Indian Hospital Adopts the Cloud to Increase Its Reach

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Max Healthcare, a large hospital chain in India, said on Wednesday that it has moved its Health Information System (HIS) to a private cloud-computing system, making it easier to treat and follow up with patients from any of its locations across the country.

Applications that will move to the cloud shortly will also provide for greater collaboration between doctors across various locations, said Neena Pahuja, CIO at Max Healthcare.

The HIS, which has been running for about 10 years, is a database of all the patients treated by the hospital chain and has over 1 million records, Pahuja said.

Max Healthcare also plans to deploy in the cloud an electronic health record (EHR) system that it is designing. The rollout, starting January, will be around the open source VistA (Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture) EHR system. The hospital chain also plans to move other applications to the cloud such as its archival and storage system for all patient images, Pahuja said.

The infrastructure on a private cloud gives the hospital chain the scalability it requires as it expands its network of hospitals, Pahuja said. A private cloud gives the hospital chain more reliability and better utilization of its servers, she said. Max Healthcare is also using MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) with back-to-back redundancy from two service providers in the country, Pahuja said.

Max Healthcare announced a contract last year for about US$20 million over 10 years with Perot Systems, which was subsequently acquired by Dell. Under the arrangement, Dell will manage the hospitals' hardware and software from a Dell data center in Noida near Delhi, said Pankaj Gupta, Dell Services' client executive for the Max Healthcare account. The IT assets will continue to be owned by the hospital chain, he added.

For Dell, it is the first total outsourcing contract outside the U.S., Gupta said. The contract spans clinical transformation, health care consulting, applications, and infrastructure management.

Indian hospitals are adopting new technologies, as competition increases and also as the country is getting positioned as a low-cost location for patients from the U.S. and Europe seeking medical care.

An eye hospital in Bangalore, for example, last year started piloting software that sends retinal images collected from patients in remote locations to doctors' iPhones. Doctors can then quickly send their diagnoses and recommendations from the iPhone.

Other hospitals are also deploying the technology, said Sham Banerji, CEO of i2i TeleSolutions, the company that developed the software and also hosts the application and the images. The company is now also offering users the option of having an iPad, Windows PC, or a Mac as the front-end device.

"We are seeing a lot more evaluation of technology by hospitals, though it does not always end in adoption," Banerji said. Customers from both India and abroad are now demanding the state-of-the art in IT systems and technologies, he added.

Moving applications to the cloud has provided Max Healthcare with greater access to patient information its eight locations. This is expected to be particularly useful as the hospital chain opens four new hospitals and two outpatient care centers by next year.

By having patient records in the cloud, the hospital will be able to tend to patients at any of these locations, Pahuja said. The chain will also be able to take advantage of experts located at other hospitals by using collaboration applications through the cloud, she added.

A patient checked at one hospital of the chain can go to another for treatment, while also having access to a doctors through collaboration applications such as videoconferencing in the cloud, Pahuja said.

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