People are still operating in much decentralized manner. Every clinic, every physician, every hospital is doing their own rather than doing it in more efficient shared service environment.
In an interview with ETHealtworld, Bhupender Singh, CEO of Intelenet Global Services, Gurgaon, talks on the importance of technology in the healthcare sector. Edited excerpts:
Give us an overview of the state of technology adoption in the healthcare industry? Has there been a rapid uptake of technology enabled mechanisms within the sector in recent years?
Yes, like every year even healthcare sector has its fair share of adoption of technology but I feel that the adoption is far slower for my own comfort factor. I’ll give you an example of the US healthcare industry. In the US, they spend about 16% of their GDP, almost 1/6th of the GDP on the healthcare sector. UK is about 8%. Most of the Scandinavian countries are about 7%. And this is fairly widely expected that the European countries have a much better universal healthcare program than the US.
In the US, more than half of 16% is actually spent on administrative activities, not in actual patient care. Now, had the technology adoption been much faster that 50% non-value add, non-patient care activities probably should have been reduced by now, but that doesn’t seem to be going down at the pace that it should have gone down.
What is the kind of work that Intelenet does in this space?
Intelenet is a business process services company. We have been in business for the last 16 years. We’ve got about 55,000 people globally across 8 countries, and we focus on three industry verticals: banking and financial services, travel and healthcare. Within healthcare, we service both the payer sides like health insurance companies, and the providers which could either be medical hospitals, or medical equipments or medicine providers, and we service both the payers and providers.
In the payer’s side will be things like claims processing, underwriting and on the providers’ side it will be primarily medical coding and revenue cycle management. Once a doctor, a physician or a hospital prescribes a medicine or a treatment to a patient that prescription has to be converted into medical code so that someone can be billed for that and then payments can be made. So, once a doctor gives the prescription, from there we takeover so that the relevant payments can be made either by insurance companies or by the patients.
Are there any challenges that need to be overcome to boost the use of this tech enabled practice here?
Let me try to do that in two parts. First part is actually patient care. Now in that, especially tertiary care, frankly, India is beginning to become a hub, so I think there the adoption of technology, the treatments and in other things we are beginning to become best in the class. We operate in areas of back-office processing, making the non-patient care activities as efficient as possible, so their healthcare spend can actually be done on true patient care.
India is still in nascent stage on two accounts. First, people are still operating in much decentralized manner. Every clinic, every physician, every hospital is doing their own rather than doing it in more efficient shared service environment. Second, it’s still largely paper and manual processing as opposed to deploying any automation or any digital tools.
Why has Intelenet chosen to device a tool specifically dedicated to the nursing domain?
This is one of the tools we have. Most of our tools are geared around reducing the non-value add spend, which is at 8% non-patient care spend because anything that we can save there, that money could be diverted to the actual patient care. It could be done very easily by an app as opposed to human being, and it’s something that delivers more efficient service, better customer experience and the customer is in control. So that’s why we decided to go for it.
Tell us about the radius tool and its capabilities?
We actually used to do nurses appointment setting for our patients. So, one of our clients is one of the largest at-home care providers in the US, and the typical customer patient profile there ages about 60 and above, and they would normally require a nurse to visit them. And the early process used to be that they would call our client and we would be actually answering the call or the email on behalf of our client, and let’s say the patient could say can I get a nurse at 5 PM on Friday.
Typically, first we would check whether our client’s own nurses — our client has about 200 nurses of their own – and then about network of about 3,000 nurses all across the US.
If a client’s nurse was available (we had their schedule), we could actually make the appointment very easily. But more often than not, we have to go outside those 200 nurses and then it was almost a negotiation with those nurses.
Now so instead of 5 PM on a Friday they may get it at 10 AM on a Saturday. Now given the nature of the requirement, they would still accept it, but it was not the best customer experience. So, what we have done is – rather than this activity being done on phone, now this activity is done by an app, and so just like you can book a car, our customer can go to the app, or they make a requirement for 5 PM on the Friday.
The app on its own first checks the schedule of client’s 200 nurses and if someone is available they set appointment, send a confirmation SMS to the customer. In case, one of the internal 200 nurses was not available, it gets opened up to the network of 3,000 nurses, and then it’s like fastest fingers first process for whoever accepts it, they get the job.
Now almost in 95% of the cases, the customer get the nurse at the time that they wanted. The confirmation is within seconds and in terms of efficiency, earlier we had 78 people doing this activity on the phones and emails. Now it’s gone to some sub-50. So, it’s efficient. It’s better customer experience and it’s fast.
What are the key benefits of the tool? How has the response been from your clients on this front? And what’s the impact of such implementation?
As I mentioned, it’s faster, quicker and better customer experience because they get services at the time that they wanted as opposed to at the time the service provider is available, and we see opportunities for deploying this. This was one specific use, but we see opportunities for deploying this in a wide range of areas from scheduling of doctor’s appointments to actually scheduling even non-healthcare industry, scheduling logistics and other things.
Now given the nature of the Indian market as far as healthcare resources in remote areas, how will this tool be able to improve the condition within our landscape?
Some of these technological advances maybe able to overcome the infrastructure barriers that we have and this may actually help us leapfrog the service industry in the rural and the non-metro locations as opposed to some of the metro locations.
Are you working towards developing a similar tool or mechanisms for other domains within the healthcare sector?
Yes, we are doing that. In fact, few weeks back I was in the Middle East in Dubai and there also we service two big hospital chains and we are deploying a variant of this tool for those hospitals now, and we are finding adoptions. So, our whole mission is to optimize and automate redundant activities that are in a way non-patient care and non-value add from the healthcare perspective.
The other examples is actually automating the entire revenue cycle management process, automating the medical coding process. So, we are looking at other facets wherever things that are being done on paper or manually, those can be moved to more efficient channels like additional channels.
Given your role as a service provider, what is the process you follow to gauge the intricate challenges of the sectors you service?
We service three big sectors and within that healthcare is one of the biggest sectors that we have, and we have got a few mechanisms to be current with what’s happening in the marketplace. One is within our business we actually have healthcare domain experts who actually participate in industry leading conferences and other things, and they actually come out with their own white papers and research papers on what’s happening in the industry. These are people who have spent over 25, 30 years in the vertical, and there are three key markets that we serve internationally, ie US, UK and the Middle East, so these people have also spent time in these markets.
Second, we actually have a network of industry advisors that we leverage. Third, we also work very closely with our clients. In fact, some of our clients are Fortune 100 companies which are in the sector and we participate in their strategy and discussions so that we get a better understanding of what their pain points are so that our solutions can be geared towards those pain points.
Now in your opinion, do you see a major transformation within the healthcare sector with regard to the investing in new technologies rapidly in near future? How soon do you see India at par with the developed economies?
US, the biggest economy in the world is very inefficient, we need to do something in the healthcare. They talked about impeding Obama Care, coming out with a new bill. But irrespective of whether it’s Obama Care, whether it’s Trump care or some other name of that, I think they need to do something about reducing that 8% spend on the non value add activities, and yes, you can think around the edges by incremental changes.
Any major change has to come through technology intervention. So, I believe firstly, even the developed markets have a long way to go, and then India has an opportunity where we can leapfrog this just like we did in electronics, we jumped straight from VCRs to kind of to newer things. I think it’s the same thing that happens in India that we may be able to leapfrog some of the technology advancements in this sector.