One day, not too far away, I envision Healthcare to be democratic, accessible and proactive. This is an area in which I have immense interest but very little expertise. However, recently, I seem to have made some progress in terms of personal learning.
I had the good fortune of watching the launch video of an innovative device that checks the blood hemoglobin level to test for anemia (developed by biosense.in), and participating in my first tweet chat on Healthcare Innovation, organized by my neighbors in Bangalore, Innovation Alchemy. Here I learnt about innovations – Janacare, Netra, Forus, and initiatives such as ICTPH, and Infoladies of Bangladesh.
The founder of Vaatsalya Healthcare, Dr. Ashwin Naik who participated in the tweetup revealed how difficult it is for his company to hire doctors in semi-urban and rural markets. The acute shortage of doctors makes me wonder if we can reinvent the entire supply chain, and rethink the incentive structures that drive doctor proliferation.
The urban segment has its own problems. A close friend of mine (whose wife is battling cancer) was brainstorming with me on how one can improve communication, especially when the patient is being treated by a handful of specialists each from a different department. The patient’s history/file does include lengthy notes made by junior doctors, but these are often only for the purpose of hospital records. During treatment, the junior doctor briefly conveys a short summary of the preceding specialist’s diagnosis, and this is done verbally when the subsequent specialist visits the patient. Relatives of the patient and patient herself often end up filling in for the points missed by the junior doctor. The irony of our hyper-connected world is that we’ve becomes geniuses at sharing vacation photos and restaurant visits, but not at sharing critical information, where it matters most.
I am a fan of Atul Gawande, and his writings on the medical world reveal that solutions to many of these problems require intent; the solutions by themselves are often simple and apply equally to rich and poor countries. My experience in Bangalore’s CloudNine chain revealed that luxury hospitals in India spend on creating superficial luxury. They do a great job with designer bathroom fittings, but do a poor job of understanding a mother’s needs when it comes to designing feeding rooms. Responding to customer feedback does not automatically come into the management’s DNA just because they’re catering to a richer strata of society. For example, even though I always word my feedback emails to be constructive in nature, the only reply I get from hospitals is “Our Director will respond to your thoughtful email”, and no Director ever responds!
Being proactive is great but being accessible is critical. Before we solve for anything else, we must solve for accessibility. No segment of society should be denied access to doctors and well-managed care facilities. I believe Healthcare has the potential to create the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. It is field that comes with a lot of hard-work and responsibility but also the only field where respect, impact and satisfaction are unbounded.