Mumbai: Information technology (IT) is rapidly changing the healthcare landscape in India and the country’s healthcare information technology market is expected to be worth $1.45 billion in 2018 according to market researcher Frost and Sullivan. In an interview with Mint, Varun Sood, head of IT services at Fortis Healthcare Ltd, spoke about the changing role of a chief information officer and the innovations his company has been making to provide a better user experience. Edited excerpts:

How has the role of the chief information officer (CIO) changed over the years? What kind of conversations do you have with the chief executive officer (CEO)?

We have moved towards a more business-oriented view. We have taken a call to make IT a business function in the next two-three years. So the role has changed to actually solving real business problems than just keeping the lights on. This journey started about a year ago and we are still in process of going through the transformation. So the engagement we now have with business is not on transactional aspect anymore.

At Fortis, what kind of technologies do you use to enhance user experience?

Healthcare in India, despite of being around forever, has seen sunrise in the last 10 years. We have been delivering healthcare but haven’t looked at it as an industry. At Fortis, we focus on two things, clinical excellence and distinctive patient care. Most of our initiatives are targeted around these two areas. There is a lot of work that we have stated doing. One is to make our customer care consistent throughout hospitals. We look at strengthening our clinical excellence areas and providing doctors and nurses better tools to deliver. The other two aspects, which are industry wide, are the problems of access and reach. If you need a service, is it available? So how do you make a service available? All our initiatives are targeted on one or more of these. We are also working on empowering the patient. We are setting up platforms to enable the patient to provide them with health records at any given time. We are piloting inpatient room technologies.

What are your thoughts on privacy?

It is paramount. I wouldn’t want my data to be used out there. We need data first to be worried about privacy. At the end of the day, the cloud is a data centre lying somewhere. It could be yours, mine or someone else’s. And what you build around it is what matters. In some cases, we have seen that public cloud providers are actually more compliant than other people.

Are you developing your own technology or outsourcing it?

We will do both. Some things can never move out for speed, privacy and security considerations. The answer, however, varies from company to company. It’s about what you focus on. Are you a healthcare company or are you an IT company? You can never move out strategy, ownership and accountability.

The solution development has to be in-house and control has to be retained. Activities not core to you can be outsourced because someone else could do it better than you. There is regular IT; we’ve people in-house who manage and control things, but it is delivered through partners. Coming to the other side, the system-side, it’s about 40% outsourced and 60% in-house. But, at the end of the day 100% of the systems controlled will be in-house because that cannot be outsourced.

How important is it to connect your employees through mobile devices today, especially in the context of serving patients?

Mobility for the sake of mobility is no good. I think mobility has to be seen in the context of the problem you have to solve. From a patient’s standpoint, customer facing standpoint, it becomes important. For them it is empowerment. For example, if I am sick, can I go to a hospital and show them my medical records on the phone?

What according to you will be the key trends in enterprise IT ?

I would answer this in three parts. One is on industry per se. I think we will see a lot of movement towards agile systems. And agile infrastructure. The other is clinical excellence—a lot of focus (will be) on how you work with doctors. And this is not a one year question, but actually a five-to-six year question. We have a pilot that we use in our hospitals, where pregnant women can monitor their fetus. Another area of focus will be customer relationship management and treating patients with empathy—and building a consistent customer experience across hospitals.

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