Shahid Akhter, editor, ETHealthworld, spoke to Rajesh Viswanathan, CTO, Inovalon, to discuss their investments and efforts in leveraging India as the centre for cloud transformation in healthcare that will significantly enhance patient outcomes.
Cloud technology impacting patient care
As more and more of the patients’ data goes online, it has become more and more important for the electronic systems that are dealing with this data to scale. And as you think about the amount of data about each patient that’s now also going online, you have the growth that’s happening both horizontally in terms of the number of patients and in terms of the amount of data about each patient, which is an enormous amount of data that needs to be processed, stored, and then analyzed. To be able to do those at scale, you really need the technologies that the cloud offers. The idea there is that you can scale infinitely as you increase the number of patients and the amount of data that you’re processing for each patient. Once you have all of that data together, you can actually run analytics on it to produce all sorts of interesting data that can help improve the patient’s outcome.That’s going to help the patient know about their condition before it gets worse. It’s going to help lower the cost of the system because you actually managed to intervene before you ended up having the patient go to the more invasive end of the care spectrum. That’s a simple but really powerful example of how cloud technologies can actually really help the patient journey and improve the outcomes for the patient and the system in terms of the costs that were spent to improve the care for that patient.
The history of Inovalon has been a history of continuous evolution to go add more capabilities that can drive better patient outcomes. We started out in the business of helping health plans provide better care for their patients. Very soon we realized that we can bring similar capabilities to providers: doctors and hospitals and nurse systems that can help them in their day-to-day life providing care to the patients. We then added pharmacy businesses so we can help pharmacists who are also part of that healthcare ecosystem be involved in better care for the patients. Finally, we added pharmaceuticals and life sciences companies so we can use all of the data that we have to help them do things like drug trials and help come up with better outcomes to the patients using the data that we provided to them. This journey essentially mirrored my own journey into discovering health care. My experience is really in building large scale cloud technologies. Over the last 20 years, I’ve been working with AWS, Oracle and Microsoft building these large-scale systems. As I looked at my next steps in my career, one of the challenges that struck me was healthcare as an opportunity, given the scale of the data that we have, given the importance of the mission of improving patient care and how I could bring my expertise in building large-scale systems in the cloud to help solve those problems in healthcare.That was what attracted me to the domain itself. And Inovalon as a company was the perfect place for me to come to because it had managed to build this connectivity across this entire ecosystem of providers and payers and pharmacists and life sciences and pharmaceutical companies. So by having that connectivity into the entirety of the healthcare ecosystem, Inovalon has actually managed to have primary source data that becomes the core of the company and that allows us to leverage that data to empower better health care for our patients. And so, my own personal journey has mirrored the growth of Inovalon itself and feel like it’s been at the perfect time for me to come in and help bring my expertise to the next phase of our journey in scaling up our capabilities to leverage the cloud to go do all of the stuff that we’re doing, but do it faster, better, and sooner.Health Tech: Challenges and Opportunities in India
One of the challenges, as we talked about our next steps in our growth phase, is how to bring the talent into this problem domain and help leverage expertise to go solve these problems. And India became a natural place for us to go look at, given the breadth and depth of capabilities that we have here in India in terms of the talent pools available. For the last decade, we have been involved in bringing talent from India to help us in this problem domain. As we’ve come to this inflection point, though, we now see the opportunity for us to level up, on how we leverage our investments in India, moving our investments from being around using it as staff augmentation capacity to more of a driving end-to-end ownership and local leadership straight out of India. In order to achieve this, we recently hired a senior vice president of Engineering, out of India with the idea that we’re inverting the pyramid and rather than hiring only low-level junior developers, we’re now going to hire our senior leaders in India who will then help us scale and grow out the business and the engineering in India. The way they’ll do it is by bringing the end-to-end ownership of the problem domain and the solution to be owned locally in India.
It enables us to actually leverage not just the technology expertise of the talent pool in India, but also give them the business domain to go solve. And given the strength of India’s talent pool, we think that’s an enormously elaborate opportunity for us as a company to succeed.
As we’re building out this organization in India, we’re looking at leveraging India as the hub or the home of our cloud transformation effort. We see India as building the foundational platform that will underpin our entire cloud journey as we are migrating and transforming our company to be a cloud native SaaS platform. We see India as the empowering hub that’s going to create the technologies and the foundational elements of that technology platform and the strategy therein. So, India is very, very fundamentally critical for our future going forward.
Tapping the health tech talent in India
What makes this an incredibly exciting opportunity for developers here in India is the approach that we’re bringing here is one of end-to-end ownership. The intent here is not to have folks that are just an extension of a team in the US, but instead they actually take the entire problem and apply distributed system approaches to solving these problems. So, it’s really interesting for someone who wants to go work on high scale systems. Every opportunity, every learning that you get in any one of the hyper scalers in AWS or Microsoft are opportunities that you’ll get working here at Inovalon. Applying those capabilities to a very highly leveraged problem, a human problem of patient outcomes and improving those, makes it a really interesting and exciting thing for any developer out there. We love to tap into that opportunity, and which is why we’re driving these big investments here in India.