Narayana Health’s tech choices aimed at efficient patient care, infrastructure, better clinical care quality: Group CFO Sandhya J

New Delhi: Hospital chain Narayana Health is dedicated to patient-centric care and digital tools such as a mobile app that allows doctors to monitor their patients in real time and collaborate with their care team are an integral part of this commitment, says Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Sandhya J.

With Narayana Health’s patient platform, patients can also take control of their financial transactions and access their clinical records anytime and anywhere, Sandhya told PTI in an interview.

The healthcare service provider is pioneering digital tools that automate data capture, and enable nurses to efficiently manage tasks such as handover and orders. Put simply, she said, it puts nurses back where they belong – by the patient’s side.

In a country which needs more doctors, nurses and better healthcare facilities, Narayana Health is making investments in new capabilities, including radiation therapy, cath lab, CT and MRI across its units.

Narayana Health has adopted a cloud-first strategy and forged strategic partnerships with leading technology providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and others to enhance patient care, upgrade infrastructure, optimise costs, ensure robust security, privacy measures, and elevate the quality of clinical care.

Excerpts from the interview: Q: What are Narayana Health’s plans for organic and inorganic expansion? A: During fiscal year 2023, we had given guidance of total capex spend of Rs 2,000 crore for FY23 and FY24 – a significant portion of this is in our flagships in Bangalore, Kolkata and Cayman.

Here, we are expanding capacity through both greenfield and brownfield, adding new capabilities as well as modernizing our infrastructure. We are still coming out of our replacement cycles due to stagnant investments during Covid and we are catching up on that across all our 20 units.

We are also making investments in new capabilities like radiation therapy, cath lab, CT, and MRI across our units.

Q: What are the big healthcare challenges as also the opportunities to make a difference when it comes to healthcare infrastructure in India? A: The demand and supply gap in the Indian healthcare industry is large. We need more hospitals, medical and nursing colleges with our increasing population. Even if 50,000 doctors are added annually, there will be only 11.6 lakh doctors practicing by 2032, which would imply a doctor-patient ratio of 0.76:1000.

Also, primary healthcare and community health centres in rural areas have to be strengthened. Finally, the next big game changer in healthcare would be the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission. The mission involves ground breaking initiatives such as implementation of federated exchange of electronic health data across the entire healthcare ecosystem, health claims exchange, various registries etc.

Government agencies like the National Health Authority will need to collaboratively work with providers to provide high quality healthcare to its citizens and work in a collaborative fashion to address both demand and supply side challenges Q: Could you give a brief overview of Narayana Health’s journey so far? A: Founded in 2000 by Dr Devi Prasad Shetty and headquartered in Bengaluru, Narayana Hrudayalaya (now Narayana Health) is one of India’s leading healthcare service providers, operating a chain of multispecialty, tertiary and primary healthcare facilities. The company has a network of 20 hospitals, four heart centres and 21 primary healthcare facilities across India and Cayman Islands with over 6,370 capacity beds.

Narayana Health has a talented resource pool of 18,440 plus full-time employees and associates including 3,970 doctors.

Q: How are digital and tech at Narayana Health bringing new innovations to life? A: Narayana Health is dedicated to providing patient-centric care, and digital tools are an integral part of this commitment. Our patient app NH Care and portal empower patients by enhancing their autonomy and transparency. With NH’s patient platform, patients can take control of their financial transactions and access their clinical records anytime and anywhere.

Doctors use their phones far more frequently than their laptops, with the average doctor using their phone up to 200 times a day. This knowledge inspired us to create a mobile app that allows doctors to monitor their patients’ conditions in real-time through their smartphones and collaborate with their care team. This app has successfully addressed the most critical challenge of managing inpatients in any hospital: contextual and timely communication.

Nurses are the backbone of any hospital, and it is unfortunate that more than 40 per cent of their time is spent in administrative and data-entry tasks. At NH, we are pioneering cutting-edge digital tools that automate data capture, and enable nurses to efficiently manage tasks such as handover and orders. Our goal is to put nurses back where they belong: by the patient’s side.

Q: How is NH unleashing the power of data in business decision making? A: Narayana Health has been using the power of data to transform its business from several aspects. The key areas of impact are the efficiency of operations, patient experience, the organization’s financial health through cost reduction, capital optimization, cash optimization, and clinical quality. A major area of impact is the discharge turnaround time which has reduced by over 52 per cent. Another area of impact is outpatient consultations.

Post deployment of Narayana Health’s Medha Analytics data intelligence platform, delays in outpatient (OP) have come down by 32 per cent, wait times have reduced by 14 per cent and online appointments have gone up 3.5 times. Other areas of impact include lab turnaround times dropping by 50 per cent, allowing patients to complete their consultations and associated tests within the same day, improved EMR adoption, impact on clinical quality by monitoring infections, continuously assessing patient risk, and deploying automated clinical algorithms.

Q: Could you elaborate on homegrown records management system Athma? A: Athma is a synthesis of Narayana Health’s extensive experience in running an efficient and effective healthcare network. It is a healthcare operating system that brings together best in class processes with cutting-edge technology, human-centric design, and a scalable architecture.

Q: How have cloud technology and AWS enabled you in your operations? A: Narayana Health has been a pioneer in adopting cloud technology for healthcare services in India, and we remain committed to being cloud-first in our technology strategy. Our Cayman Islands facilities is supported efficiently by AWS and we have been able to leverage the agility, cost optimization, security and scalability that AWS cloud is renowned for, to our benefit.

By centralizing our workloads and moving away from on-premises servers, we have achieved a single instance that powers all of our group facilities. This has enabled us to exchange patient data seamlessly and implement standardized processes across all our facilities. Moreover, enterprise cloud offers us superior availability and security, which is critical for delivering high-quality healthcare services.

Q: As NH continues to scale, what sort of critical cohort of technology partners would you work with to scale.

A: All our technology choices aim to deliver efficient patient care, improved infrastructure, ISO 27001:2013 grade security and privacy controls and better clinical care quality.

We continue to take a cloud-first approach in all our technology choices to continue to benefit from greater flexibility, mobility and security. We have deployed several open source technologies in our landscape and we will continue to leverage the benefits of the customizability, integration and cost effectiveness.