How to achieve Affordable Healthcare in India
Quality healthcare is still not affordable in India when compared to several economies of the West or Asia. Successive governments have been working on this goal and achieving results too.
In 1999, Kauvery Hospital started a 30-bed hospital in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. The hospital’s mission from day one was to make excellent healthcare affordable. In the initial years, the founder doctors committed themselves to the principle of affordable care and built a great team of doctors and staff who shared the same vision. Gradually, this became the DNA of our organization, and now, wherever we are present, we make sure our hospital is genuinely affordable to our patients, but without compromising in the quality of care in any way.
Their core values are reflected in their Operational procedures. For example, in the 250-bed Kauvery Hospital in Chennai, there is ‘No Advance for the first 24 hours’. As Dr. Aravindan, Co-Founder & Executive Director, says, “We cater to many senior citizens who live alone while their children live abroad. Hospitalization can be stressful. Gathering money at short notice should not be a stressor to patients. We trust our patients. Payment issues have been few and far between”, he reveals, flashing his trademark smile. “There are also instances where patients were discharged and given a few days to settle the balance in the bill after insurance approval.”
Dr. Aravindan and Kauvery Hospital follow these core values every day of their lives.
Relationship with Patients
The stay at the hospital, however brief, should be memorable. Each patient, no matter how familiar is the ailment, is unique. Their needs, desires, challenges, and life-goals are not the same. Their educational, professional, and family backgrounds are not the same. Their exposure, awareness, and smartness quotients may not be the same. This can present unique challenges at times. But healthcare providers must see that as part of their duties and do their best to make the patient feel at home. They should be polite, friendly, helpful, and relate to each person as an individual. There should be no language barriers, as this affects communication. There should be no food barriers as this affects the morale and speed of recovery for the patient. In short, the desire to ‘serve’ the patient and make him/her happy should be the only secret to a successful treatment. Dr. Aravindan embodies all these values. After each of his surgeries, Dr. Aravindan makes it a point to check on every patient in the ICU and wards, giving him/her a pep talk or share light moments with them.
Follow Medical Ethics
The healthcare institution and the professionals associated with them should be made aware of Government and regulatory norms for ethical practice. After that, every member of the staff and doctors involved should be monitored for ethical and professional conduct. Best practices should be documented and followed closely, with a separate department to watch the same. Records of all financial transactions, patient records, and communication history should be religiously maintained and be easily accessible. This will ensure there are no gray areas in the Institution’s working. If any charitable grants are available to treat less-privileged patients, they should be employed. Trust and transparency should be encouraged at all times, and the Institution must allow patients or their family members to give feedback without fear or favour. For example, at Kauvery Hospital, the patients are not pushed to undergo unnecessary tests or scans. For Dr. Aravindan and the staff, Cost Optimisation is the mantra.
Continuous Improvement in Quality
Dr. Aravindan believes that continuous improvement is a must for doctors and staff to maintain a high quality of services. According to him, subject matter expertise is the biggest differentiator for any Healthcare Institution or professional. Both at the Clinical or diagnostic level to the treatment options and then rehabilitation therapies, the doctors and staff involved should pursue the latest, most efficient, and cost-effective alternates. This makes the treatment successful and less stressful for the patient. There should be a genuine desire to provide the best possible healthcare at the most optimized cost. Only then will the professionals involved give their best. They should be exposed to the latest trends and developments in the Medical domain through conferences, training sessions, subscriptions to journals or online digests, and, most importantly - the freedom to experiment. Innovative and smart ways of reducing costs or improving outcomes should be encouraged. Doctors and staff must be encouraged to share ideas that can enhance the quality of service. Affiliation with research-based institutions and accreditations are also essential to ensure the striving for excellence is a continuous journey and not a one-time goal.
Giving Empathetic Care
Patient-centric care, patient-friendly practices, and ‘patient first’ approach may be new buzzwords in the healthcare domain. But they recognize the fact that without empathy, no treatment or therapy will work. Unless the patient is psychologically convinced about the care being given, he cannot heal quickly. To achieve this, healthcare professionals must be screened before they are associated with the Institution. They must show an original orientation towards empathy and respect for patients. Listening to the patient and understanding how they feel must be given the top priority at the Institution. The practices, rules, and regulations at the Institution must also be made flexible so that patients and their families can derive maximum benefit. Feedback and suggestions in the area of empathy should be solicited from staff, patients, and their families. All these will ensure the Institution walks the talk. To ensure Kauvery Hospital walks the talk, Dr. Aravindan always maintains a personal relationship with his patients. This way, they feel free to share their concerns regarding their treatment or surgery.
Accountability is the foundation of any enterprise. Unless people are accountable for their wages, results, and actions, no Institution can survive for long. This is equally true for a Healthcare Institution. Right from the founders, promoters, or Senior Management through all the doctors and specialists involved, down to all the members of the staff, everybody must be governed by a framework of rules and policies that uphold accountability, responsibility, timeliness, and commitment. These must cover all aspects of their behaviour, speech, and communication. These policies should be documented and accessible to professionals at all times. A system of rewards and recognition must be complemented by one-off fines, penalties, and periodic appraisals. The Institution must continuously seek to learn about new practices, policies, or processes that ensure accountability, from around the world.
Dr. Aravindan and Kauvery Hospital recognize and reward staff members who show dedication to their job. “Flying Angels” is a wonderful initiative in this regard. As per this, best performers at the Kauvery Hospital, Trichy, get to make a one day round trip to Chennai by flight.
Passion is what differentiates people who ‘work for a living’ from those who ‘live to work.’ Healthcare professionals associated with the Institution must be screened and monitored continuously for the levels of passion they show. Staff at every level must be encouraged to come up with suggestions or feedback as this upholds their involvement and interest. To enable all this, the workplace environment should be friendly, helpful, and respectful. Management should treat employees the same way that employees are expected to treat patients - with empathy and respect! All these pave the way for excellence to the individual and leadership to the Institution.
Dr. Aravindan is a fine example of how passion paves the way for excellence. In spite of having a flourishing career in London, he came back to his motherland to serve the country. At Kauvery Hospital, he does a 12-hour shift every day that starts at 7 am. He is always reachable on phone, 24x7, including public holidays or a family vacation.
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