Shahid Akhter, editor, ETHealthworld, spoke to Dr. Aashish Chaudhry, Managing Director, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, Dwarka, to find out about the emerging opportunities in healthcare partnerships across the world.
Hospitals: Post COVID transformation
I feel that post-COVID, there have been a lot of changes that private healthcare organisations have seen. In general, I would say they have become much more conversant with safe practises (patient safety practises). Hand hygiene practises have become commonplace. Every healthcare professional is focusing on that, and it has become their way of life.
Apart from that, we have seen that the spectrum of disease is also changing. The awareness of the population at large is changing. So, their expectations from the healthcare organisation are at an all-time high. They are very observant. They are very careful in terms of the treatment advice and even when it comes to selecting a doctor or organisation. It is not just the name and fame of the clinician that are important; there are so many other things that come into play, like how the hospital is maintaining the support services, the cleanliness, and even the air changes. People are talking about air changes in the hospital and especially about ICU care, where somewhere we want positive pressure and somewhere we want negative pressure. So, these things have become very commonplace because of the education each of them has received, whether online or face-to-face, during this time. So private healthcare has to gear up for this, and yes, every organisation is on that path. And whosoever is not able to match up – I think it will be very difficult to survive in post-covid times.If you’re not very vigilant for emerging diseases, post-covid complications, which we call long-covid diseases, So, this is still going to stay for many years. And I feel that, as a responsible healthcare organisation, we’ve done our part. We are continuously evolving to take care of all the post-covid challenges.
Post COVID changes at Aakash Hospitals
We adopted absolute segregation of the covid and non-covid wards and the areas. Those things have gone because you don’t see so much spread of the disease. But yes the donning and doffing, the ICU care, the segregation of the infected patients (not just covid) is still in practice very well in force and accepted by each one of the staff. So, it has become a culture at the organisation.
If I talk about other things, the support service is now playing a very significant role. The type of material used for the sterilisation of all the surfaces where patients, or the attendants, or the staff come into contact so that regularity in cleaning and sanitization is all-time high. The usage of ultrasonic cleaners during the off-timings so that also helps in sanitising the environment. Apart from that, the process and protocols related to operation theatre, the ICU have been upgraded. So even if we miss on any covid disease since we are not actively testing every patient, the likelihood of transmission of diseases is significantly reduced.
Aakash Healthcare: Tashkent Project
The global expansion of Aakash Healthcare happened by chance. We never thought that we were going to explore beyond North India or the Delhi-NCR region. Due to the regular influx of patients from neighbouring countries, especially Uzbekistan, seeking medical care in India. Over the last three to four years, we have been actively treating patients coming from this country. And in that process, we realised that there have been many episodes—more than 10 or 12—where we have gone back to that country to give care and do the regular medical and surgical camps there. We realised that there are a lot of gaps when it comes to healthcare delivery in that part of the world.
During these to-and-fro moments, we realised that why not bring up a centre, which can at least start giving primary and secondary level of care so that for every small medical issue a patient shouldn’t be travelling to India and spend 3 times more money. And in that process, we, in fact, got a very good response from the regulatory authority and the government, who are very actively seeking Indian healthcare partners to come over and help the country upgrade the healthcare facilities. They are willing to provide all kinds of support in terms of employee transfers, settlements, family issues, etc. After going through all these positive messages from the government, local partners, and patients, we decided to look for a healthcare facility. And in the last two months, we were able to close that.
It was a long journey to actually study the law of the land and comply with all the regulations, as well as the norms of the Indian government and RBI, to do a foreign investment. After doing all that due diligence and taking adequate legal and accounting firm advice, we’ve gone back and taken over the complete shareholding of an already running healthcare facility in the capital city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Healthcare: Global opportunities
We could see that the scope for improvement is huge and that the kind of care being delivered is not up to the mark as compared to Indian healthcare standards. We feel that people should get better care. The good thing is that the government is aware of it, and they are trying very hard to get people on board. They are not just talking to Indian healthcare partners. They are talking to Korea, Turkey, and many other countries. In fact, Korea has been investing a lot in Uzbekistan in terms of healthcare.
There are a lot of paediatric problems; there are a lot of mother-and-child issues. And, in fact, one major area in which we found a problem was the hepatitis problem in the country because of its culture and other reasons. So, that leads to a lot of liver and kidney issues. The upside from the government’s support is very good. Downside – we feel that huge amount of opportunity. I felt that what kind of care we were delivering maybe one or two decades ago, that is the kind of situation there in the country.
I think if we go with the right intention and with a good supervising staff, we should be able to not only provide care to begin with but also train the local doctors and nursing staff and upgrade them to the same level, and ultimately the country would benefit.