‘Insurer Offers Option for Surgery in India’

medical-travel It has finally begun.

 A story in the New York Times last week, captioned ‘Insurer  Offers Option for Surgery in India’ caught my eye. Rewind to the summer of 2006, when I was in New  York trying to convince some of the leading health insurers to consider developing a  new low premium health insurance product for the huge numbers of uninsured in the US. Everybody I met heard me out patiently but was not willing to take the plunge. I tried hard but success eluded me. Some of my colleagues consoled me by saying that maybe I am ahead of the times.

Now it seems they were right. The New York Times report says that ‘the health insurer Wellpoint is testing a new program that gives covered patients the option of going to India for elective surgery, with no out of pocket medical costs and free travel for both the patient and a companion’.   Continue reading

The Terror in Mumbai

taj-on-fire I am shocked and bewildered at the audacity of the terrorists in Mumbai, who are holding the country to ransom. As the gruesome drama unfolds live on television channels going berserk, one is left wondering at what might be some of the consequences of this dastardly act.

I woke up this morning to the headlines in the Hindustan Times about terrorists striking in Mumbai and having killed more than 100 people in random firing at public places including the crowded Railway Station, busy hospitals, beaches and finally taking hundreds of people hostage in the landmark Taj and Trident Hotels in downtown Mumbai. Switching on the television, brought the tragedy and horror to ones bedroom.   Continue reading

The Gay Season

gays It seems that the Gay season is upon us.

The gay rights movement seems to be generating unprecedented media attention. The courts are busy hearing petitions against a law framed in the 19th century, which proscribes homosexuality and the punishments for anyone caught in the act includes a maximum of 10 years in jail. The newspapers are writing stories about a gay couple from Israel, who have become parents through a surrogate mother who bore their child in Mumbai and a popular movie, which brings the gay question out of the closet is running to packed theatres across the country.

All this attention to an issue, which is still hardly a matter of discussion even amongst friends (forget family) is quite amazing. Gay rights activists are no longer considered pariahs and they are often seen in the media holding forth on issues that till now have been buried deep underground.   Continue reading

Our Attitude Towards Mental Health

mental-health-cartoon Mental Illness in many societies across the globe including India is considered to be the  wrath of God, a punishment for past sins and people with these problems are often  shunned. Psychiatrists, are also often looked upon as ’emotionally unstable’ characters lost  in their own worlds. The practice of Psychiatry is considered to be ‘unscientific’, ‘imprecise’  and ‘ineffective’. A study published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine last year  titled ‘Beliefs and Attitudes towards Mental Health among Medical Professionals in Delhi’ revealed some of these and other sorry facts.

The study was conducted in 3 medical teaching institutions in Delhi and had a sample size of 76 doctors working in these institutions. A questionnaire was used to gather information about their attitude towards mental illness, knowledge about the causes of mental ailments and the treatment modalities.   Continue reading

The Preventive Healthcare Conundrum

200308966-001It really takes a lot to understand the truth in the old adage that Prevention is better than Cure.

Marketing of Preventive Healthcare Programs in hospitals is a tough call. While one would expect consumers to grasp the importance of Prevention and thus the need for regular health checks, in my experience as a healthcare marketer in India, this is one of the most difficult products to sell.

Hospitals have spent money by the bucketful to understand the underlying consumer psyche and device products, which the consumers may find meaningful, but rarely have they succeeded in attracting customers for Preventive Programs. They have resorted to gimmicks like the Max Platinum Healthcare Program, but nothing really seems to be working.     Continue reading

Doctors and Grassroots Marketing Initiatives

200140282-001 During my many years as a healthcare services marketer, my biggest challenge has been to  involve doctors in the marketing of their service lines. I have tried to think through this.  How can I possibly have a greater and an in depth involvement of doctors in the marketing  of a program. It seems that many are just not interested and consider getting involved in  something as prosaic as grassroots level marketing beneath their dignity as doctors.

Frankly, as a marketer I would hate to start a marketing program, without a complete buy in from the doctors concerned. That unfortunately happens rarely. I recall my efforts at starting a relationship program for individuals with a high risk of cardiac diseases as well as those, who are currently under medication for the treatment of heart disease.     Continue reading

The Evergreen Mantras for Failure!

doc-ceo If you are a surgeon and a  CEO of a yet to be launched/recently launched hospital, with a great vision about creating a truly world class hospital, here are some useful tips on how to fail!. If any of you dear readers, find any resemblance to any individual, hospital or real life situation let me assure you that it is just your imagination working overtime.


  1. Select a set of promoters who know nothing about healthcare, do not know the difference between a CT and an MRI and between an orthopaedician and a paediatrician (sounds the same eh!). 
  2. Bedazzle them with your medical knowledge by constantly sprouting jargon. Display high levels of energy and commitment, while never compromising on golfing holidays.
  3. Commit an impossible deadline for starting the hospital operations and than as the deadline approaches, keep telling the promoters that the hospital will start on time. On the appointed day do tell everyone that you are ready to start except the damn hospital is not ready and everyone involved in its construction has really taken you for a ride.
  4. Blame all cost and time over runs on executives from the promoter’s parent company meddling around in the hospital’s affairs.
  5. Hire a bunch of doctors, who are medical school buddies and friends.  
  6. Also hire a set of professionals, brighter than yourself, give them the freedom to perform and if they do better than yourself, ensure that they get the sack.
  7. Compromise on everything that you professed to believe in. While you go about doing this do tell all and sundry that these are things you are being forced to do by the promoters, who in any case know nothing about medicine.
  8. Hire a Chief Operating Officer, whose wattage is 1/100th of yourself and ensure that he is always there to take the rap for everything that goes wrong.
  9. Have your own surgical outcomes comparable to the worst surgeon in the hospital, however never forget to have a weekly lecture on all things under the sun including medical outcomes.
  10. Always have a sidekick and confidant along, to perform the surgeries and also to provide a handy shoulder in these difficult and sorrowful times.
  11. When the going gets really tough, get going, er bolt.

Pic courtesy www. flickr.com

A Recent Experience with a TPA

health-insuranceA few days ago a colleague mentioned to me that his wife has developed a painful swelling on the underside of her wrist. Knowing that I have worked in hospitals in Delhi, he wanted me to guide him to the right doctor.

An MRI was duly done and the problem was identified as a cavernous haemangioma. Cavernous hemangiomas are wild, jumbled growths of blood vessels fed by numerous tributary arteries. They are probably all present at birth, but start to enlarge rapidly after delivery.

My colleague fixed an appointment with Dr. Atul Peters a laparoscopic and general surgeon at Max Healthcare in New Delhi. Dr. Peters recommended surgical removal of the growth indicating that the patient will need to stay in the hospital overnight.   Continue reading

Doctors and Managers-The Big Divide

doctors-and-managersThe big divide in a hospital between managers and administrators on one side and medical folks on the other  is something that no one really wants to talk about. 

A hospital is an immensely complex enterprise. The challenge is to manage an extremely diverse set of people with vastly differing education levels and skill sets but all contributing towards a unique patient experience. And than there is the uncertainty of the outcome, the human drama and the question of life and death. And than one has to churn a profit to keep the enterprise afloat. Not an easy task by any reckoning.

To expect a doctor not trained in management practices to deliver all this and more is unfair.

Here steps in the intrepid manager and the fight begins.   Continue reading

Healthcare for Those who can not Afford it.


Turning away a fellow human being from the doors of a hospital when he is ill and unable to pay the bills appears to be wrong. However, if one was to dispassionately examine the situation, setting up and running large hospitals require huge amounts of capital, which has to be recovered from those who use the services of the hospital. If the hospitals were not to charge for their services from those who cannot afford to pay, they will soon go belly up and that surely does not help anyone.

So what does one do?   Continue reading