Multi & Super Specialty Hospitals – points to ponder.Chawm Ganguly

chawm g (14)aThe Multi and Super Specialty hospitals are ones that are primarily and exclusively dedicated to offer specialized treatments to patients suffering from specific illnesses. The last decade or so has witnessed a paradigm shift in the Indian healthcare segment with these Multi and Super Specialty Hospitals making rapid strides in terms of both visibility as well as efficacies often offering the quality choice patients were denied earlier. As a matter of fact, these entities are no longer restricting themselves to the metro cities and are making steady inroads into the vast hinterland of India taking state of the art healthcare facilities to the patients where they need such facilities the most.

However, not many patients, or their families are aware of the fact that the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH), a constituent board of Quality Council of India (QCI), set up by the Ministry of Health to establish and operate the accreditation programme for healthcare organizations in India is the “regulatory body” for these entities. NABH has standards specific to the Indian healthcare setting, major aspects being the assurance of uniform access, assessment, care of patients and protection of patient’s rights. This is just to stress upon a seldom overlooked fact that multi or super, these specialty hospitals are not only regulated by a strict code of conduct as it were, but there are specific and well laid out provisions about the patient’s rights and the hospital’s obligations.

If that sounds hackneyed, then consider this. An overwhelming number of patients, in India at least, choose a particular hospital based on the recommendation of their consulting physician – “referred by the doctor” as we are wont to say. It is only in a distant second that the good reputation or the positive image of the hospital is considered. Which too is kind of negated by the fact that the third reason most often cited for choosing a hospital is “word of mouth” publicity, recommendation by a relative to be precise. And hang on, most patients are ill aware about the fees and charges charged by the particular institution during the time of the admission. Transparency of operations in general and billing procedures in particular continues to be a major lacuna across the board and needs immediate attention if these healthcare multipliers are to claim their rightful positions in the sun. The age-old Indian tradition of doing business based on referrals too will have to be changed and this can happen only if these otherwise considered as game-changers take their communication and brand building efforts with the seriousness that they deserve.

But what is the key factor that determines the edges of efficiency of one against the other? With almost the same set of surgeons doing the rounds, with identical infrastructural backup and indistinguishable nursing care offered by all, how does one choose one entity over the other? More importantly what gives one multi or super specialty brand the salience that makes it stand head and shoulders above the rest? As business units, how does one justify its premium pricing in a market segment that is witnessing increasing competition and a deluge of new entrants?

One key differentiating factor, opine industry stalwarts, is the amount to time taken at the registration desk. The longer the time taken at the point of entry and the less smooth and amenable it is, the worse off is the hospital, being the common refrain. Charity, it seems, begins at the registration and the help desk, so far as the multi and super specialties are concerned. And yes, the obsession of hospital staff with cashless, insured patients, must end. Can’t this wait just a tad bit longer, till the patient is at least admitted with the dignity that they deserve?

Similar is the case with nursing and irrespective of the quality of the medical care provided by the entity, an overwhelming number of patients down score hospitals only because of the poor quality of nursing provided – either by callous staff who are just not concerned, or by trainees and interns who just don’t have the requisite skill sets to do justice to the jobs assigned to them. Has anyone calculated the revenue loss that one cranky matron can lead to, especially in view of the fact that the flow of patients depends overwhelmingly on the word of mouth publicity?

“Empathy” a term that all multi and super specialties are extremely fond of is their official communication is to be believed. Guess it is time the physicians begin to heal thyselves.

The piece was originally written for the Express Health Guide 2016.