The global healthcare IT space is brimming with new advancements as health information technology has revolutionized patient care and healthcare services across the world. Healthcare information technology provides secure sharing of patient information for healthcare providers to better manage patient care. During COVID times the use of healthcare IT was felt much more valuable than ever before. Medicircle is presenting healthcare CIOs and IT Manager series with the eminent IT personnel of healthcare wherein we are discussing the challenges and opportunities that the people associated with healthcare information technology face in the pre- and post-Covid era.
Saji Matthew is the COO and the head of IT operations at Baby Memorial Hospital Kerala. He has 27 years of consulting and management experience and has worked with leading global IT and healthcare organizations. He is passionate about people, technology, and operations. Saji was awarded the Healthcare honors in digital innovation at the CIO Crown summit in 2019 and 2020. Saji is a founder of a HealthTech start-up, MMF Software solutions, and had incubated 3 other start-up firms in the past. He is a guide to IIMK and NITC students in their academic projects.
Baby Memorial Hospital is the finest multispecialty, tertiary care referral hospital in the corporate sector in Kerala, with 600 beds, over 40 Medical and Surgical departments including full-fledged Neuroscience, Cardiothoracic, and super-specialty departments. With 16 world-class operation theaters,13 fully equipped ICU’s and a 24-hour Accident & Emergency care unit our team of over 300 doctors and 2000 medical, nursing, paramedical, and administrative staff work seamlessly and untiringly to keep up the ideology of BMH – “More Than Care”.
Overcoming Challenges with Good Strategies
Saji informs, “Before COVID we faced challenges in terms of adoption of technology by end-users but we overcame that by using some good strategies like pairing clinicians with assistants for data capturing, but now with the newer technologies we can manage it by advanced methods like NLP based chatbot or a voice recognition solution to capture data or computer vision capabilities of AI for capturing images or to recognize data.”
Most satisfying moments of 27-year-old career
Saji cites the example of porters of his hospital who transfer patients from one place to another. He says, “We developed an app for them to make them manage their work more efficiently. We wondered whether they will adopt it but they adopted it whole-heartedly and their responses were very touching. They said “we were doing so much work but at the end of the day when someone asked what we did, we did not know how to describe it. We used to feel heavily tired by the end of the day and still, people felt that we have not done our part well. Now with this application, we can show how many trips we have made.” They have learned to use smartphones and use the app to be accountable for their work. These reactions provide career satisfactions unparallel to the satisfaction achieved so far in 27 years of professional life. To empower people who did not have the privilege to learn by use of one’s learning is the best that can be experienced,” Saji says.
More such initiatives are in place
Saji informs, “similarly we made work smarter for house-keeping staff by making an app through which a checklist appears on their phones as soon as a patient vacates a room. The app is easy for them to use and other departments benefit too like the people at the admission desk immediately come to know which room is available when housekeeping staff completes filling up the user-friendly checklist. The housekeeping staff is happy to become smart workers which make us happy in return,” says Saji.
People recognized the contribution of IT before too, but now they chase us for solutions
Saji speaks about the pre covid and post covid times and mentions that “now technology has become so indispensable in healthcare that people are chasing for latest technological solutions. So, we have a basket of innovative, IT solutions for healthcare operations and people management, and technology. It has never been so smooth for the for IT people to make people of other departments adopt new technologies,” says he.
Suddenly the scale of video consultation became larger
Saji mentions, “We have been using video consultation for quite some time but both the patients and doctors did not consider it as a popular option. People had inhibitions about its effectiveness and felt that technology cannot replace the human touch and it's not possible to see patients from remote. But suddenly with Covid, people are using video consultations without inhibitions. We had 1000s of consultations in a short period after the corona outbreak,” says Saji.
Technology enables, empower and augment you to do your job in a better way
Saji says, “I don't say technology is going to replace the human touch but certainly going to augment your role, enable and empower you to do your job in a better way for e.g., for chronic disease management, initially you can see, assess and establish the treatment regime in-person and then you can continue to monitor and review things online. The patient need not come to the hospital every time. So, there are certain situations and certain treatments, which can be very effectively and conveniently done remotely,” feels Saji.
IT Makes Junior Level staff proud of their work
“Technology to a doctor or a nurse is rather easy as they had been using some form of it. But you have an equal number of other staff in hospital like the housekeeping staff. They are very much essential for the upkeep of the hospital. Technology makes these people feel proud of their work which was earlier not possible. They are doing a good job on par with the rest of the people. With the use of the technology, they all are very happy that they have become smart,” says Saji.
IT will not replace empathy rather help doctors to be more focused on patients
Saji emphasizes, “Some doctors feel that that they have to compromise on natural interaction with the patients but if seen from another angle, technology makes work easier when the modern devices are capturing data while you are having natural conversations with your patients. Through tools like voice recognition, image recognition, etc. your movements are being captured in the process of your natural interaction with the patient but your empathy is not being replaced. Lots of your mundane tasks are being taken away by technology enabling you to focus on your patients,” Saji says.
Future is bright
Saji points out, “National digital health ecosystem is being planned by the government where all your health records will be there through an app and you can carry it in your mobile device or keep it on the cloud. Right from childhood to the time of death all medical records would be available at fingertips. Only tier 1 and tier 2 cities have access to good healthcare. This system would make healthcare reach the villages. Even they would be able to securely retrieve data. The whole health care scenario is going to change. You won’t even need to type, just have to talk to the phone, the phone will capture all the vitals. Even right now many things are possible like, by use of cognitive capabilities of computing, we can better manage the patients who are admitted in the ICU from outside with all the records available on our computers,” says Saji.
Emphasis is on Wellness Care Rather than Sickness Care
Saji is of the opinion that cognitive capabilities would be embedded into future systems in such a way that interactions become very natural. Lots of emphasis would be on “wellness”, meaning you would be taken care of before you fall sick so that you do not get into emergency health situations. Technology is going to promote wellness with the National digital health ecosystem that is being proposed. The healthcare protocol will be able to help the government to manage and channel the economic resources to the right people at the right time, unlike the current challenges that we face as a nation while reaching out to the rural folks.
Fulfilling journey of rich experiences
Saji informs that he started his professional journey way back in 1993. “Looking back, it seems very fulfilling that I could contribute back to the society and could impact people's lives through technology. So, I continue to do that even now to make people smile,” Saji says.
(Edited by Amrita Priya)