An interview with
Dr. Ashutosh Raghuvanshi
Vice Chairman, Managing Director &
Group Chief Executive Officer
By Sam Narisi
Over the past several years, India’s Narayana Health has experienced tremendous growth. After beginning in 2001 as a 225-bed hospital in Bangalore, Narayana became a two-hospital system in 2007 and since that time has grown to include 27 facilities in 16 different cities.
Even more growth is on the horizon, as Narayana aims to continue feeling India’s need for affordable high-quality healthcare. “There is a big gap between the supply and demand for high-quality care in India,” said Dr. Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, Narayana’s Vice Chairman, Managing Director & Group Chief Executive Officer.
Technology has played a big role in Narayana’s growth, helping the organization both reduce costs and expand its patient reach. Moving IT systems to the cloud has made an especially big impact, according to Raghuvanshi. Using cloud-based IT services allows Narayana to pay based how much is used, which has allowed for significant cost reductions.
In addition, the move to the cloud has allowed Narayana to integrate and consolidate patient data from across the entire system. That’s made it possible to treat patients remotely, and with fewer specialists on staff. For instance, a patient can have imaging done in one hospital, and the results can be viewed by a specialist in a different facility. “We don’t have to have a specialist in every location,” Raghuvanshi said. “We can treat many patients effectively without have a large number of these specialists.”
Narayana is also offering more telehealth services, which is critical in giving access to high-quality, low-cost care to as many people as possible despite economic and geographic boundaries. In addition to its hospitals, the organization now runs a number of e-health clinics patients can also visit.
Those clinics are staffed by a paramedical workforce, so Narayana doesn’t necessary need physicians on site. Patients can have some diagnostics done at one of those locations and then visit a main hospital if necessary.
Again, this allows Narayana to treat more patients with a limited staff of specialists. Despite employing the largest number of doctors in India, the organization still faces an overall shortage of medical professionals in the country. In addition to expanding the reach through technology, Narayana has also invested in a teaching hospital to develop more skilled clinicians.
Narayana also uses those e-health clinics to track disease patterns and help improve overall population health. With all patient data collected in electronic health records, the organization is able to analyze that information to discover trends and detect outbreaks and other incidents.
Technology is key
Moving forward, Narayana will continue adopting new technology to help fulfill its missing of providing affordable high-quality care. “Technology is the only tool that can help keep the costs in the range that people in these areas can afford,” Raghuvanshi said.
This includes expansion into biotechnology, as well as greater use of clinical decision support, particularly for the hospitals’ nursing staff. By using those tools, Raghuvanshi said, nurses will be aware of available treatment options without having to do too much analysis on their own. That will help to standardize treatments, as well as increase accountability and the quality of care.
While there are some challenges that come from operating a healthcare organization in a country like India, Raghuvanshi said, those conditions also lead to some great opportunities, especially when it comes to technological advancement and innovation.
The environment in India and other emerging markets is typically less restrictive compared to other places. “The regulations and restrictive environment that exist in other places is not there,” Raghuvanshi said. “That is an advantage to help us innovate on the technology front.”
Also, in the US for example, the system is very payer-focused. So a lot of energy is spent developing technology that can help with better billing for hospitals, rather than with creating newer and better systems to improve the quality of care.
“Changing those legacies can be very difficult,” Raghuvanshi said. “We’re starting from a clean slate, and we are more focused on evidence-based care and emerging technology”