Rohit Sathe, President – Philips India Healthcare, shares his insights with Prathiba Raju on how healthcare ecosystem in India is progressing with the latest technology and further elucidates on how the company is focussing on patient-centric approach
Even though we are home to advanced innovations in healthcare delivery and technology, yet our public healthcare is in a dismal state. How do you see the Indian healthcare system? How can digital evolution help in changing this scenario?
Indian healthcare system has different kinds of set ups like private and public healthcare. Within hospitals also, we have tertiary care, primary care and nursing segment which are not much organised. In patients’ perspective, there are people who can afford, or not afford, or use medical insurance, but it’s minimal. From equipment and diagnostic imaging perspective, the nuances of the technology we offer are suitable to any form of healthcare set up, be it a private healthcare establishment, tertiary hospital, diagnostic centres or medical colleges.
What are the pain points or challenges you face serving the Indian healthcare system compared to other Asian countries?
One of the key challenges facing the Indian healthcare ecosystem is the affordability of the hospitals and other healthcare institutions that buy medical equipment. It includes the total cost as well as the ownership of the equipment — configuration, software and the customer services, which extends up to 10 years. Besides, there is also a need to ensure an adequate supply of skilled manpower, their training and ability to provide service on a consistent basis. At Philips, we remain focussed on improving healthcare in the country by developing quality health tech solutions that are affordable and accessible. Our India strategy is anchored around catering to all our customers’ needs and driving a shift to value-based healthcare — a system that aims to increase access to care and improve patient outcomes.
So, why did Philips India come up with Future Health Index (FHI) to address global health challenges and build sustainable, fit for purpose, national health systems? How was the data put into use and what’s its purpose?
FHI survey is a barometer, which gives a holistic understanding of the stakeholders involved in creating solution success and it helps us to benchmark what happens globally. It also helps us to get our strategies aligned. Some of the other things FHI pointed out is that Indian patients have good understanding and acceptance of wearable device and Electronic Health Record (EHR). We got to know that there is a robust mobile connectivity and it helps in remote diagnosis and the patient population appreciate it. So, we are looking out on how to facilitate them with devices. For example, eICU can enable the remote connectivity but what is important is how we equip them and digitally capture the vital statistics, real time data. Information Technology (IT) helps us to automatically check seven to eight vital parameters. We need to equip hospitals with such equipment, which can avail robust automation or digitalisation.
Can you brief us about your PPPs and how are these evolving? How can technology be a key driver in tier I and tier II cities?
We have about 85 PPPs with different state governments. We are headquartered in Gurugram and we have a PPP set up in this region. We think PPP is a good way for the government to treat its patient load. So, PPPs are an important way to treat the untouched patient flow and it comprises a proper combination because we provide the technology and somebody provides the clinical diagnostics and business acumen for running the whole setup. Now, we are into opening new cath labs, equipped with more latest technology, and the first centre will be in Bihar.
How do technology players like you help to bridge in the knowledge gap in healthcare industry?
We do lot of Continuing Medical Education (CME) in different cities and forums. These are important as we bring in key opinion leaders for various subjects. For example, in cardiology, we get experts from ultrasound space. They give the discourse of the key and latest developments in clinical outcome-based and evidence-based medicine perspective. Even webcast is done.
How do you see digitisation in the evolution of precision radiology and imaging? How is this reflected in your products and research innovation?
Digitisation is nothing but the availability of data. We are able to collect a lot of data that can be digitised and magnified, and focus on different areas. Even transportation of data has become easy. Once you get large sets of data you are able to study different trends — be it clinical trials or detecting health trends. Next is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In Philips, we see it more as an Adaptive Intelligence (AI). To put it simple, it is nothing but machine learning. For example, radiologists can be assisted by AI better. Many a times, radiologists pass the report saying it is normal but there can be minute details that are not detected. However, with AI, such discrepancies can be detected accurately. Digital technology also helps in transporting the data and it is helpful in lot of PPPs. The best example is tele-radiology where an unskilled technician from a remote area sends an image without losing key information to the expert doctors or surgeons.
How do you see the governments regulating medical devices along the lines of drugs?
At this point of time, medical devices are not treated separately, it is under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers (MoCF) and Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) and it does becomes a challenge. The medical devices are different from drugs. People who are regulating pharma can’t do it for medical devices, the latter needs a separate department. Medical device rules by the government is a good step forward.
How has your journey been in Philips Healthcare and what is your vision ?
Philips believes in customer first and puts them in the centre, and believes in the quadruple aim. First is how to make the diagnosis more effective, second is, patient experience has to be enhanced, third, the user or the healthcare practitioner needs to be better and fourth, the total cost of a treatment needs to be less. This is our overarching strategy and vision. So, all our offerings are around it. As a whole, the government is getting more involved in healthcare ecosystem with the vision like Ayushman Bharat being announced. The industry itself has a lot of consolidation and professionalism coming in terms of equipment they want and the protocols they seek for the patients. We want to be aligned with all these changes happening in the healthcare landscape and this can happen only if we keep the patient in the centre.
Any new devices expected to be enrolled in the market?
Yes, we will soon be coming out with the helium-free MRI. MRIs have a magnet at the core which needs to be kept cool, and it is done by using helium. Firstly, helium is becoming a scarce commodity and not just that, on the logistics perspective in India where all buildings are not in uniformity; the new MRI can be infrastructure-friendly. The new MRI uses a magnet of only seven litres of helium instead of the usual 2,000 litres of helium. Due to this reduction, the weight of the magnet reduces by almost 1000 kg, so the machine can be kept anywhere in a building — be it first or fifth floor. There is no need to artificially strengthen the hospital infrastructure for an equipment’s sake. We also have a technology called compressed sense MRI. Usually, MRI takes 40-45 minutes for scanning, and only 35 patients can be scanned in a day. Compressed MRIs can scan up to 50 patients a day, so the machine becomes more viable.