Our focus in India has been to create a national healthcare data repository

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SearchLight Health, a Bengaluru-based subsidiary of Piramal Enterprises Limited (PEL) is transforming healthcare in India by data analytics. Madhu Aravind, CEO, Searchlight Health, share more details about the company’s offerings for healthcare

How is analytics impacting healthcare, globally and in India?

Copious amounts of healthcare data is generated daily by various stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem like hospitals, clinics, pharma companies, insurance companies, drug stores, diagnosis centres, etc. as part of their business operations. Healthcare analytics enables this data to be scientifically analysed to create technology solutions that improve clinical outcomes, operational efficiency, healthcare financing, etc. It benefits both the healthcare industry as well as patients.

How does Searchlight Health’s offerings provide data science driven predictive and prescriptive analytics?

We are working with the simple premise that healthcare in India can be transformed by data analytics. Examples of these can be the ability for insurers to launch personalised products to drastically improve access, doctors to see previously unseen patterns in care delivery, pharma companies to understand health drivers and large scale real world usage information, etc. We believe that by bringing together anonymised patient data, leveraging data that is publicly available and by building best-in-class analytics solutions, healthcare in this country can be more accessible and create more impact with available resources.

How can the healthcare industry leverage big data and analytics to increase and drive their R&D efforts?

For hospitals, healthcare analytics can impact multiple areas from customer acquisition to operational efficiency to clinical delivery. It can be the backbone of marketing teams to target and retain the right type of customers, help operations teams understand where the hospital truly excels in and where it needs to work on to achieve high-cost efficiencies. Unlike many software products that are essentially just data repositories and workflow managers, data analytics can enable a doctor to create a better outcome for the patient. Traditionally, most medical principles have been based on observations from a few hundred to a thousand people. The advent of digitisation, abundant computing power and new age machine learning models, will enable the formulation of principles from observations from millions of people, creating the foundation for personalised medicine. For insurers, there is a significant opportunity to leverage the power of data analytics to increase the coverage of middle class from the current five per cent to 50 per cent. Using the power of data analytics solutions, insurers will be able to understand disease propensity in detail and also fully model the cost of care needed to manage various conditions. This will enable the creation of insurance products that have a range of customisable features catering to the diverse needs of people, from those who need a ‘nano policy’ to those who need a ‘BMW policy’ based on their preferences! For the pharma sector, even though India is currently a generics market, there is immense potential to fundamentally rethink how real world evidence can power R&D, clinical trials, etc.

Can you elaborate on the cost advantages that could be generated annually through adoption of data analytics by hospitals and health insurers?

There are two ways in which data analytics can create cost advantages. First is by leveraging administrative solutions to be more efficient with same resources and second is to create higher quality products/ services without proportionately increasing cost. For hospitals, this means that their marketing, operations programmes can create better output with their current budgets and clinical solutions can improve outcomes. For insurers, data analytics enables them to not only increase their customer base with products that have broader appeal, but can also increase efficiency in the areas of fraud management, claims processing, etc.

There are reports which reveal that investments made in analytics are yet to see substantial benefits. What is your take on this issue? To what extent is it deterring the adoption of data analytics in the healthcare industry? What are the other challenges hindering the adoption of data analytics in the healthcare industry?

Traditionally, for most organisations data analytics meant purchasing a business intelligence tool and creating reports. The impact of such tools was minimal as most healthcare data is both non-standard and unstructured (text, images) and data from multiple sources had to be combined to create value. With the progress made in Natural Language Processing, image recognition and speech analysis combined with the availability of large-scale computing power, the ability to convert this type of information into analysable signals is now within reach. This enables such solutions to create disruptive value both in terms of quality cost and access. While data analytics holds a lot of promise, it also faces some challenges in the Indian ecosystem. Firstly, the talent needed in organisations to leverage data analytics is in limited supply. So any analytical solution needs to account for this and have a truly world-class usability for business users and offer shrink-wrapped solutions that demand little by way of deployment efforts. Secondly, most healthcare organisations including hospitals spend less than one per cent of their budget on software technologies as they have not seen serious business value generated from such initiatives in the past. This will slowly get reversed as they start seeing tangible value. As in any nascent industry, adoption will be gradual, beginning with early adopters and then to mass market. But, there is no doubt that the field of health data analytics is one whose time has come and will create immense value to the entire ecosystem in the next decade.

What are the factors which will drive the future IT applications in healthcare? How is Searchlight Health poised to drive these trends and leverage the growth potential and opportunities that would arise in India?

Most enterprise applications in healthcare focussed more on workflow automations, data capture, etc. and did not really make a 10x improvement for its users like doctors, nurses, etc. With the advent of commercialisable AI, cheap cloud computing infrastructure, applications can truly focus on creating disproportionate value to the end user. Our focus in India has been to create a national healthcare data repository, which combined with India-specific AI-driven applications, can enable Indians to avail quality healthcare using affordable financing models. Since our group companies have been into this business for 20+ years and work with nearly all of the top life sciences companies worldwide, we also have the right type of experience combined with best of class processes, technologies needed to make this happen.

What is the scope of operations for Searchlight currently? What is the mid-term and long-term strategy for Searchlight?

We started our operations around two years ago in Bengaluru. We have signed up over 100 hospitals across Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai. While Piramal’s global analytics business have 250+ people in India, Searchlight team has a team of 50+ purely focussed on the India business. By the end of 2020, our goal is to partner with 1000 hospitals in the country.

Why did Piramal Group invest in Searchlight Health? What is the value-add that Piramal got by acquiring Searchlight?

Piramal Enterprises Limited (PEL) took control of Searchlight Health, as part of our larger Information Management initiative. Much like our acquisition of the Decision Resources Group, our investment in Searchlight Health was based on our belief that the use of data and analytics will be critical in the successful evolution of the global healthcare system over the next decade. We believe that Indian healthcare can be transformed by fundamental insight into cost, access, quality and utilisation of healthcare resources. Searchlight Health brings together disparate public and private data to create products that help increase business penetration, provide critical decision support, optimise clinical and operational processes. Searchlight Health brings technology and engineering skills to PEL and Decision Resources Group (DRG), while PEL and DRG’s relationships across the Indian and global healthcare ecosystems are helping Searchlight Health achieve its strategic objectives.

lakshmipriya.nair@expressindia.com