Conversation with Dr. Ruchi Dass on mHealth, Part 1

Posted: September 28, 2010 in Expert Q&A, HIPAA, Industry Commentary
Tags: , , ,

As the Mobile Health Expo 2010 gets underway next month, we’ll feature experts on the topic of mobile health. This week, VPN Haus interviews Dr. Ruchi Dass, mHealth champion and council member for the Gerson Lehrman Group, in a three-part series on mobile health. Dass has been involved in specific healthcare IT, e-learning and ICT projects for the public/private sector in India.

VPN Haus: What are the major trends you’re noticing in healthcare mobility?

Dr. Ruchi Dass: In a country like India where the doctor to patient ratio is 1:900, doctors are a few and work is 24/7. Patients demand low costs, and timely and quality healthcare coverage. For healthcare enterprises, patient data is critical to collect and manage. Hence [mobile] health is primarily aimed at bridging the economic divide in terms of healthcare. Mobility is the key here- many healthcare enterprises which are spread over 10-20 establishments in India are now using VPNs as the enabling technology which allows doctors to use standard public Internet ISPs and high-speed lines to access closed private networks. A simple use case for this is to access virtual patient health records and there are other wireless technologies designed specifically for use in the provision of healthcare, like:

  • Standard mobile enterprise services used by health-care workers, such as remote access to e-mail and health-information systems;
  • Mobile applications to meet a specific need of medical workers, such as mobile prescriptions and remote diagnoses;
  • Applications that play a direct role in the provision of care, such as mobile data collection and wireless transmission of health data; and
  • Consumer-targeted applications to encourage health and help prevent illness.

VPN Haus: What are the security concerns around these trends?

Dass:  Security of patient data is important. Even if you comply with HIPAA, it doesn’t have that depth and breadth of protection, which is required as health care is comprised of exceedingly complex information environments that demand comprehensive patient data security approaches especially when the data is shared across networks. For a simple use case of accessing a patient’s Virtual Electronic Patient Records with a wireless device, there are 3 main security issues to address:

1. To Authenticate & authorize from the wireless to the wired network
2. Secure data share in transit
3. Integrity & good resolution in the information that is requested and visualized by the users/doctors.

Stay tuned, next week we’ll continue our conversation with Dass, discussing the most overrated and underrated mobile health security risks.

Oct 7 – Oct 14
  1. manav sahay says:

    Dear VPN Haus,

    Good Interview. Will wait for more. Dr Ruchi one such issues with Kamineni Group of Hospitals in India. I was closely observing the same. Mobility is important in India as there is unavailable easy access to healthcare for all.

  2. ramakanth says:

    Well, I think Remote access is necessary in emerging markets. Otherwise, How will one justify a use case of mhealth. I am happy to see that Hospitals are now going paperless in India as well. You need authenticated data for the business of healthcare to upsell and crossell for sure. Good job done… Great insights…..

  3. Ramana Panda says:

    Interesting Interview, Ruchi has been a champion in this field for past few years, she has extensive ground knowledge on mHealth and telemedicine in India. As she says Security is going to be the key issue in future communications and we have been working on that issue for the past few years at Bond wireless, in particular mobile communications. Will wait to see what more evolves from this Interview.

  4. Charlie says:

    Dr. Ruchi – We would like to have your suggestions for a good business model for this concept. Please throw some light into it.

  5. Voda says:

    Excellent Interview. I liked the categorisation of Healthcare services and Wireless technologies mentioned. Is there a special mention of some good products here?

    @ Ramana- What does the Interviewee has to say about Bond Wireless? Kudos!

    • Ramana says:

      Voda, I was expanding on Ruchi said about security. We have worked on Secure SMS system and its use in health care applications. As mHealth evolves, security would be one important issue and currently I don’t know if there are any guidelines for it. About 10% of SMS get lost in transmission and authentication and authorisation that data is recieved by the right person is a key to prevent data loss.

  6. claire says:

    Well Quite a lot of activity here!

    I would like to know how many such solutions are deployed in India, Is Indian Healthcare delivery system ready or advanced for this?I would like to know from the author how is mobility related to Home Health and what are the concerns. Also is Consumer really worried about the security of data?

    Dr Ruchi, I met her in London last year and we attended her workshop on successful business models in healthcare as well; I didnt get time to interview here But I feel this Interview is quite well rounded. Dear Author, Please Intimate me when the post gets updated.

    • vpnhaus says:

      Hi Claire – part 2 of the series with Dr. Dass will go up on Tuesday.

    • Ramana says:

      @Claire, I dont think there is that much awareness about security in mHealth at present as most projects are at initial stages. However in future I am sure there would be more interest in security as sensitive data is being transmitted.The only drawback to this would be creating more hype about security issues which might prevent use of mobile health applications.

  7. jerry theis says:

    The consumer will finally be empowered with mhealth technology and there will be no boundaries as vital medical data will be at their fingertips via the smart phone during point of care. Just think how the consumer will use a mobile app off of their smart phone when calling for a medical emergency. What will follow will truely revolutionalize emergency responsiveness. Our App will re defime disaster readiness and emergency preparedness!
    Jeery Theis
    Theis and Associates, LLC

  8. Narottam says:

    @ VPN Haus- pertinent questions- Good job!
    @ Charlie-You can directly write to Dr Ruchi Dass on
    @Voda- Bond wireless, theis and Associates are already here with some wonderful products. (see comments). would like to have a demo arranged.
    @ Claire- Ramana is right! In a country where healthcare access is the biggest problem, security is not such a big issue.mobility is! There is no stakeholder who can do it all on their-selves and hence participation is important. D2D, D2P, P2P, P2Insurance provider, H2Insurance provider and so on and so forth

  9. Narottam says:

    Dear jerry, please mail me on my office email id

  10. Namit says:

    There are tons of initiatives in India around mHealth. Get out of analyzing statistics and get onto providing solutions…

    Unfortunately, people start thinking about SMS, GPRS etc. when they think about mHealth. India has an amazingly large number of mobile subscribers, but if you start thinking in terms of ground reality and not just statistics, you would realize that the only workable channel where you can add true value to people’s health & still have a scalable healthcare mechanism is voice !

    [take a moment to think about how 40+ population (who actually needs care) in India uses Mobile Phones. The majority of the mobile phone power users who would be comfortable using anything more complicated than voice is still very young and doesn’t require frequent care]

    So unless you want to build a business for which you would have takers in next 10 – 20 years time frame, start thinking about the real power that mobile has brought to Indians and that’s voice @ an affordable price.

    I hope this helps…

  11. mdhi says:

    Great thread. Good Info, Is there a webinar available? what are the security issues in India? Over to Dr Dass to answer.

  12. Dr Zakhir Huss says:

    Nice thread

  13. Dr Zakhir Huss says:

    Great Stuff. I read the 2nd and the 3rd part as well. Great info. Makes a lot of difference.

  14. RAKIV says:

    Great post! Congrats for the award as well..very well written

  15. Surendar says:

    Congratulations of Best Blog award. Wonderful Interview, enjoyed reading. Please let me know if Dr Ruchi is your advisor.This the first time I am getting to read a Doctor’s perspective on technology. IITs in India have already started merging the technology with medical applied.Would love to read more such stuff.

  16. Raman says:

    Wow! this is intriguing. Mobility has a play everywhere and happy to see its relevance in one of the most contested field i.e. Healthcare.

  17. HC says:

    Great article..Thanks for making Dr Ruchi mention all of this.

    • manavsahay says:


      You are right. Mobility is important but it brings with it several problems as well. Most of them are related to security and privacy. As the article mentions- to Authenticate & authorize from the wireless to the wired network- this especially is of concern in remote monitoring setups and hospitals; and they need to work in harmony.I would request VPN to help find out from Dr Ruchi some of the use cases related to this for the readers.

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