Continue reading “India’s Health Leapfrog – Towards A Holistic Healthcare Ecosystem Part 1 by Anukriti Chaudhari @AnukritiChaudh2 – @Product_Nation”
The leapfrog we envision is that of public, precision healthcare. This means that not only would every citizen have access to affordable healthcare, but the care delivered would be holistic (as opposed to symptomatic) and preventive (and not just curative) in nature.
Continue reading “#EHR in India: Challenges and Opportunities vis-a’-vis’ Ayushman Bharat by Dr. Oommen John, @oommen_john”
As India is embarking on a journey towards providing Universal Health Coverage through multi-pronged approaches of reducing catastrophic out of pocket expenditure and increasing access to essential health services , it is envisaged that Health Information Technologies (HIT) / Digital Health would create enabling environments for addressing some of the system level challenges in healthcare delivery.
Indian health care is at an inflection point. Today governments’ spending on healthcare needs is one of the lowest amongst the Developing countries . India spends about 5% of the total expenditure on Health which is around 1.7% of the GDP. Public healthcare growth has slowed down over years. In 1998 about 43% of population was served by Public Hospitals and today only 30% use the Public health care system.  That means almost 70% of the health care needs are serviced by Private players, trust hospitals and non-profit institutions. This has led to the rapid growth of Private players who are growing at the rate of CAGR 16.5% year on year . The costs of procedures or hospitalization has increased anywhere from 83% to 263% in 10 yrs. i.e. 2004 to 2014. There is also a wide variation of the cost for the same procedure in different hospitals . It is also noted that 86% of rural Indian patients and 82% of urban Indian patients do not have access to any form of employer-provided or state-funded insurance.
Government of India is cognizant of this gap and is taking a 360-approach to help people of India get affordable, accessible, quality healthcare. They have capped prices for certain lifesaving drugs, stents and implants. They have created a common entrance examination throughout India. The Medical council of India is being replaced by National Medical Commission which has more representation across different states. Ayushman Bharath is world’s biggest and ambitious project to cover 10 lakh family appropriately 50 crore people based on socio economic status defined by the Socio- Economic caste census 2010.
Some of the states are also proactively implementing systems to monitor delivery of the healthcare services through State medical establishment acts.
Being an integral part of the healthcare delivery system, we are not only responsible for treating patients but also understand our role and responsibility in the way care is delivered. We are the primary drivers, who can steer the system in the most cost-effective way, with good clinical outcomes or remain oblivious of costs! In order to help the patient and the hospital, it is important we understand what goes in to the revenue and costs of running a hospital and how each factor plays a role in escalating and deescalating the costs. In a study done by IMS (Intercontinental marketing company- Parent IQVIA) institute on avoidable costs in healthcare they attributed avoidable costs into six major buckets: They are:
– Medication Non compliance
– Non/Delayed adherence to Evidence based medicine
– Antibiotic misuse
– Medication errors
– Suboptimal use of generics
– Mismanaged polypharmacy in elderly
If the above mentioned are the six major causes in the delivery of care, the following are the major factors in inappropriate utilization of services i.e. inappropriate admissions, overuse of outpatient services, misuse and abuse of prescriptions and unindicated ER visits.
Medication non adherence:
Medication non adherence alone contributes to $68billion to $148billion dollars in costs. Patients usually are non-adherent to prescriptions due to costs, lack of information on the long term effects of noncompliance, cultural beliefs, side effects and lack of social support. It is noted that only 75% of patient fill their prescription when written first time. And 32% -40% do not fill up their prescriptions on subsequent follow up. Government initiatives in capping the prices and fixing the selling price do help in improving compliance. But as Doctors we can play our role by educating patients, prescribing low cost, quality product so that we do not burden our patients.
Nonadherence or delayed adherence to Evidence Based Medicine protocols:
Avoidable costs due to delayed or non-adherence to evidence based medicine costs anywhere from $19 billion to $64billion. Not able to timely diagnose, start treatment and lack of follow up are the major contributing factions. Guideline adherence is seen only on 61.9% in Diabetes and 20% in Hepatitis C patients. The importance of keeping ourselves updated with recent changes in the standards and protocol and use them appropriately in order to avoid such wastage cannot be stressed enough. Educating patients on long term complications and help patients understand that prevention always costs less than the actual treatment, goes a long way.
Antibiotic misuse, the cost opportunity for the antibiotic misuse ranges from $27 billion to $42 billion. Prescriptions for viral infections and usage of broad spectrum antibiotics tops the list of Antibiotic misuse. The common reasons are pressure from patients, defensive medicine. Being more responsible, while prescribing antibiotics, understanding the communities’ microbial nature and their sensitivity pattern helps to decide on the antibiotic needs.
Similarly medication errors, suboptimal use of generics and mismanaged polypharmacy in elderly also contribute to approximately $50billion in costs.
Apart from patient and clinical factors, administrative factors adds on to $126 to $315 billion in cost for delivering health care. The cost are majorly coming from ineffective claims process, staff turnover, ineffective IT systems and paper prescriptions.
There are tools available to calculate the healthcare wasteful spending in USA. These tools assess spending at the micro level, helps to develop specific targets and to assess the results of specific Interventions.
Another trend that is catching up is on payments based on value of care given rather than quantity. Value based payment models are slowly, but surely catching up across many developed countries and in India it is in its nascent stage enforced by few Insurance companies.
While we are grappling with inadequate funding, inefficient systems, lack of standardization, there is whole new wave that is going to make its presence felt sooner than later which is on “Information technology” in health care. There is already quite a bit of information technology solutions used in public sectors such as national health portal, online registration system, Central drug standard control organization so on and so forth. In private sectors the use of technology is far advanced in the form of electronic medical records, apps, call center, point of care devices, internet of things etc… The growth of this sector in health care will continue to see upswing as they try to help us find out solutions for each of the problem case in Health care.
The hospitals of the future will move from hospitals to home, utilize mobile technologies to stay connected with patients, care pathways to help standardize delivery of the care. The hospital beds probably will get restricted to use for post-operative care, intensive care and such other high end work. Public insurance will gradually increase the spectrum of population they cover and public private partnership has to happen in order to deliver care for such huge population base. Becoming cost effective is the need of the hour.
 Rising income level, ageing population, growing health awareness and changing attitude towards preventive healthcare is expected to boost healthcare services demand in future, but in a different areas, than what it is today. We need to understand these trends and prepare ourselves better so that we are not caught unaware.
The article was first published in American college of Physician-India chapter in their 3rd annual conference, Lucknow and has been republished here with the author’s permission.
1. World health organization and world health statistics 2017
2. National sample survey office(NSSO)
3. Frost and Sullivan LSI financial services, Deloitte
4. BMJ Open. 2013; 3(6): e002844.Published online 2013 Jun 11. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002844 PMCID: PMC3686227 PMID: 23794591 Costs of surgical procedures in Indian hospitals Susmita Chatterjee and Ramanan Laxminaraya
5. IMS Institute for healthcare informative: Avoidable costs in Healthcare.
6. Analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute: the price of excess.
7. American health policy institute: using data driven disruption to reduce wasteful spending in health care.
8. NAT health PWC funding Indian healthcare, catalyzing the next wave of growth.
9. An HFMA value Project report: Strategies for restructuring costs structure.
10. India brand equity foundation
After hearing about India’s New Health Insurance Program, I thought it is good idea to share about Health Economics, so here I am
|Alan William Plumbing Diagram about Health Economics|
(A) Health and its values,
(B) Influencers to health,
(C) Demand for healthcare,
(D) Supply of healthcare and
(E) Market equilibrium factors are the analytical of health economics.
The remaining three (F) Microeconomic evaluations, (G) Planning, budgeting and monitoring and (H) Evaluation of system are main area of
The article was first published on Dr. Karan Sharma’s LinkedIn pulse page here, its been re-published here with the Author’s permission.
There is recognition for the need of holistic longitudinal individual electronic health records for citizens, rather than just collated population-based data, for which one of the key components in the NHS Stack is going to be the Federated Personal Health Record. But is this requirement of an individual’s record to ensure continuity of care or mainly to avoid fraud and bring greater trust into the claim handling process? If it is for the stated objective of fulfilling the National Health Policy 2017 that states
“The attainment of the highest possible level of health and wellbeing for all at all ages, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation in all developmental policies, and universal access to good quality health care services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence… “
Then, in this write up I focus on two issues of immediate concern.
1. No requirement explicitly stated for compliance to Healthcare Information Technology (HIT)/EHR standards as recommended by MOHFW and published on December 2016
2. Different applications being developed at various levels of care, both in the public and private healthcare domain, which are not proven to “talk” to each other i.e. exchange healthcare data (interoperability)
Going into greater details about each of these issues:
1. No requirement explicitly stated for compliance to Healthcare Information Technology (HIT)/EHR standards as recommended by MOHFW and published in December 2016, except for patient/beneficiary identification.
It is understandable that when the program starts – the focus is going to be on assembling the registries of beneficiaries, providers, empanelled hospitals etc and the claims or payment for healthcare services rendered by providers. For validating the claims there is going to be proof of services rendered to be provided by filling forms and uploading supporting documents, such as test results, into the claims component of the stack by the hospitals/providers. However, instead of just having a checklist format of proof of service, if the data input is coded compliant to recommended standards (such as SNOMED CT for Diagnosis or LOINC for lab results) instead of just free text or proprietary codes –– then the healthcare data being collated is of much more immense value for clinical study and analytics. More importantly, this would bring about the perception that the information being asked for and checked on, has value in providing in-sights to providing better healthcare, instead of being perceived as an overseeing billing validation into the services provided by the clinicians, and so will facilitate onboarding clinicians to digitization.
For continuity of care and to facilitate quality clinical care, the assumption that having an open API based paradigm for fetching the records of a citizen from across different points of care, without the need for being standard compliant, maybe misplaced. Ok, so touch points will bring across data from corresponding associated fields when different healthcare systems exchange data, for example diagnosis from the exporting system into the importing system. However here lies the problem if not standard compliant, when attempting to consolidate the diagnosis section of a patient in a repository or into a consolidated longitudinal record: – say a patient has Pulmonary Tuberculosis and over time, goes to 3 different doctors in a few years. It is very possible that the first doctor may record the diagnosis as “Pulmonary Tuberculosis”, the next doctor may have logged in this diagnosis as “Tuberculosis of the Lung” and yet a third doctor may have put in the diagnosis as “Pulmonary TB”. So, when the data is being collated – the computer will not understand that all these three different terminologies represent the same concept and site of the disease, and may record them as separate problems. However, if the diagnosis was standard compliant and coded with the recommended SNOMED CT code (Concept ID 154283005), then the compilation and consolidation of this individual’s diagnosis list will be correct, since this standard code consolidates all three terminologies as the same disease and site. Similarly, lab tests results may have various terminologies, for example Fasting Blood Sugar aka Fasting Blood Glucose aka FBS, but if the recommended LOINC code (1558-6) is tagged, then during consolidation of a patient’s test results, the correct interpretation that these are results of the same test will occur and so will be trended accurately. This will come into play even at the claims phase. Healthcare is knowledge intensive, with whole lot of concepts, terminologies, semantics and nuances involved, which needs a framework of standards to convey the correct meaning and interpretation, when exchanging information between different HIT systems.
Another trend is that in those states that already have such universal health coverage programs deployed, there is a tendency to come up with proprietary codes for procedures in each of these different schemes, to suit the billing/claims end users. For example, Andhra Pradesh’s NTRVS program has got procedure codes like S5 for orthopaedics procedures, drilling down to S5.1 for fracture correction in orthopaedics procedures, further drilling down to S5.1.4 for reduction of compound fracture and external fixation. The same procedures have a different proprietary coding system in the program run by Tamil Nadu. So, what happens when you try to compare outcomes from the same procedures between these two states? If the recommended SNOMED coding system for procedures was applied in both the states – then carrying out such comparative studies become much more feasible and meaningful. Instead of reinventing the wheel with proprietary or local codes, if the recommended international standards that have been developed over the years by domain experts are put into place, then not only can we carry out such studies between our states but also between India and other countries, leading to adoption of the most efficient, cost effective, least invasive interventions with best outcomes.
It is of utmost importance that these recommended standards, including clinical standards, be introduced at the foundational phase of the framework for the National Health Stack. With about 20% more effort upfront, it is possible to plug in the look up databases for these standards into their respective fields- such as Diagnosis, Labs, Procedures, Medications etc. Even better, that these standards be deployed and utilized (where relevant) even for claims (as explained above), while place holders be put into place for those standards (mainly clinical) that may come into play only when the Federated PHR phase is activated. Importantly, to enable exchange of data between HIT systems, it is highly advisable to be compliant to HIT messaging standards such as HL7/FHIR. That will be the only way that the National Health Stack will have the robustness and flexibility to handle billing, claims and clinical healthcare functionalities optimally. If this is not done at the foundational phase and if the NHS framework is mainly set up for billing and claims, this will straitjacket the framework to effectively introduce these standards later and lead to fitting a square peg into a round hole situation. Also, an even bigger problem that proprietary codes could lead to, is if down the line wisdom prevails, and a decision is made to mandate recommended HIT standards, then the big headache issue of retrospective mapping of these proprietary codes to standard codes comes up for existing patients with past visits/admissions. It should not be billing and claims requirements that be the primary driving force for the National Health Stack, but ideally should be patient care and provider requirements in conjunction with billing/claims requirements that should be the driving force.
2. Different applications being developed at various levels of care, both in the public and private healthcare domain, which are not proven to “talk” to each other i.e. exchange healthcare data (interoperability)
The NHS document states that the National Health Stack a. Is designed to bring a holistic view across multiple health verticals and enable rapid creation of diverse solutions in health b. To enable patients to effectively become a Healthcare Information Exchange (HIE) of one: as meaningful data accumulates in a patient controlled repository, a complete picture of the patient emerges, resulting in improved quality of care across a range of providers.
For the above stated objectives to be attained, it requires at least these two conditions to be fulfilled: –
a. The diverse HIT systems that are involved in healthcare of the beneficiaries should ” talk to each other ” with ability to exchange data appropriately and without loss of meaning and interpretation in the exchange i.e. Interoperability. That is how accurate meaningful data of a patient should be accumulated. Considering that 70% of healthcare in India is provided by the private sector, this accumulation of a patient’s data will require visits/admissions to private hospitals to be brought in. For this, there is the most important requirement and need to publish the open APIs specifically being used in the NHS, so that these private healthcare organizations’ systems can integrate and exchange healthcare data with the NHS.
For example, if I am an authorized doctor for a patient – what is the API to be used to fetch this patient’s healthcare longitudinal record from the National Health Stack? Again, if the recommended standard like HL7’s FHIR (which is API based) was adhered to for data exchange, it would have made this deployment, hooking up and integration with NHS much easier and effectively feasible.
b. For the data to be meaningful, classified and categorised correctly with terms implying the same concept put into the same category and not into different ones, need the variations in terminology (especially clinical terminologies) to map back to the correct concept as that intended by the provider – which requires the recommended HIT standards to be mandated. Only then can the healthcare data be meaningfully analysed, trends and patterns including outcomes be detected (by deploying statistical methodologies including machine learning and AI) and standard protocols with best outcomes for the various respective Indian ethnicities be formulated, thus achieving the stated goals and objectives of the NHS
If the National Health Stack does provide the latest and greatest in this platform- with the recommended standards, then with our large numbers, English speaking brilliant human resources, internationally renowned prowess in Information Technology and Healthcare ; this assimilation of a treasure trove of Healthcare Information, along with the well-known Indian ingenuity, presents a huge opportunity for the country to leap frog healthcare to the next level and bring about betterment for humanity.
There is undoubtedly a clear argument for Universal healthcare. The question still looming large is “How do we get there”
Today, the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) has been credited as the world’s largest health insurance plan. The plan aims to provide a health insurance cover of up to Rs 5 Lakh annually to 10 crore families, which would in turn cover 40 percent of country’s population. RSBY, the earlier predecessor of Ayushman Bharat was able to reach 3.6 Crore families over a 10-year timeframe against a targeted coverage of 6 Cr families, let’s say 60% success rate in 10 years. Undoubtedly, the scheme is very well intentioned and fundamentally ambitious which is the need of the hour. The scheme, however, currently seems to address only one of the three pillars – Affordability for healthcare services; two other pillars access and quality remain unanswered!
Do we have the infrastructure access?
India has around 1.6 million hospital beds and around 55,000 hospitals (excluding community health centres and primary health centres). The infrastructure is woefully inadequate to cater to the healthcare needs of the country. In addition, there is a large variation across states. While states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have ~1000 people served by one government hospital, states like Bihar and Assam have more than 5000 people being served by a government hospital. Given this, how do we deliver care to the population remains a question. The gaps are even more pronounced across Tier-1/2/3/4 towns. However, the opportunity also presents solutions;
The government needs to smartly build capacity as utilization increases and also increase capacity utilization of existing Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs). However, there is a lot of ground to be covered; the current efforts are still geared towards building a registry of hospitals in Rohini (Registry of Hospitals in Network of Insurance) which finally claims to have ~33,000 unique hospitals.
Good primary care is an essential precondition for a healthy nation. And rightly so, Ayushman Bharat also proposes setting up of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres across the country. These centres would provide comprehensive healthcare, maternal and child care, disease screening, free drugs and diagnostics to the poor. A meticulous implementation and robust healthcare delivery in these centres could reduce the need for secondary and tertiary care. Addressing problems associated with supply logistics and spurious medication is another challenge. There could be an opportunity to tie up with players involved in last mile logistics to tackle some of these challenges.
Finally, a large question that looms over is the participation from private sector. Can the government assure enough incentives to the private sector which already faces problems of receivable and collection from other government insurance schemes? Given that government hospitals have 0.5 beds per 1000 people, non-participation or even limited participation from private sector could adversely impact implementation.
Do we have skilled personnel?
Our country has around 1 million doctors. While states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have 1.5 doctors per 1000 population, states like Bihar and Assam have less than 0.5 doctors per 1000 population. Apart from Physicians, contractual staff accounts for more than half of skilled workforce in the country.
There are also sporadic examples and learnings from other countries. For instance, Costa Rica established integrated primary healthcare teams each looking after 5000 people. The team included paramedics to visit patients, an executive who maintains records, a nurse, pharmacist and finally a doctor. Ethiopia has a concept of health extension workers who are rural high school graduates undergoing one-year training before they are sent back to their native areas. These health extension workers have played a key role in reducing the child and maternal mortality by 32% and 38% respectively. In a review of studies conducted across some countries in Africa, it was found that clinical officers with three years of training performed Caesarean Sections as safely as doctors. In Thailand, there are incentives in place for doctors who work in rural areas. Inculcating some of these best practices should bring in much more efficiencies in the current system.
Do we care about quality?
In India, the average length of doctor consultation is little more than 2 minutes and features a single question – “What’s wrong with you?”. Not surprisingly, research done by World Bank has shown that only 30% of the consultations have resulted in correct diagnosis. Citing another example, in India, around half a million children die of diarrhoeal diseases every year. In this context, a research done by the World bank around Diarrhoea in Delhi showed that only 25% of the providers ask parents whether there was blood or mucous in the child’s stool, which is the definitive symptom of the disease. Some of these are fundamental corrections needed in the healthcare quality today.
Hospitals), compliance is altogether a different subject. In addition, less than one percent of hospitals have NABH accreditation.
Sometime back, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched an initiative Mera Aspataal (My Hospital) an app-based platform to enable patients share real time feedback on hospitals. The app has seen a meagre 5000 downloads and numerous complaints of inability to share feedback or non-actioned feedback. In addition, the website has numerous challenges right from accepting a mobile number for registration.
A large-scale quality and patient experience audit followed by implementation of drastic interventions is required to drive overall quality. There must be a commitment to deliver quality healthcare and not just on paper. Quality needs to be defined on multiple parameters and incentives need to be created around these quality standards. India would need standardized survey instrument and data collection methodologies to measure patients’ perspectives of hospital care. Hospitals providing quality as reflected in standardized patient scores need to be both recognized and incentivized appropriately. Practices such as HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) in the United States need to be studied and some best practises need to be suitably adapted to the Indian Context.
Is there a need to educate the consumer?
In order to drive healthcare consumption and changes in health seeking behaviour of the population, there is a need to educate the consumer. More importantly, the government needs to take a lead in facilitating patient education around insurance. This would also include educating them on seeking healthcare from the right set of institutions. The move would be much easier than educating informal physicians on right diagnosis and treatment. The government should take the lead in facilitating public health; focusing on awareness and education. Pulse polio campaign which witnessed a resounding success in India, needs to be created for Non-Communicable diseases in the country.
The way forward
The concept of Universal healthcare is not something new and has been embraced by quite a few countries across the globe while being a work in progress for others. In addition, it has helped them achieve desired results. Look at Rwanda, a small African country as an example, its GDP per person is only $750 but its healthcare scheme covers 90% of the population and infant mortality has halved in a decade.
however what the program needs is a clear thinking and internally designed implementation roadmap.
Ayushman Bharat, undoubtedly, could be a game changer in the Indian context if planned meticulously and implemented well. Amitabh Kant, Niti Aayog CEO, expects around 50% of the families to receive coverage in the first year. As per him. “the challenge is not resources for the scheme, but challenge is its implementation”. The goal of Universal Healthcare is certainly achievable and affordable by the government; it needs a thinking on how to optimally use scarce resources!
The healthcare SIG is planning a panel discussion and networking event at Equinox on this theme. Please reach firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to collaborate for the same.
1. On Death and Money – History, Facts and Explanations – Angus Deaton
2. Census of India – Annual Health Survey Bulletins
3. Government of India Ministry of Finance – Ayushman Bharat for a New India -2022
4. Medium Healthcare Consulting Analytics
Register for the 6th Annual Conference by Medium Consulting, Sep 28th 2018, at Hyderabad: