Healthcare Sector Should be Accorded Industry Status

Believes,  Dr. Rajendra Patankar, COO – Nanavati Super speciality. An MD in Hospital Administration and Planning from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal with more than 15 years of healthcare experience, Dr. Rajendra Patankar has commissioned more than 7 hospitals and has successfully managed them. He has rich experience in Strategy, Administration and Business Development, and has worked with reputed institutions like Manipal Hospitals, Fortis Healthcare, Hinduja Hospital, Aster D M Healthcare and Surya Child Care. He is also on the academic board of Welingkar’s School of Management for Hospital Administration.

Dr Patankar, in an email interaction with Ekta Srivastava, Health Technology…

Will the trend toward hospital consolidation continue?

The healthcare market in India has evolved significantly over the years and offers a favorable environment for private sector companies for building profitable businesses. With the emergence of new-age healthcare models, entrepreneurship has become the buzzword in the medical devices and healthcare delivery sector. However, given the wider infrastructure and demand mismatch in the present healthcare eco-system, consolidation is here to stay and will give huge opportunities to new entrants and play a key role in synergizing the efficiencies of diverse players.

What will happen to critical-access hospitals, particularly in rural areas?

Critical-access hospitals are a critical component of the rural healthcare infrastructure. In order for the rural population to have access to latest healthcare, adequate medical services should be accessible in a time-bound and affordable manner. With consolidation fast-pacing in rural areas, the landscape of healthcare will change with availability of improved medical care, access to standardized medical devices and patients undergoing complex surgical procedures in rural hospitals. With opening of the medical devices sector more number of local medical device companies are available with equally better options at a very reasonable price thereby reducing the costs for patients.

Does the pressure for hospitals (and doctors) to have the latest and greatest machines is to get more business?

In a tightly competitive healthcare services milieu, there is heavy pressure on hospitals to increase patient footfalls and improve their bottom lines. Utilization of advanced machines for treating diseases, especially non-communicable diseases like cancer and cardio-vascular problems, can emerge as a key differentiator for hospitals to shore their profits and retain a strong customer loyalty. Top class talent also gets attracted with the state of art equipment as it has direct relation to ease of patient care and ultimately better outcomes. Having said that, it needs to be noted here that healthcare is not a business and rather is a service whose core functioning principles are ethics and transparency.

Some argue the solution to this irrational marketplace is to give consumers the price tools to become better shoppers. Will that really bend the proverbial cost curve?

The word “shoppers” shows the medical services fraternity in a commercial perspective which is rather demeaning. Patients have the right to access the best medical care and healthcare delivery systems need to be made more affordable and accessible. Medical insurance schemes should have a wider outreach and subsidized medical schemes should be extended to the lowest strata of the population which will make healthcare cost-effective rather than cost-prohibitive.

How do we change national culture when people fear rationing might be behind efforts to convince them that a particular intervention doesn’t work and is not clinically effective, let alone cost effective?

There has to be an emphasis on patient education in the country. Doctors need to be educated in the fine art of patient communication and effectively conveying the seriousness of the situation.  Emphasis must be on proper diagnosis of a particular disease and formulating the best treatment methodologies for treating the patient. Trust, transparency and an ethical code of conduct will ensure that patients trust their doctors and do not solely view medicine as a profit-mongering endeavor.

Can the government really change the system?

The government can be a facilitator in formulating policy initiatives for making healthcare services easily accessible and affordable. Strict code of conducts should be issued for hospitals to ensure that they do not overcharge patients. Indigenous production of medical devices and equipment should be given onus preference top reference to make them largely price-sensitive without compromising on quality. Prices of medical equipment like stents should be capped to ensure that medical expenses for critical procedures like angioplasties surgeries like do not shoot over the roof. Last but not the least; the healthcare sector should be accorded industry status.

Will accountable technological start-ups and medical homes become the saviors of Indian health care?

Large-scale entrepreneurial activity is being witnessed in the healthcare technology start-up space. An innate understanding of the Indian healthcare eco-system will allow these startups to conceive solutions specific to tackling contingencies related to the Indian medical landscape. Accountable business models and investments in skilful innovations and advanced technologies will help them in giving Indian healthcare a global competitive edge. Subsidized medical homes, especially for patients with terminal diseases, should be provided in Tier-1 and Tier-II areas where poverty and low-income levels become hindrances in patients care. The public-private partnership (PPP) model should be promoted to ensure the large-scale setting up of medical homes and provision of sustainable patient care facilities.

What needs to happen to make the system more patient-centered?

The patient needs to be at the center of the healthcare planning model. A humane approach, emphasis on timely treatment deliveries, maintaining a transparent communication with the patient and his relatives and ensuring that business considerations do not overstep medical ethics can go a long way in making the system patient-oriented.

What steps can patients facing a hospitalization take?

Patients have a right to be informed about their medical condition in a non-biased manner. They need to ensure that they have access to sufficient funds and the financial needs of their family are taken care of if their hospital term is longer. Patients should have sufficient medical insurance coverage.


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