in bringing more value addition services and provide integrated services like consulting, IPD, diagnostic services, pharmacy etc. In such case the functionalities of health account become more effective as it does not require integrating other service providers except the insurance.

Healthcare in India is at the cross roads. Although hospitals and health care industry has taken stride to bring innovations in using technology for scaling up in the operation, improvement in the clinical services, the optimal use of technology is way far. The patient centric and partnership based approach would bring the desired result with the healthcare customers experiencing the true use of information technology by internet health.

The writer is Dr Biranchi Narayan Jena, Director, Institute of Health Management Research(IHMR), Bengaluru.

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