August 29, 2009

Apollo begins project to connect health players

The Apollo Group of Hospitals has commenced a pilot project named ‘Health Superhighway’, which would act as a back-office for connecting doctors, hospitals and pharmacies in the country. The group has tied up with IBM for the initiative, which is expected to attract investments to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore.

The group has also taken up another IT initiative through the Nandan Nilekani-led Unique Identification Authority of India. Apollo has written to the authority and to the Knowledge Commission to link the Unique Identification Number for health profiling of those provided with the ID number. The group has offered to manage the health records.

Speaking to Business Standard after the group’s annual general meeting at Chennai, Executive Chairman Prathap C Reddy said that one major problem in India is that medical records are not preserved. The main objective of this project is to maintain records, and any doctor or hospital can join it.

While Apollo has joined hands with IBM, it is also talking to other leading hospital chains and companies, like GE. The total project cost in terms of setting up the IT infrastructure would be around Rs 2,000 crore, said Reddy.

The project envisages connecting a chain of hospitals and doctors — with both government and private sector — through applications like telemedicine, mobile software and wireless networks even in the remote villages in India.

Apollo Hospitals’ Managing Director Preetha Reddy added that the group has piloted the project at five of its hospitals in Tamil Nadu and is now planning to market the initiative through its subsidiary company ‘Apollo Health Highway’ in the next six months. The company would make revenue by charging a monthly fee from the participating doctors and hospitals.

IBM will be both knowledge and technology partner and will provide storage infrastructure. The system will help in patient management, disease management and medication suggestion for hospitals. The doctors can also avail of a second opinion from the experts affiliated to this system. In the longer run, the system will also help insurers for claim management and will help the government to provide new healthcare initiatives.

Commenting on the group’s expansion plans, she said that by 2010-11, Apollo will add another 1,000 beds with an investment of around Rs 500 crore. The company is also planning to strengthen its domestic chain before it looks at any overseas acquisition.

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