IT in Health improves the quality of healthcare delivery which increases patient safety, decreases medical errors, and strengthens the interaction between patients and healthcare providers. The purpose of Healthcare IT is to provide better care for patients. It assists in recording patient’s data to improve healthcare delivery while facilitating analysis of this information for both healthcare practitioners and the ministry of health/government agencies.
Keeping in mind the importance of IT in the healthcare sector, this month’s issue of Insights Care showcases an exclusive Interview with Mr Aravindan, Director – Sales & Marketing. Aosta Software Technologies India Ltd. Mr Aravindan is instrumental in setting up the sales org for Aosta and to his credit has opened up the international markets for Aosta. He shares some quality information on how the Indian healthcare domain is fairing with ever-changing technological advancements and the advent of IT in its services.
IS: How did Aosta come into existence? Kindly describe its journey till date.
Aosta: We belong to a large business group in South India called Dr. NGP Group. This group has many portfolios like Hospitals, Pharma, Academics, Software, etc. The very popular hospital chain – KMCH is part of the group and our journey has started by servicing the internal IT requirements of our own hospital.
The product ideation has started from there and during that timeline (the Year 2000-01), there were only a few players in HIMS space and we thought it would be a good idea to make a product of the work we did for KMCH. BackBone HIMS was born and initially, we had only a few modules like registration, billing, lab, etc. Then a proper technical team was formed and today we have more than 25 + modules and BackBone is a very mature product in PLC.
The journey had its own ups and downs with different teams heading the sales/management portfolio. But during the last 5 years, Aosta has leapfrogged registering more than 70% growth increasing to the top line and profitability.
Today we are present in 5 more countries apart from strengthening our base in the domestic market with more than 150+ hospitals using our application.
IS: Brief us about the Founder/CEO of the company and the major contribution of him/her towards the company.
Team Aosta: The founder of the group is Dr. Nalla G Palanisamy, a visionary businessman with great acumen and leadership skills. He is instrumental in taking Aosta and the overall group to greater heights with each unit functioning in a profitable manner.
He has helped us to leverage the natural synergy we have had in the clinical and administrative domain, thanks to KMCH. Aosta has created a niche advantage in the market due to this and we are able to transcend that advantage to its customers as well.
Our CEO Dr. Mohan Gounder is based in the USA and his technical finesse has helped us to adopt the latest Healthcare IT practices in our application. Platforms like EMR, Mobile Apps, etc. are developed with his intense contribution and that proved to be a big differentiator for us.
Besides, he has helped to diversify the company with new service offerings like KPO but sticking to the core domain strength of Healthcare and IT
IS: Kindly share with us in detail about the IT Solutions that you provide. How this has benefited the user community?
Aosta: Our flagship offering is the ‘Hospital Information Management System (HIMS)’. The product name is BackBone – signifyi.ng its importance to the IT system of any hospital. We are easily the top 5 HIMS vendors in the country with significant market presence, customer portfolio and mature technical and support teams.
As mentioned earlier, it is a mature product with the latest features and benefits. It is completely web-based and mobile compatible. The product has more than 25 different modules catering to the various functions and departments of a mature hospital, built with an aim to be used by any individual with a decent understanding of IT skills.
With global standards like HIPAA and HL 7 compliance, the product has outshone its competitors with proven advantages. With sustained R & D and engineering, Aosta is able to add more new features like Process Automation, Reporting functionalities, Data mining, etc. in the application. This is a big advantage for new generation CXOs who would like to use the latest software tools for decision making.
The very fact that we have more than 95% of customer retention speaks volumes of the benefits each customer has got from the product. BackBone really helps to improve process efficiency, bring better controls, optimize resource planning and more importantly a silent contributor to the bottom line. It will be very difficult to quantify the same, but BackBone has helped every customer by improving the bottom line anywhere between 20-30% in a span of 2-3 years.
IS: What are the major challenges your company has faced till date? What strategies did you use to overcome those issues?
Aosta: The real challenge is managing and retaining the domain knowledge as unlike traditional software products, this also calls for a better understanding of the Healthcare systems and protocols very well. We face major challenges in retaining the talent for customer support and implementation as they are like rolling stock and very difficult to sustain them. Secondly, the hospital customer is rather slow in embracing IT systems and most of the times the readiness from the customer side found wanting for an ERP implementation. For a hospital owner, IT is the last line of control as the ROI is not pronounced like an investment in a lab equipment or increasing a seat for a doctor where the revenues are counted from day one!
So, Indian Hospitals do a big trade-off when it comes to HIMS and most of the time software companies like us face challenges in pushing them for a proper IT agenda – which is more generic than the actual proposition of selling their own services. The dearth of quality resources at the users’ departments in each hospital pose a major issue for us and this leads to project delays and cost overrun.
At the market landscape, this HIMS domain is full of regional players offering their solutions at very low prices thus creating big anarchy among the Healthcare IT system. This leads to perceptual imbalances among hospital owners. Secondly, few bad implementations and processes leading to overall slowdown for all the players including big names like us.
IS: What have been your and the company’s major accomplishments? Please mention any awards or accolades received so far. (if any)
Aosta: The company has really seen very good growth in the last 5 years ( more than 100%) thanks to the new sales team which used the product and support levers to acquire new customers in new markets. From a player well known in South India, today Aosta has staked its claim to be a global player by improving its customer presence all over India and overseas. The sustained presence of the core domain team which is with the company from inception and the excellent support mechanism helped the company to retain its customers. We take pride in that achievement. We have received many awards, to name a few:
- e India Award 2010 – For Successful Implementation at 800 Bedded Tertiary Care Multi-Disciplinary Super Specialty Hospitals in Tamilnadu.
- e India Award 2013 – For Successful Implementation at 650 Bedded Medical University Hospital in Karnataka.
- Silicon India Award 2014 – Aosta one among the top 10 most promising company across India in Healthcare Vertical
IS: Kindly brief us about your perspective on the current healthcare industry scenario.
Aosta: We see lots of opportunities at the state level as Healthcare is yet to be prioritized at the Central level. Besides, states like Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, etc have excellent Healthcare backbone and further gives hope for players like us to invest and grow. The country’s total spending on Healthcare is around 1 % of GDP which is abysmally low compared to countries like the USA, UK, etc. Even a couple of percentage points increase will really stimulate the healthcare ecosystem to a major extent. Schemes like Ayushman Bharat really has given the impetus required for Healthcare and the citizens of India. In particular, the Hospital industry is likely to achieve a CAGR 0f 16-17% by 2022, surpassing all other industry verticals on a growth curve.
On the process side, we see more Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS) to be used in the coming days coupled with HIMS to reduce medical errors and improve the quality of diagnosis. This offers good potential for those who like to get into medical research as a business. Indirectly IT companies that are going to adapt the latest technologies like AI, BI and Blockchain will take advantage of this market’s needs.
IS: Where do you see the company in the coming years? What actions have you planned for the same?
Aosta: Aosta aims to reach out to newer territories in order to extend its international presence in countries where the rate of green-field hospital projects and the IT adoption in hospitals is raising. For example markets like the Far East, EMEA, etc.
We are also planning to create BackBone completely in Open source, doing away with proprietary software platforms that are required to run the application. We have already achieved that for client machines (user nodes) and soon the servers too will be available in the Open platform. We are also coming with the SAAS model so that even the small hospitals and clinics can get the benefits of BackBone with out of box features without customization.
We will continue to stick to our strength in Healthcare IT and many innovative solutions are on the cards like IoT, AI, and Business Intelligence. We are using these tools to facilitate decision-makers – be it doctors, administrators or a finance person to automate some of the routine and mundane activities.
IS: What advice would you give for the upcoming generation of medical science enthusiasts and health-tech entrepreneurs?
Aosta: With the increasing emphasis on the stringent and quality selection process for medical education, it is imperative that medical students understand IT systems better and learn the nuances of using the same for their clinical activities. For example one of the clients who run a medical college has a certification paper in HIS/EMR as eligibility for PG doctors!. As healthcare is a core and essential sector for the growth of our economy, the Govt is pushing its agenda on best practices and unified records systems. For all this, IT adoption is a must.
Secondly, many startups have come up in recent days and the majority of them focus only on Healthcare. We intend to work very closely with such innovative startups who have unique solutions to address the needs of Healthcare. This could be in domains like IoT, Analytics, NLP, etc.