Doctors do not give any handwritten prescription; yet, by the time the patient reaches the hospital’s pharmacy, the medicines are at the counter.  (Doctors do not give any handwritten prescription; yet, by the time the patient reaches the hospital’s pharmacy, the medicines are at the counter. )
Doctors do not give any handwritten prescription; yet, by the time the patient reaches the hospital’s pharmacy, the medicines are at the counter.
(Doctors do not give any handwritten prescription; yet, by the time the patient reaches the hospital’s pharmacy, the medicines are at the counter. )

Going paperless with medical reports

Patients now get a unique number with the help of a software that gives doctors access to their history and records

Mumbai: Frieda and her husband Franklin Fernandez used to get hassled by just the thought of carting along loads of medical records whenever it was time to meet their doctors at Mumbai-based SevenHills Hospital.

The couple now breathe easy thanks to the digitization of three years of medical records by a public-private partnership between Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Hyderabad-based SevenHills Healthcare Pvt. Ltd, which runs the hospital.

“The doctor gets the reports directly on his laptop, so we don’t have to move with papers. This has made life so convenient, given that we have appointments with four-five doctors on a single day," said Frieda Fernandez.

SevenHills uses an in-house developed healthcare management software called e-Health, according to Suresh Kumar Vedulla, the hospital’s chief information officer. “Indian patients do not take care of their reports. So doctors can get misled and not make the right diagnostics if they do not have the history of a patient," he said.

With e-Health, every patient at SevenHills gets a unique health identification number, giving every doctor access to the records of patients who are registered with him or her. Doctors do not give any handwritten prescription; yet, by the time the patient reaches the hospital’s pharmacy, the medicines are at the counter.

According to Hemalata Arora, vice-president (medical services) at SevenHills, the hospital maintains records for all services, whether a blood test or surgery. E-Health also helps the hospital keep track of new diseases and the frequency of a disease’s occurrence. Vedulla said the hospital is also planning to soon make e-Health work on the cloud—a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data.

Apart from hospitals, diagnostics and pathology services firms such as Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, Dr Lal PathLabs Pvt. Ltd and SRL Ltd, too, are mining patient data.

“We provide graphical reports for a few tests through our CLIMS (centralized laboratory information management system), a cloud-based technology that helps do analytics of data and produce charts," said B.R. Das, president (research and innovation) at SRL.

Both Sameer Kaul, vice-president (marketing) at Dr Lal PathLabs, and Ravindra Desai, chief marketing officer at Metropolis Healthcare, said they were developing an application for their companies to make reports available with just a click or a touch on the computer.

The road to digitization, though, is not all that smooth. Going paperless is ideal, but not easy, said M.G. Bhat, medical director and consultant surgeon at Nova Medical Centers. “People just scan the records of patients because doctors are still not very comfortable with the conversion from traditional to new platform," he said.

Bhat, who has worked at Manipal Hospital and Wockhardt Hospitals, said all the hospitals he worked for still use the traditional method of staying connected and maintaining records. Patients, he added, should be able to access their medical records from any hospital regardless of where the records were first digitized.

“We do have a central depository on data in our health system. For providers like Nova, it does not make sense to invest heavily in sophisticated EMRs (electronic medical records) given their patient base for surgery," said Amit Mookim, head of the healthcare practice at KPMG India. “Our universal care is so complex as an idea that it will take at least 5-10 years before it is fully successfully implemented."

Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bangalore-based privacy lobby firm the Centre for Internet and Society, cautioned that invasion of privacy is another concern since India does not have a comprehensive law in place or sufficiently updated policies to regulate personal information in the medical or health context. “What these hospitals and research organizations could do is to anonymize data first by removing direct and indirect identifiers, and then medical research and innovation would be possible without infringing on the rights of patients," he said.

Arora of SevenHills countered that “all the software we use is quite sophisticated and meets cross-compatibility as well as privacy requirements".

Malvika Joshi contributed to this story.

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