‘The business of Healthcare allows you to do good, and maybe also make money’, Analjit Singh, Chairman of Max Healthcare, once said this in my presence and since then I have never stopped wondering about how ‘doing good’ is just as much a part of healthcare business as is making money.
If one was to stop and ponder for a minute, one would realise that healthcare business allows one to do good from the day one starts a hospital, while the making of money takes time, sweat, blood and tears. ‘Doing Good’ to my mind is the soul of this business and anyone, who does not have this objective at the back of his mind may as well never get into this business. For as Mr. Singh would say ‘there are dozens of easier ways of making money, if that alone is the objective’.
Before, I proceed further, let me hasten to add that I believe that the twin objectives of ‘doing good’ and profits are both equally important. Profit in my lexicon is not a dirty word at all. No business would remain a business if it was to steer clear from profits. However, to rush towards achieving the profits goal at the exclusion of everything else is foolhardy.
While working in hospitals one comes face to face with desperate people needing urgent medical care, which is beyond their means, accident victims arriving in the Emergency unable to pay for their treatment, children from disadvantaged sections of the society requiring complex surgery. For a ‘for profit’ hospital the dilemma is acute. They have a responsibility towards the share holders, which means free treatment can not be offered (certainly not beyond a point). However, being part of the community turning away people, for want of money is difficult for most doctors. Often ways and means are found to accommodate patients. Doctors, waive off their professional fee, ask medical devices manufacturers to donate expensive devices, hospitals waive off room rent and charge only for medicines consumed. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been part of hospitals, where we would do all of this and more to ensure that as far as as possible we did not turn away someone truly deserving of help and support at a difficult time.
I know of many doctors who run programs, (supported by the hospitals they work in), which allows them to treat the poor. Dr, Anil Bhan a well known cardiac surgeon works with destitute children from the hills in Uttarakhand. His program is truly remarkable as he has found an anonymous benefactor, who pays for medicines and consumables, while Dr. Bhan does not charge any professional fee for the surgeries and the hospital waives off the OR fee and the room rents. Dr. Harsha Hegde an Orthopaedic Surgeon, works with an NGO in Gurgaon, which takes care of street children. I am sure there would be many more conscientious doctors doing the best they can to help individuals seeking their help.
Apart from these unorganised efforts, which are but a drop in the ocean, I wish there was an organised program to help the not so well off access quality healthcare. A simple solution that guards the stakeholders interests as well as allows the hospitals to do good is to set up an NGO, partly capitalised by the hospital, partly through corporate and individual donations and partly maybe by government agencies. This NGO can then refer deserving cases to tertiary care hospitals, which can provide medical care and charge the NGO a much reduced sum equal to the cost of consumables and medicines for its services.
Like I mentioned earlier ‘doing good’ to the society must be an irrevocable contract that a hospital must have with the community it works in. Unlike other industries say a cola manufacturer or a car company, hospitals have a completely different set of responsibilities towards the society at large.
And finally, ‘Doing Good’ makes great business sense as well. A hospital known for its large heart and generous spirit will always attract patients.
Pic Courtesy http://www.flickr.com/Martin Heigan