Mumbai: IBM, the world’s second-largest computer firm, has made India a key destination for development of technology solutions for the health-care sector. A dedicated team at the company’s research laboratory in Bangalore is in the process of developing solutions for IBM’s global health-care practice.
“We see India as a base to provide high-quality talent and services for our global operations,” says Mohammad Naseem, vice-president, healthcare at IBM India. IBM has a team of 2,000 working on health-care and lifescience-related projects. These projects focus on development of technology solutions for hospitals and medical research centres, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and research organizations.
The research team in India has recently developed a “transaction engine” that can facilitate communication and exchange of data bewteen different information-technology systems and software applications accurately, effectively and consistently. This helps physicians, hospitals, diagnostic facilities and pharmacies share patient information, resulting in timely, patient-centred care.
“This project was designed for our global business. The crux of this project is to facilitate seamless transfer of data across different systems,” says Naseem.
The inability to share electronic medical records is a major concern in health-care delivery systems of developed markets. “We are running a few pilot projects in hospitals across India,” says Naseem. The team involved with the development process is growing and there are many new projects in the pipeline.
Development of health-care technology solutions is an opportunity that other technology firms are also looking at. Major information technology companies such as GE Healthcare, Siemens Medical Solutions, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Wipro Ltd and Infosys Technologies Ltd also have a presence in this segment with health-care practices.
In addition to doing development work out of India, IBM also sees an emerging business opportunity in the domestic market. In a bid to address the information-technology needs of smaller hospitals, with 100-200-bed capacity, IBM India has partnered with the Hyderabad-based Apollo Hospital Group. The joint venture, called Health Hi-way, will offer IT solutions such as hospital information systems and clinical information systems to mid-sized hospitals through a hosted model, wherein they will only have to pay a monthly subscription fee for using IT infrastructure and applications. Depending on their specific needs, these hospitals will be able to pick the service they want, and adopt a “pay-as-per-use” model.
There are around 1,500 such hospitals in India today and “almost 500 new hospitals are being added every year. We are looking at a market opportunity of $300 million by 2012,” says Naseem. Apollo Hospital’s in-house IT team of more than 1,000 professionals has developed specific applications in areas such as hospital ERP (enterprise resource planning), which can be offered to mid-sized hospitals.
IBM and Apollo are planning to have at least 100 hospitals as their customers by 2009. “Around 25 hospitals are already testing the solution,” says Ashvani Srivastava, president, strategic initiatives, at Apollo Hospital. Accoording to him, mid-sized hospitals that have annual turnover of around Rs20 crore, spend less than 0.25% of their annual turnover on information technology. “The idea is to have them invest 1-2% of their revenues on technology solutions every year, so that they are able to offer better services and compete with the larger players,” he says.