Technological advancement in healthcare and healthcare systems is advancing and ever-evolving. The advent of digital technologies in healthcare is helping transform the unsustainable healthcare systems of yesterday into sustainable ones. By reducing inefficiencies in the healthcare continuum, modern technologies are paving the way for the facilitation of cheaper, faster, and more effective healthcare delivery. In short, digital advances in healthcare are leading to an increase in healthier individuals and healthier communities.
In the timeline of continuous progress in science and medicine, IVF (in-vitro fertilization) is considered important as it has rekindled the hopes of parents without children. New IVF technologies currently on the list include womb technology, culture-induced oocyte activation, embryo vitrification, and DNA fragmentation index to help increase the chances of IVF success.
A new generation of health tech companies like Indira IVF, a pioneer in providing affordable yet reputable fertility treatments to the general public have been making use of digital technologies in reproductive treatments. Smruti Gandhi, Executive Editor, ISMG (SG) spoke to Rajesh Chavan, CTO, Indira IVF(RC), India’s largest infertility specialty clinics chain, with 93 locations and a dedicated workforce of over 2200 employees across the country on the role of technologies like artificial intelligence and cloud.
SG: How did a small fertility clinic in Udaipur become an IVF center chain in India?
RC: Indira IVF Hospital Pvt Limited (IIHPL) is a brainchild of Dr. Ajay Murdia, who opened a fertility clinic in Udaipur, Rajasthan way back in 1988. The clinic was established with just a vision to provide personalized Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatment and create awareness that even men are also responsible for infertility and should be tested alongside women. He also educated doctors from all over India and founded one of India’s first sperm banks in Udaipur during the same period. Later on, his sons, Dr. Kshitiz Murdia and Nitiz Murdia joined him in 2011 and embarked on a journey to bring affordable IVF treatment across the country.
Gradually, Indira IVF expanded its strong foothold across the country, starting its first center outside Udaipur at Pune & Delhi. Currently we have 108 centers and have deployed multiple advanced technologies to assist patient treatment including RI Witness, Closed Working Chambers Technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Through continuous awareness programs for our patients, staff and the adoption of technology, at IIHPL we have been able to penetrate the Indian market at a large scale and created a huge customer base and is still growing.
SG: How do digital health solutions enhance the patient experience and clinical success rate?
RC: Our digital journey starts from the first touch point of our patient seeking our fertility treatments. With use of CRM & Telephony we ensure that not a single probable patient is unattended. We ensure that proper consultancy & counselling sessions are arranged with our expert fertility consultants across the country using automation.
In the IVF industry, it has been observed that customers often face challenges related to governance of samples and the quality of the labs and storage facilities. To tackle these challenges and concerns, Indira IVF deployed proper process and implemented RI Witness where each embryo is tagged with a RFID and monitored for safety, quality control and improved efficiency.
This unique technology works in a way that even if there’s a remote possibility of a mix-up of two samples in the center, an immediate alert is triggered to the central process monitoring unit set up in Udaipur, and the process is paused within a few minutes. On the other side, the Closed Working Chambers Technology is basically a workstation that provides a long-term stable environment including controlled CO2, temperature, humidity, and volatile organic compound-free atmosphere, for handling gametes, oocytes, embryos, and other tissue that requires a regulated environment.
In a nutshell, Indira IVF has always been determined to break people free from the shackles of infertility, provide medical solutions for their treatments, and these new-age technologies are helping them deliver better customer experiences.
SG: How does the digital transformation journey you undertook generate value for the business?
RC: Technology integration has been at the forefront of Indira IVF’s efforts towards creating value for our valuable customers. We have started utilizing technology for providing infertility treatments. Over the last few years, our focus has been shifted towards reducing the cost of IVF treatments while providing the greatest medical care to the general public and parents who want to opt for the IVF treatment.
As stated earlier, our transformation journey includes the entire lifecycle of the customer journey. Right from an enquiry stage to onboarding, during the treatment, success and the during the pregnancy period too. We could achieve this by deploying right set of technology applications, be it the CRM, Contact Centre, Collaboration tools, Hospital Management and our Point of Sales for Pharmacy. Also to have a proper integration we have also deployed a state of art middleware, so that the integration between multiple of these systems is seamless. All our centers are connected through redundant internet lease circuits.
We implemented Oracle Fusion ERP with EPM tool to provide us meaningful insights on our various customer offerings.
The large-scale implementation of modern age technologies and SOPs has helped us to cut-down the cost of the typical treatment cycle a lot and bring it somewhere between Rs.1.5 lakh and Rs.2 lakhs. We were the first to introduce innovative fintech solutions to offer affordable finance options to our patients.
SG: How artificial intelligence is transforming the field of Reproductive Medicine?
RC: There is growing amount of data available in reproductive medicine encourages advancements in Artificial Intelligence built applications. Despite some drawbacks, making decisions for infertility patients based on medical data analysis is the best clinical method. We need to focus on integrating ART and AI development to close the gap between research and clinical practice. By adding AI and ML models, reproductive professionals can decide the optimum treatment for each patient’s infertility, which is a big step forward in the development of ART.
AI is now primarily employed in areas such as selecting and predicting sperm cells to improve treatment success rates, assessing the quality of embryos and oocytes, developing a good ART prediction model, and predicting the outcome. We at Indira IVF are already using AI and ML software to help ease the process of IVF cycles. AI helps in correlation of big data and comes out with a scoring model and thus moving from subjectivity to objectivity. It helps Embryologists in better decision making and more time to look at many other areas of embryology. This improves efficiency and thus the outcome. If a right embryo is selected it improves the success criteria and results in reduced patient stress.
SG: How did adoption of technology help in overcoming some of your challenges?
RC: Adopting a cloud strategy as part of our digital transformation journey has benefitted us immensely. It has helped us achieve some incredible outcomes in the fastest possible way. Be it just a server in the cloud or a business application in cloud itself, this helped us adapt our business processes quickly.
It has also helped in continuous engagement with our patients at each stage of the treatment. Though there is more to do in this area, we are happy with the pace at which we are adopting new technology in our organization.
Another area which we have been able to improve is achieving cost control through better accounting and ensuring better compliance with statutory norms.
Oracle has been a great support in our digital transformation journey. As a strategic partner, they have handheld us at various phases of our transformational journey including strategic planning, budgeting, revenue growth, and M&A, operational resilience, and establishing a single view across an entire health system.
SG: What were some of the challenges associated with the previous systems that made you turn towards Oracle? What kind of benefits have you been able to achieve?
RC: Talking about our digital transformation journey, it is important to understand that we are operating in the healthcare industry which usually requires a strong focus on clinical processes rather than maintaining IT systems. Similarly, we at Indira IVF are always committed towards servicing our clients and ensuring successful completion of treatment, but as soon as we started expanding our horizon, we began facing challenges like disparate and reconciliation issues caused due to lack of integration between our systems. Besides this, we did not have a single source of truth from finance subsystems such as payables, receivables, fixed assets, banking. Planning the optimum revenue mix, cost allocations, and also profitability per treatment or per clinic were some of the other areas of concerns.
Apart from this, to curb these emerging challenges, we thought of associating with Oracle for their cloud-based solutions, and we are more than satisfied with how Oracle has helped ease out these complex operations. Oracle Fusion has provided us with cloud technology that enabled us to focus more on the business rather than maintaining heavy complex on-premise IT systems.
Not just this but Oracle’s solutions have streamlined our business practices and robust features, updated with the latest technology elements.
SG: Can you lay out the journey for Indira IVF’s innovation roadmap and plans w.r.t digitization of business processes?
RC: Our plans are centered on key factors including patient satisfaction, cost reduction, continuous engagement with our patients and adherence to sustainable practices.
To achieve this effective use of technology and innovation are at the center of our efforts. Our business strategy has always been twofold: One, provide affordable fertility treatment to our patients across the country, extend the same globally. Secondly improve clinical success rate.
Business technology solutions will play an important role to achieve both these objectives. This will be an exciting journey for us from here on, now that our core platforms are in place. The entire focus will now be on improving our efficiency and productivity.
Looking from a value perspective, our sole agenda is to make infertility treatment more accessible and easily available even in unserved regions as well as offer counseling and infertility treatments to everyone.