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Tech investment to cut healthcare costs by 15-20%: MGM Healthcare’s Rajagopalan

Tech investment to cut healthcare costs by 15-20%: MGM Healthcare’s Rajagopalan
Dr Prashanth Rajagopalan, director of MGM Healthcare

MGM Healthcare Pvt. Ltd, formed two years ago by Dr Prashanth Rajagopalan and Krishnamoorthy Rajagopalan, is launching a new chain of hospitals. As part of the new initiative, it will establish a 400-bed state-of-the-art medical institution in Chennai. It will be designed as a green hospital, qualifying for platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The healthcare facility will house 50 out-patient consultation rooms, 10 operating theatres and over 100 critical care beds. It will offer services in specialty areas such as cardiac sciences, multi-organ transplantation, neuroscience, orthopedics, oncology and more.

The hospital's promoters also run the Sri Balaji Educational and Charitable Public Trust, which operates the flagship Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute and soon-to-be-deemed university Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth in Puducherry. The trust was founded by MGM Healthcare’s chairman MK Rajagopalan.

In a telephonic conversation with TechCircle, Dr Prashanth Rajagopalan, who is also a director at MGM Healthcare and a fellow from Johns Hopkins University, spoke about how the hospital is using emerging technologies to deliver better and faster healthcare. Edited excerpts:

Why did you decide to build a hospital dependent on technology and why in Chennai?

Chennai is the medical capital of the country, yet we saw gaps that could be filled to deliver faster and better healthcare. Several hospitals here offer medical services but there are delays, patients could be treated better and sent home earlier. To achieve faster and better healthcare, we need to innovate, for which we needed technology. 

Our company has a deep focus in education. We believe our educational research combined with technology will result in better experiences for both patients and students.

How do you deploy technology in the hospital?

We employ technology in three areas—operations, medical innovation and medical equipment. Technology-enabled operations allow us to deliver a smooth experience for patients and their families. Medical innovation and the latest equipment will help doctors and caregivers attend to patients faster and in a better manner.

What technologies do you use in your operations?

The principal objective of employing tech in operations is to streamline processes and workflows. For that, we employ an intelligent hospital information system (HIS) that integrates and connects all the hospital’s departments including medical, administration, financial and legal.

The HIS we use was built by Pune-based firm OHUM Technologies, whose model is based on the hospitals of the US Veteran Affairs. The same HIS is currently used by Max Healthcare in Delhi. The entire HIS is on the private cloud of the hospital.

Technology allows us to send samples to pathology labs for faster diagnosis. We have also added a pneumatic shuttle lift to every floor. These lifts can take multiple samples to the lab without a person carrying them to and fro. 

We also have sensors detect whether a patient is moving in the room; a tablet to manage the temperature and lights of a room; and a voice-enabled phone for patients to communicate directly with nurses.

The hospital operates on solar power and uses at least 20% less water than any other hospital. 

What technology does the hospital use for medical innovation?

Besides the HIS, OHUM is helping us set up an electronic medical record (EMR) repository and service which will be stored on a public cloud hosted by Amazon Web Services. OHUM will use a combination of their proprietary algorithm models along with AWS services to provide data analysis that will help us read trends for our clinical research and critical care division.

The plan is to set up enough repositories of patient data so that when a patient comes to the hospital, doctors and caregivers can be ready for treatment. In fact, EMR can also help prevent deaths while patients are en route to the hospital. Our ambulances are also fitted with sensors that immediately alert the hospital if the patient is close by. 

All of these technologies run on a single application based on the cloud, which has different interfaces based on the job of the person. The app allows doctors to monitor patients in real time through alerts and they can even communicate with them anytime.

We use an Internet of Things network to cater to patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). The essential equipment connected to the patient continually records the patient’s data in real time and constantly calculates risk scores. An analytics engine records and analyses this data and allows doctors to assess the patient’s condition and decide on future treatment options.

We also train our students, especially those studying to be surgeons, using augmented reality and virtual reality. They work on 3D-models of organs before they operate on a body. We plan to expand this to the hospital as well.

What are the latest medical instruments that the hospital uses?

Our latest instruments include an MRI machine from Philips, which is also used at the Sloan Kettering Hospital in the US, and ventilator machines from Maquet, which is a first in Asia.

We are also developing an artificial intelligence machine for our radiology department. For this, we are working with Mahajan Imaging, a radiology company that is providing us data sets for the AI algorithms.

How much investment has gone towards building the hospital and how much for technology?

We traditionally look at investments in terms of hospital beds. The 3,50,000 sq. ft. hospital in Chennai is expected to house 400 beds with 100 critical beds, 50 outdoor patient consultation rooms and 10 operation theatres. We have invested close to Rs 60 lakh per bed.

For technology, our expenditure, excluding medical instruments, can be chalked up to approximately Rs 4 crore. We are in the process of hiring 20 people as part of our core IT team to be headed by Swaminathan R, currently vice president of IT at Apollo Health and Lifestyle.

Though costs are relative, compared to rival Apollo Hospital here in Chennai, we will be able to provide services at a rebate of at least 15-20%.

How do you deal with cybersecurity and data breaches?

We are aware of the risks and pitfalls that technology brings to the table. However, close to 80% of our data is stored on AWS which has been certified as a secure system to store medical or health data. 

Medical facilities have been hacked and so we are creating an entire data security department. We will hire people from the financial sector who can work on data security protocols. 

As for data privacy, patients will always be able to access their data via our portal. We are not keeping anything exclusive for us. However, the data we collect from the ICU on a second-by-second basis will be deleted after a few days. That data doesn’t record the name of the patient and is anonymised.

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