ABI Health

ABI Health

The generations who were born before 80’s retain a nostalgic memory of their childhood illness. There was this friendly neighborhood doctor- elderly, respectable, kind, soft-spoken, witty, smart. One can walk to his clinic round the corner, to join a long line of people. The parents would patiently wait for their turn, chatting with neighbors about symptoms and schools, and observed a busy 'compounder' who dispensed medicine bottles of dark colored bitter medicine according to doctor's note. As a child, you were terrified to go in to get injection. You often did not notice actual injection, as the pain is drowned in your cry of fear and doctor’s witty remarks. You would suddenly start feeling great as you come out and pick up your bitter dark medicine. Overall, most of the time, one got better and cured after the doctor visit. The fee– paid in cash to the doctor- was a comfortably small fraction of one’s salary. Our vocabulary of ‘treatment’- (there was no such a word as- 'healthcare') is about 10 words, and involved less than 5 people- doctor, patient, compounder, nurse, dispensary, hospital, operation, medicine, illness, wellness.

 

Data is hot right now. We generate tons of it, but most of it sits there, latent, unused and useless. This is particularly pronounced when it comes to health and fitness data, where we strap on our fitness trackers and expect the pounds to melt away with each step passively logged.

But we haven't seen a dramatic improvement in our nation’s health with the emergence of the "quantified self movement" and the pervasiveness of wearables. We still live in a country where two-thirds of us are overweight or obese and 80 percent of adults do not get the recommended amount of exercise.

We forget that data alone is not the key to solving America’s health crisis. Knowing our step count or flights of stairs climbed won’t change our behavior. However, data with context - data that is proactive, timely and actionable - gives us the opportunity to design our environments for success and can help enable us to reach our health goals.

We all recognize that digital technologies are firmly embedded in our lives – the Internet of Things is becoming a reality, growing from 15 billion smart devices in 2015 to at least 50 billion by 2020. It is easier than ever before to connect data-generating appliances, machines and even complete industries to the internet. As a result, we are also creating vast amounts of data, faster and more detailed than ever before – 90% of all data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

This big data revolution has led to the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is about combining connected devices with cloud computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence - our critical infrastructures will become smart.

As compared to a global average of 2–2.5 percent of income spent on IT by healthcare providers, or even 6-15 percent being invested in IT in other sectors within India, anecdotal data from multiple sources indicate that healthcare providers in India rarely spend more than 0.5 percent of their annual revenue on information technology. Rather than investing in the necessary or customized (and consequently more expensive) software solutions that best suits the needs of the hospital, the oft-used strategy is to find cheaper available solutions or adopt those that have been created for smaller setups.

Instead of capitalizing on the immense potential of IT as a competitive differentiator (especially at a time when they could have a substantial first-mover advantage), hospitals in India seem to embrace the “cheap is good, free is better” philosophy. May be it has to do with a legacy mindset from about 20 years ago; however, it is indeed surprising considering the big and aspirational strides that many industries in India have taken.