Information system in more hospitals

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Can technology, used within the legal framework, increase the access to and affordability of healthcare systems? A gathering of medical and IT professionals and some who were a bit of both began deliberating upon the crucial question Friday morning.

Organised by the Medical Computer Society of India, the conference, MEDITEL 2008, is aimed at showcasing the successful implementation of information and communication technology projects in the healthcare sector in India.

A hospital management information system put in place one-and-a-half years ago in five government hospitals in Tamil Nadu is working well. It is likely that cumbersome and repetitive medical records would be passé by January next year, State Information Technology Secretary P.W.C. Davidar said. The programme would be extended to 270 government hospitals next year.

Since the system was introduced in the government setup, data entry was being done by the staff themselves, so the number of nurses available for patient care had increased, he said. The challenge was to bring everyone round to the computer mode. While some in the medical community were open to the ideas, there were seniors who were uncomfortable with the computer and hesitate to use it, he said.

The success of the programme in the five hospitals would depend on it being scaled up for widespread use in the public healthcare setup, he said.

R. Ramraj, member, Global Board of Trustees, TIE, said healthcare in India remained supply-driven rather than demand-driven. He reckoned that this would change, perhaps aided by the IT. If the concept of smart homes, wherein residents were wired to a network that was local and global, picked up, it would be possible to deliver remote healthcare through this smart network.

The development of systems for hosting electronic medical records and their maintenance had a long way to go, and it was good to see big IT players such as Google, Microsoft and Wipro develop the systems. Issues related to security and privacy would still have to be thrashed out, Mr. Ramaraj said.

The rapid advances in technology had touched every sphere of life, and one area that might make a real difference would be healthcare, Sunil Shroff, president, MEDITEL 2008, said. He called for evolving a legal framework within which health-related IT could be implemented. Dr. Shroff said the seminar would be a platform for evolving something that would meet the particular requirements of the country.

Sri Ramachandra University Vice-Chancellor S. Rangaswami released the seminar abstract book and handed over the first copy to Mr. Davidar.

N. Sriraam, organising secretary, spoke.