Hospitals are all about People’s Skills

skill-setsI have rarely come across an industry, which requires a range of skills, which are wider than what one sees in the people, who work in hospitals. A hospital actually is an amazing aggregation of skills and talent, which one would hardly see in any other human enterprise.

Among the medical folks, there are doctors who are hugely knowledgeable, highly educated and supremely skilled in the art and science of medicine, there are nurses and paramedics, who symbolise compassion and care and there are support folks who provide critical support for running the medical function in the hospital.

Amongst the managerial teams, there are managers who handle the front office and interact with patients and their attendants. They are the face of the hospital, well trained, well groomed very presentable folks, who help put patients at their attendants at ease. They usually have very good communication skills, are people with immense patience and a sunny optimistic disposition.

A hospital also needs a lot of technical support and thus you find high tech bio medical engineers, who ensure that all the equipment in the hospital works flawlessly. Imagine what can happen if an equipment in the OR or in the ICU malfunctions at a critical moment. Much like doctors, their role requires quick thinking, complete mastery of  technical matters and planning for any eventuality.  Most bio medical engineers are rarely seen and heard in the hospital but behind the scenes they control the levers of the hospital.

These days a modern hospital runs on state of the art software, which connects every hospital function. A doctor can not write his notes or ask for medicines till the orders have been punched in the Hospital Information System (HIS). The nurses can not dispense medicines unless requisitioned through the HIS. A patient can not be admitted or treated unless the relevant files and records have been created in the HIS. While most hospitals do have a back-up manual system, it is rarely used largely because an IT team employed by the hospital ensures that the HIS is rarely down. These people are often quintessential techies, with very sound knowledge of hospital systems and processes.

At a 180 degrees of separation from these folks are people who look after functions such as Food & Beverages, Housekeeping and Security. They are all trained individuals as much an expert in their areas as any techie. They interact with patients and their attendants and hence also have superb skills in handling patient grievances. 

While all of those mentioned above contribute towards keeping the hospital humming, another set of people are those who manage the business side of things and have a completely different set of skills. These include the sales and marketing folks, who represent the hospital to an external environment, purchase managers and store keepers, who ensure that the hospital is well stocked with all the essential supplies and the finance guys, who keep an eye on how the money is being spent. People in all these functions have unique strengths. The finance guys are very good with numbers, the sales people drive innovation and have good communication skills and the purchase folks have tremendous negotiation skills and an uncanny smell for a deal.

A good hospital will always have good Human Resources and training personnel. They are the ones who ensure harmonious working relationships amongst a very varied and highly skilled workforce. They make the rules, which govern the conduct of individuals in the hospital, play a critial role in rewards and recognition systems, act as agony aunts and handle conflicts. To my mind the most important skill they bring to the table is an ability to get on with people, understand differing point of views and manage aspirations of a very diverse bunch of people. 

If I was to select two critical skills, which an individual who aspires to work in a hospital must possess it has to be compassion and communication skills. Anyone, who works in a hospital must have loads of compassion towards fellow human beings, an innate ability to see things from the patients perspective and take decisions with empathy and  with an utmost regard for the plight of the patients. The ability to communicate well with language or through a meaningful silence or by just a touch, would be a close second. Be it a doctor, a front office manager or a sales person the ability to communicate the right thing at the right time to the right person is an immensely valuable gift.

Pic courtesy www.flickr.com

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Doctor Doctor!

doctorSushil Jain and I grew up together in Indore, a provincial city in Central India. We were classmates for about a decade and I have known him from the time when both of us were about 8 years old. Sushil is now a cardiothoracic surgeon. I remember him today because unlike anybody else in our school class, he was from very early on sure about the career that he wanted to pursue. From as long as I can remember he wanted to be a doctor, just like his father. 

Sushil chased his dream with a single minded focus, prepared hard, appeared for the Pre Medical Tests, failed once, tried again and eventually succeeded in joining the medical college in Indore. He worked hard and graduated, tried a couple of times for admission in a post graduate course, failed and tried again. Finally, he trained to become a surgeon and is now well into surgical practice in a hospital in Indore.   Continue reading

On Nursing

nurseNursing is perhaps the most important function in a hospital. The nurses spend the maximum time with patients, are physically involved in taking care of them, are the first port of call if the patients need anything. Nursing professionals are also drivers of the hospital imagery. They epitomise care and efficiency and the patient experience that they deliver is what the patients carry with them. Well trained, well groomed and efficient nurses are a huge asset to a hospital. They are really the backbone of hospital operations.

And yet they are often treated in hospitals in India as mere skilled workers. They are made to work long hours (double shifts are common), live in hostels with bunk beds and have little by way of personal lives.     Continue reading

Homeopathy in a Modern Hospital

homeopathyA few days ago I received an sms from Artemis Hospital exhorting me to check out their Homeopathy services! This seemed strange as Artemis Hospital is one of the most advanced centres of medical care in North India and boasts of the highest level of medical advancement. It has invested tonnes of money on advanced imaging equipment such as a 3T MR, a 64 slice CT scanner, a PET CT and a 4D Doppler amongst other fancy stuff.

Artemis has highly experienced doctors and surgeons who literally operate on the cutting edge of technology. Amongst all this Homeopathy seems to be a little out of place.

Ask any doctor worth his salt about homeopathy and other alternate systems of medicine common in India and he will be downright derisive or at best will say that he is not sure of their efficacy. Doctors are trained in the science of medicine and surgery and rely on scientific evidence proven in laboratories and tested on animals and humans in scientifically designed and executed clinical trials. For them to accept homeopathy, ayurveda or the yunani system of medicine as effective treatment is difficult. Yet we have a modern hospital offering the services of a homeopath. I am intrigued.

Now, I have nothing against any system of medicine. I am sure the practitioners of any of these alternate systems of medicine have their own methods of diagnosing and treating people and I would also concede that there are enough people who believe in them. However I do know that God forbid, if I ever need serious medical attention I would head straight to a doctor qualified and experienced in the western system of medicine.  To me that is a straightforward choice.

I am also against mixing the modern western medicine with the likes of homoepathy and ayurveda. They just do not mix well. I would think twice about referring a friend to a modern hospital, which also offers homeopathy and ayurveda. Somehow, it appears that the hospital and the medical folks do not have enough faith in their own system of medicine. It seems like a tacit admission of the fact that these ancient alternative systems of medicines have something to offer even when modern medicine has failed. This I personally find hard to believe.

Arguments about offering a choice of medical systems to patients are also common place. This to my mind is bunkum. The patient wants a cure for whatever ails him. He wants it fast,with minimal pain and with a certain degree of reliability. He cares two hoots about the choice of medical system. If he walks into a hospital, he has already professed his faith in the western system of medicine. Offering anything else to him is downright foolhardy.

Why would Artemis hire the services of a homeopath and than go about promoting it? I can only say that if they are serious about homeopathy, they can always consider launching a homeopathy institute and call it something appropriate. After all Artemis Homeopathy Institute does sound weird. 

Pic courtesy http://www.flickr.com

 

 

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

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

The VIP’s at the Hospital Door

vipVIP’s with their peccadilloes are always tricky to handle and in a hospital the problem magnifies manifolds. If the VIP happens to be a politician, than he believes that he owns the hospital and everyone must be at his beck and call. This includes hospital staff, which is supposed to take care of the VIP at the exclusion of everybody else.

Ironically what escapes these VIP’s is that in many ways a hospital is a great leveller. You might be the mightiest of the  mighty, an illness treats you exactly the same as anybody else. It does not differentiate amongst its victims. When a doctor examines a VIP he does it the same as (I would presume) anyone else. The medicines work the same way, the course of the disease is not impacted by the office that the VIP holds. Thus logically a spell in the hospital must be a lesson in humility to the mighty ones. Alas, this happens but rarely.   Continue reading