Apollo transforming healthcare

r_basil-150x150 Apollo transforming healthcare

Apollo Hospitals Dhaka has stepped into its 11th year in Bangladesh, establishing itself as a leading corporate healthcare provider and setting new standards for the sector.

“The hospital has already set a benchmark for healthcare whether it is emergency services, intensive care, out-patient care, in-patient management and dialysis procedures as it follows the world’s best practices,” said R Basil, chief executive officer of the hospital.

The attitude of people towards private hospitals also changed over the decade because of the service quality the hospital provides.

“They now know that they will get value for money,” he told The Daily Star in an interview on Sunday.

The hospital, a joint venture between Indian hospital chain Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd and STS Holdings Ltd of Bangladesh, began its operation in Bangladesh in 2005 and soon became a hospital of choice.

The 450-bed multidisciplinary hospital has launched early morning outpatient service, helping the city-dwellers dodge traffic jam and office-goers receive treatment on weekdays. Doctors start seeing patients at 7:30am.

“We are taking all decisions that are patient-centric. The idea is we will work harder but we will provide the best services,” Basil said. The hospital has introduced personalised attention in a big way.He said Apollo is the first institution in Bangladesh which filled the gap in the healthcare system. Many other organisations later followed suit.

Basil said the hospital is trying to bring in predictability in the cost as in most cases patients do not know anything about the fees they have to bear at the end of their hospital stay.

“It is true that we will not be able to predict the total bill in case of all diseases. But we are able to predict in case of 60 percent of the procedures which gives some kind of comfort in the minds of the people. We ensure that the length of stay is the minimum.”

Since 2005, the owners of the hospital have maintained their vision of providing the best possible healthcare services in the world through their focus on clinical excellence, patient-centricity, ethical practices and transparency, said Basil, who joined the hospital more than a year ago.

In the last one decade, the hospital has invested heavily to improve its capacity to handle more patients, put in place state-of-the-art technologies and recruited quality doctors and nurses and other medical practitioners.

Today, there are a number of doctors and nurses from abroad working at the hospital. The hospital has doubled the number of dialysis machines, and is also looking at satellite dialysis centres.

The hospital has set up a diagnosis centre in Dhanmondi, which includes facility for outpatients, pharmacy and a laboratory, benefitting patients from the area. Apollo doctors are available there every day.

It employs 1,800 people. Of them, 105 are senior consultants, 228 resident doctors and 450 nurses.

“With the help of resident doctors and nurses, we ensure that the quality of the attention given at night is at par with the daytime,” he said.

STS Group has invested Tk 240 crore so far for the hospital project. The expansion will continue, said Basil.

The hospital plans to launch full-fledged cancer treatment facilities within a few months and has already started recruiting people.

He said the Apollo Hospitals Chittagong would be ready within the next three years. The 18-storey structure will have 350 beds. Once the project in the port city becomes successful, the hospital will branch out to other major cities.

He said the management plans to set up a medical college and nursing college in Bangladesh and also a chain of pharmacies. However, the timeframe has not been drawn specifically.

Apollo has nine information centres in major cities outside the capital where patients receive treatment and information. More centres will be opened in the coming years.

Without giving details of their revenues, Basil said the hospital has broken even. “I would say our performance is reasonably good.”

He said the hospital’s annual revenue growth stands at 15-20 percent.

Apollo Hospitals Dhaka is the first and only hospital in Bangladesh to get JCI accreditation. The Joint Commission International (JCI) is a US-based accreditation body dedicated to improving healthcare quality and safety around the world. “It takes tremendous effort to get the recognition and maintain it,” said Basil.

Every month the hospital also rewards employees for the best personal attention in its effort to become the real patient-friendly hospital in the region.

The pressure on the hospital to treat more patients has prompted the management to make investment for expanding infrastructure in a big way.

As part of the expansion plan, the hospital has applied to the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. The money will be used to construct a new outpatient building alongside the existing hospital building in Dhaka and for the hospital in Chittagong.

The 57-year-old CEO said the overall healthcare facility in the country is inadequate in terms of number of beds, doctors and nurses available for the population.

The government as well as the private sector needs to invest more, he said.

Although Basil could not give the exact amount of money the Bangladeshis spend abroad for medical reasons each year, the amount might be about Tk 200 crore.

“But we can proudly say that they don’t need to go abroad to take medical treatment. We are capable of providing comprehensive services here.”

Basil said, in case of some procedures Apollo Dhaka is cheaper than the other Apollo hospitals in India. There are perceptions that it is cheaper in India than in Bangladesh.

He said treatment cost in India is cheaper particularly in cities because about 50 percent of the patients taking treatment at private hospitals are reimbursed by insurance companies.

“But in Bangladesh, health insurance is almost non-existent. It is a major challenge for the healthcare system in the country although the potential for insurance activity is very high here.”

“If there is adequate insurance coverage, quality healthcare will be affordable for the average middle- and low-income people.”

Basil is a graduate from Trivandrum Engineering College and an MTech in industrial power systems from the Cochin University of Science and Technology.

Prior to this role, he was the executive president of Apollo Hospitals Group, managing director and CEO of Manipal Health Systems Pvt Ltd and vice president of Wipro GE Medical Systems.

In the last two years, Apollo Dhaka has trained 1,800 people, including housewives, retirees and college students on basic lifesaving skills.

Basil said the management of the hospital is compassionate not only towards its external customers or patients but also cares a lot for internal staff members.

Recently the management compensated more than Tk 20 lakh to two employees and their families. One of them died in road accident and another staff member lost her husband and father-in-law in a road accident.

He said organisations such as Apollo Hospitals would look at setting up secondary care hospitals for people living below the poverty line in the coming years.