Shetty sees digital future for healthcare

Dr. Devi Shetty

From a suite at Grand Cayman’s Marriott Beach Resort, Dr. Devi Shetty does the rounds.

Tapping into an app on his smartphone, the heart surgeon monitors cardiograms, absorbs X-ray results and keeps tabs on patients 10,000 miles away in Bangalore, India.

“This is a tool we developed with Microsoft,” Shetty explained during an interview with the Compass on his recent visit to the islands.

It is a kind of medical WhatsApp – a secure platform for medical records to be instantly shared between hospital staff.

“We believe any patient with a medical history should have medical records in their own phone,” he said.

Every four hours, his smartphone buzzes with a new reading from a patient’s cardiac monitor, a blood report or a chest X-ray.

“The moment the technician touches the button on the X-ray machine, it appears here on my phone,” he said.

Shetty, the entrepreneur behind Cayman’s Health City and a chain of hospitals in India and Bangladesh, believes such digital tools will help make medicine cheaper and safer over the next 10 years.

He holds the US patent for the technology and is piloting it at his hospital in Bangalore before bringing it to the Cayman Islands.

“Our entire group is working on this,” he said. “We want to develop extremely modern cloud-based electronic medical records to be available to every hospital on the planet.

The technology helps organise the hospital, prevents delays in the transfer of information or test results, and makes patient management easier, Shetty said.

“One of the main reasons mistakes happen in healthcare is paper and pen. We have to replace that with digital tools,” he added.

He said the technology will also help doctors monitor patients at home rather than keeping them in hospital for longer than necessary. He believes this could be particularly important in the Caribbean.

“This is the best region to pilot these things. Each island has a small population. No cardiologist or neurologist wants to live in those islands but people are going to have a heart attack, they are going to have a brain stroke, so we can treat them [in Cayman] and monitor them remotely once they have the data in their phone,” he said.

He believes Health City will be the regional centre for critical care, with technology helping doctors monitor patients remotely through Skype and smartphone technology after the patients return home.

He said smartphone technology had already proven more effective than traditional methods in monitoring and managing blood sugar levels for diabetics. He believes it can be far more widely used in the future.

“Healthcare in the future will be dramatically different than what you think,” he said. “In Bangalore, we have engineers who have worked for Google, Microsoft, Facebook. We have 150 engineers working full-time and some in San Francisco developing this.”