By Gagandeep Kaur
One of the largest integrated healthcare delivery providers with presence in five countries, Fortis today boasts of 65 healthcare facilities, over 10,000 beds, 240 diagnostic centers and a staff of more than 17,000 people.
The management of this mammoth operation is not possible without effective involvement of Information Technology. Technology is all the more important if the hospital wants to set standards in healthcare services in the country.
The role of IT in the healthcare segment is only going to increase in future. India’s healthcare information technology market is expected to reach $1.45 bn by 2018, according to market research agency Frost and Sullivan.
Fortis has been effectively utilizing IT to offer cutting-edge healthcare services. Recently, it took a big risk by becoming a 100 percent Public Cloud company. Voice&Data spoke to Varun Sood, Chief Information Officer at Fortis Healthcare to find out more about the challenges and opportunities of managing a huge healthcare organization. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Voice&Data: Can you briefly describe your role at Fortis Healthcare?
Varun Sood: I am responsible for the entire information technology and telecom systems of the company. I also handle the strategic initiatives for the company, which means that I am responsible for coming up with new technology-based business initiatives.
The role of a CIO has changed and evolved over the last few years. Now a CIO is responsible for driving business outcome of the initiative. The focus is on the business and not on the technology. In fact, the role can be now rechristened as Chief Business Officer.
Voice&Data: Please elaborate on the IT and telecom systems used by Fortis Healthcare.
Varun Sood: We use a large paraphernalia of IT and telecom systems. All our systems and solutions are designed to cater to enhancing clinical functions and increasing patient care. In the telecom side, Tata Communications is our networks partner and in voice we use multiple service providers for our needs. We also provide Wi-Fi solutions to our patients. Besides, that we use MPLS across our various facilities for our data and voice needs.
The core of our IT system is ERP solution for various departments such as HR, and Accounts. Like most of the healthcare organizations, we also use a number of business intelligence and analytics tools. We have our own Hospital Information Management System. Oracle is our ERP partner.
On the business side we utilize learning and management tools. We also use a number of collaborative tools for our employees to efficiently collaborate with each other.
Voice&Data: How did you decide to move entirely to Public Cloud?
Varun Sood: One of the achievements that we are really proud of is that we are a 100 percent Public Cloud Company. We decided to shutdown all our data centers and move to Public cloud recently. We had to strategize to make our organization future ready and we were looking for a scalable, secure infrastructure for future businesses. When we looked at all the options we realized that public cloud was the best option. We evaluated from both IT and business perspective and finally realized that public cloud would best serve our needs. It is a matter of perspective and we felt that a public cloud was best suited to meet our needs.
This initiative was completed last year and has significantly helped us in reducing cost and at the same time enhancing efficiency and enabling us to rollout new services at faster speed. Our entire public cloud infrastructure is on Microsoft Azure.
Voice&Data: Most of the enterprises feel that security is an issue in Public Cloud. What has been your experience?
Varun Sood: We believe that security is much better in public cloud. I feel that security follows the same parameters. We believe that since this is bread and butter for the vendors they are probably more particular about security than we are. In that sense it is a better option.
Voice&Data: What are the major challenges you face?
Varun Sood: The most prominent challenge is that as a professional the team has to balance between generations of workers and the agility demanded by the organizations. We have to focus on doing newer things.
IT has been a laggard in healthcare primarily because of adoption by front-end people. Though this is changing still we have to come up with solutions, which work very efficiently and can be used by everyone.
Voice&Data: Which technologies excite you for future deployment?
Varun Sood: Our future deployments would be around patient empowerment and clinical excellence. By patient empowerment I mean they should be able to access data at any point in time and anywhere. We would be deploying a multitude of technologies, which provide better tools to our doctors and nurses to deliver. Analytics would play a major role in this in which we would want to make the patients aware about themselves and provide insights to them. This is, of course, besides the conventional use of analytics in healthcare.
Besides, we would also be exploring social management, which would help us to be more responsive and aware of a patient’s requirements.