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IT & Communication

the treatment plan and medication administered, so it would facilitate easier planning of the therapeutics. For the pharmacist, the physi-

cian’s electronic order entries act as a record for the drugs administered. These prescriptions can be easily verified to ensure they are being sent from the right source to prevent any chance of drug abuse. EHR greatly helps the patient if he is being trans- ferred to another hospital, or if he wants to get a second opinion from a different physician, then the record can be transferred easily. He can also monitor the progress of his treatment himself and can collect his medi- cation directly from the pharmacy. For clinical research and drug trials, stored EHR records can be mined for information to study disease patterns, spread, vulnerable groups, and other factors that might not be obvious on a superficial perusal of the informa- tion.

Practical Implications in Using Technology to Increase the Reach of EHR Multiple technologies can be used to increase the scope of EHR. The Internet can be used to store and deploy files

with ease across the world, but secu- rity would be a major concern in this case and adequate measures would have to be employed. Security would always be a major issue in the trans- fer of such sensitive and confidential data, so different levels of access for the different players and strong pass- words encryptions are essential to keep the information safe. Creating an EHR would require

the creation of a computer model (or dictionary) for each field in the medi- cal record for the clinical signs and symptoms, medical history, etc., so, such a data model would run into tens of thousands of items. Free form text, such as physician notes and drug prescriptions are also difficult for a computer to interpret. For many hospitals, the data is not generated electronically at source. So, this would entail an additional cumbersome manual process of keying in the data into the data-dictionary format. Now, if the data is made available

electronically, the issue of standardi- zation comes up. The lack of standards forces different hospitals to maintain different formats, so this would entail a huge effort in mapping and data conversion in order to conform all the

Mr. Sandeep Sinha is the Director, Healthcare Practice for Frost & Sullivan - South Asia & Middle East. During his decade-long experience in the healthcare industry, Mr. Sinha has consulted on growth strategies, healthcare project management, hospital operations, commercial feasibilities, and the development of various e-Health programs. He has also developed business strategies for global and Indian healthcare companies in the areas of healthcare delivery, medical device, diagnostics, medical equipment, healthcare IT and healthcare investments.

He joined Frost & Sullivan in 2005 and is instrumental in building relationships with leading organizations specializing in Healthcare Delivery, Private Equity, Healthcare IT, Medical Technologies, Biotech and Pharma. For the last 3 years, Mr. Sinha has been responsible for the growth and P&L for Healthcare Practice of Frost & Sullivan for South Asia and Middle East region

information to universal standards. Without the quality of interoperability, EHR becomes meaningless and there can be no successful knowledge shar- ing. In India, there are few common standards for data storage, so a prac- tical solution would be to store data in native formats such as PDF, jpg, etc. These documents would not be read- able by various medical modalities, but it would be easy to store, manage, and retrieve them. This would enable India to make a foray in the long proc- ess of digitizing medical records and facilitating information exchange.

Conclusion Although India has a long way to go in integrating technology to manage health information, the country has finally awakened to the fact that this is essential to improve the quality and efficiency of disease manage- ment. Although there are several practical issues in implementing HMIS and EHR systems, they can be overcome if there is sufficient inter- est and support for this cause, from the Government and private partici- pants alike, with the long-term view of taking Indian healthcare forward in the new millennium.


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