On the Back of a Star

The star syndrome is a common phenomenon, which dazzles many a newly minted hospital.

I have been part of several start-up hospitals and have attended numerous meetings where all those who matter spout the now so familiar arguements about staying away from the ‘stars’ in the medical firmament. The arguements run something like this.

The star doctor (a well established doctor with a roaring practice) will be too set in his practices, will bring too much baggage and will never follow our pristine processes, which are far superior to his current practices. He will be a bad influence on everybody else. Another arguement goes that we do not believe in the ‘star’ system. Why should a ‘star’ enjoy priviliges, which are not available to our other doctors. A third arguement goes that we believe in growing our own stars. The hospital brand should be the real star and not individual doctors.  

One can not really pick a flaw in any of these arguements. Star doctors are known to be egoistic, believe that making patients wait only adds to their stature, often indulge in practices, which are against the laid down hospital policy, break rules with impunity and in general do what they please. The management treats them with undue deference often causing resentment amongst peers. All this because they know they pull in a large number of patients and contribute significantly to the hospital revenue.

Once a new hospital commences operations without stars and the overheads mount relentlessly, while the revenue stream is at best a trickle, the need of a ‘star’ is felt acutely. The desire to ramp up fast and keep the promoters and other stakeholders off ones back takes precedence over all those arguements cited earlier.

The Star becomes the saviour. The CEO and all other ‘chiefs’ go ‘star’ chasing. The star is difficult to catch and quite often one can only sight it in the middle of the night. Meetings happen at his convenience usually anytime between midnight and 3 in the morning. Once on board he is treated like royalty. The star joins with a retinue comprising of his personal staff (numerous secretries, personal assiatants etc.), other doctors ranging from senior consultants to residents and the like. The star is presented to potential patients as as a great trophy. The hospital starts shining in the star’s reflected glory. The patients start coming in and life becomes wonderful.

The bliss lasts for a few years. The star is able to fill up many beds. The trouble begins when one realises that under the star’s dazzle nothing else grows. He eclipses the hospital brand, does not allow others to take roots, keeps the hospital management genuflecting to his whims and fancies and often bullies patients leading to bad word of mouth. The aura of the star starts diminishing. 

Soon the hospital realises that probably they were better off without the star. The old arguements are resurrected. The star starts becoming a mere mortal. The hospital realises that getting rid of the star might not be a bad idea. However, it is easier said than done. Rememeber within the hospital’s system the star has many a planets revolving around him.

Eventually the star is either eclipsed or simply allowed to wither away. The management team now believes that they can pull in patients on the strength of the hospital’s brand name and soon the star finds itself being wooed by another new hospital, which has come up in these years and is desperately looking for a star to shore up its fortunes.

I wish this was a fable. Folks at all the leading hospitals in Delhi, which include Max Healthcare, Fortis and Artemis will bear this out. Some are at the stage where their ‘stars’ are falling, others are desperately looking for the stars to light up their lives.

The great game goes on…


The image is from www.flickr.com

One thought on “On the Back of a Star

  1. Hi Anas,
    I worked with Max for more than 2 yrs and joined it when it was opened. I very much agree with what u discussed here.I infact can visualise the people who r kept in centre of this discussion.

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