Tata plans to commercialize healthcare portal

Tata sees a global business opportunity in its healthcare portal.

Indian IT services company, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), plans to commercialize its WebHealthCentre, an online portal for medical consultations, healthcare information, and telemedicine.

The WebHealthCentre site was set up by TCS in 2000, as part of fulfilling its corporate social responsibility.

The site was started to offer patients in rural areas access to specialist doctors.

"We realized that there was a gap for this kind of service even abroad, as we got more queries from abroad than from India," said Debashis Ghosh, vice president and head of TCS' life sciences and healthcare practice, in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The scope of the site was subsequently expanded to allow patients to store medical records online and share securely with doctors, said Sumanth Chakravarthy Raman, head of innovation at TCS' healthcare practice.

The site now also coordinates remote delivery of telemedicine services from expert doctors to patients in small hospitals and healthcare centers in remote locations, Raman said. The technology has been specially developed to work on low-bandwidth connections, he added.

Healthcare currently accounted for about 4.8 percent of the company's worldwide services revenue in the quarter ended September 30.

The immediate revenue opportunity for the company is from advertising on the portal which is used by patients in 16 countries, including India, the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., Ghosh said. The company may also give multinational pharmaceutical companies and medical services companies access to patients in emerging markets like India through the site.

Using the analogy of Google's YouTube, Ghosh said that having set up WebHealthCentre and making it popular, TCS is exploring a number of revenue streams, including offering new services such as electronic medical records (EMR) facilities through the site. It is also planning to offer to set up similar healthcare portals for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies worldwide, Ghosh said.

The site currently gets more than 3 million hits a month, according to TCS. Some of the technologies deployed by TCS on the site have been used in applications for some of the company's IT services customers, Ghosh said.

Having a portal like WebHealthCentre also gives the company a strong brand in the healthcare market, and demonstrates its technical capability in this market segment, he added.

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