“Our patients demand excellence not only in medical care, but also in other hospitality elements”

“Our patients demand excellence not only in medical care, but also in other hospitality elements”

Dr. Vishal Beri, CEO, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical talks about his experience and his priorities at the hospital over the next few years and the challenges of a doctor-manager

Dr. Vishal Beri, CEO, Hinduja Healthcare

Setup in 2012, Hinduja Hospitals marks Hinduja Group’s foray into the corporate hospital sector. The Hinduja Group is one of the largest diversified groups in the world spanning all the continents, with interests in sectors such as automobiles, banking, power and healthcare, amongst several others. As the Chief Executive Officer of Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Mumbai, Dr. Vishal Beri brings with him over 15 years of rich experience in the healthcare domain, both as a clinician as well as a management professional.

In his current role, Dr. Beri is responsible for the overall functioning of this Hospital. In addition to this, he is also responsible for driving the strategic healthcare initiatives of the company. A medical doctor by profession, Dr. Beri has done his MBBS, and then his post-graduation in Orthopedic Surgery from Mumbai University. He then practiced as a Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon for close to four years before moving on to obtain a Management Degree from the prestigious Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. While in Business School, he was an active member of the Healthcare Club and was also a recipient of the ISB Torchbearer award. He talks about Hinduja Healthcare’s growth ,challenges of running this hospital and what it takes to run a hospital.   

Talk to me a little bit about the healthcare (hospitals)industry? What is the current status of the sector? 

Despite newer hospitals coming up, the bed-to-patient ratio is still very low. As a nation, India ranks below most of the countries when you speak of average spend GDP. In a country as large as ours, access and affordability of quality healthcare are major concerns. On one hand, Government hospitals are overloaded and overburdened in the cities, and in the rural areas even the basic infrastructure is very poor. Wherever infrastructure has been made available, the investors have been few and predominantly from the private sector. There is a huge divide between the availability of quality healthcare within the country. 

How has Hinduja hospital grown in the last five years? Can you take me through your growth parameters? 

The hospital commenced operations in early 2012.  In the initial years, our consultant panel primarily consisted of doctors from Hinduja Hospital, Mahim.  The last few years have seen a steady increase in the number of external consultants to almost 70 per cent.  Our consultant pool has currently expanded to over 250 of the city’s consultants, across various specialties.  Our occupancy has also seen a steady increase over the years, and is currently hovering around 60 per cent to 70 per cent.  Today, we handle a large number of patients across specialties ranging from general surgery and general medicine, to more complex cases such as Cardiac and Neuro surgeries.  We have consistently ensured that our average length of stay is at a level of around three days.  While in the initial few years, there was considerable confusion amongst patients between our two hospitals (located at Mahim and Khar), today we can safely say that we have managed to create a distinct identity for ourselves. 

Do talk to us about some significant challenges that you are facing currently and how do you plan to solve them? Specifically talk to us about the administrative challenges that you have faced? 

From the beginning, we have followed a visiting consultant model.  While this does reduce our fixed overheads, it brings with it the challenge of getting doctors to bring in their work to us, as well as getting them involved in qualitative and quality-based initiatives.  Moreover, while overall statistics indicate a large shortage in terms of the number of beds available for patients, the situation in large Tier 1 cities like Mumbai is fairly different.  The market today is highly competitive, with several hospitals jostling for the same doctors.  In order to counter this trend, we have recently moved to a “hybrid” model, wherein we have now added a few hospital-based consultants in key specialties.  The hospital hopes to provide these consultants with a platform to advance their careers, while at the same time increasing the direct work for the hospital.

The private healthcare sector today is going through a fairly volatile period, in view of major regulatory changes such as price control of knee implants and cardiac stents.  There is also talk of some sort of regulation around the prices of other services.  As we all know, hospitals are very capital-intensive and therefore, such major changes do impact the profitability and outlook for the sector.  The need of the hour is, therefore, to strike a balance between improving access and affordability for the masses, while at the same time allowing the industry to grow.

How is your management style? Do you get involved in the micro management of the hospital or do you have a team which is well positioned to deal with the daily exercise?

Healthcare, today, is a service industry.  Our patients demand excellence not only in medical care, but also in other hospitality elements such as customer service, food service, billing etc.  The delivery of such services at the ground level is only possible, if the employees are empowered to handle all issues pertaining to their respective departments.  As a leader, my effort has always been to ensure that only very few issues require resolution at my level.  All other issues are to be handled by the team itself.  That being said, my door is always open for discussion on any issue that my immediate reportees or even their team members may be facing.

How do you balance your medical practice with running this hospital?

In my case, this balance is very easy to achieve, simply because I do not practice Orthopaedic Surgery any more.  I have always believed that in today’s environment, every job is a full time one; unless a doctor can devote 100  per cent  of his time to medical practice, he is not able to make a mark for himself.  Similarly, managing a hospital is also a full time job, and it demands that the CEO is always around, to resolve issues that arise on a daily basis.  While I do quite often miss the challenges of clinical practice, spending the entire day in the hospital does reduce that burden to a large extent.

As a doctor, what are the challenges you face in running the administration of the hospital?

At the outset itself, being a doctor manager, one starts off battling a negative perception, by virtue of the fact that doctors have traditionally not been considered to be good managers.  One of the reasons for this is the fact that in the Indian context, the medical profession is by and large an individual-based one, in which most doctors function as freelancing consultants.  They are, therefore, not used to taking instructions, or being told what to do. The other reason is that several doctors move on to have small practices or having Nursing Homes of their own.  While the basics remain the same, there is still a significant difference in the way a corporate hospital is managed, vis-a-vis an individual doctor’s set-up.  These challenges apart, a medical background certainly comes in very handy, in this sort of role.  The biggest advantage is that in a role that requires frequent interaction with the medical community, doctors are much more receptive to suggestions / directions, when they come from a medical professional at the other end of the table.

Finding good nursing and administrative staff is a challenge for many hospitals. How is your experience in this area?

Like any other industry, in healthcare too, staffing patterns are determined by the demand / supply dynamics.  Since there is a demand for good nurses, not only within the domestic private hospitals, but also in Government / municipal hospitals as well as overseas, finding and retaining good nurses is always a challenge.  The scenario with respect to administrative staff is also similar.  Further, the aspirations of the millennial generation today, are very different from what we have seen in the past.  Employees are very often guided by short term benefits, rather than long term goals.  Having said that, we see that employees still do value a good brand and a good work environment, when it comes to choosing a prospective employer.  This is what we strive to offer, to all our employees.

What are some factors that define the success of an organisation like yours?   

The first important factor that we have established as a differential is the accent / emphasis on personalization of healthcare in the private and corporate hospital segment. We have focused on the minute yet vital touch points that determine the customer satisfaction and delight factor which also reflects on the feeling of comfort that the patient feels. And that is by providing an ambience that is un-hospital like and more homely. Mind you, that is without compromising on the protocols and quality of healthcare which is the very essence of excellent patient outcomes. Employee productivity and motivation has been an integral part of our approach because we believe that personalization is all about the right people and creating the right vibes through positive and professional interactions. Trust and transparency has been the brand credo which we have tried to inculcate in every team member of the organization.

What is the need of the hour? 

The need of the hour is to find a balance between the need to provide access to all at affordable price points and the interests of all stakeholders.  The Government today seems to be playing the role of both, payer as well as provider.  Examples from all across the world have, time and again, proved that this approach may not necessarily work.  Considering that most of the investments in the healthcare sector currently come from the private sector, the Government should lay much more emphasis on putting in place, a robust “payer” mechanism for India’s large population.

And where do you see the sector headed?

Sustained innovation and consolidation of healthcare players will be vital to the industry future. The ambition of quality healthcare is a definite possibility provided the approach is rational, inclusive and pragmatic to all the stake holders. The sector is headed for an exciting period wherein the crucial roll out of the ambitious national health plan will be tested by political will, frank opposition, operational uncertainties, honest stake holder concerns, all jostling to find the smoothest way forward and ensure a win – win situation for all and the realization of “Health for all” initiative to the masses.

The top three priorities :

  • To become the preferred healthcare provider in the positioning that we have created as a brand
  • Expand our footprint across the city and in Western India with this model
  • Reinforce the brand strength and capability of providing quality healthcare which is not only competitively affordable but also provides the experience of being accommodative rather than intimidating

This will be done by replicating the model and adding value added services so that as a tertiary care hospital, we provide the essential healthcare facilities that is required  even as we build up the image of a holistic health care provider.

Poornima Kavlekar has been associated with The Smart CEO since the time of launch and is the Consulting Editor of the magazine. She has been writing for almost 20 years on a cross section of topics including stocks and personal finance and now, on entrepreneurship and growth enterprises. She is a trained Yoga Teacher, an avid endurance Cyclist and a Veena player.

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