Monday, November 21, 2016

He transformed medicare in India



This article, published in the `Madras Musings` issue dt. November 16-30,2016 is based on the Biography of Dr.P.C. Reddy,  titled `HEALER`, written  by Pranay Gupte

`At the age of fifty, when most people start planning to retire Dr.Prathap Chandra Reddy  decided that he was going to revolutionize  healthcare in India. In 1983, the renowned cardiologist launched the country`s first professionally run private sector hospital system. Thirty years later Apollo Hospitals has become one of the world`s largest provider of high technology healthcare.  Apollo today is an industry pioneer and a world leader in areas like Heart, Liver, Bone morrow transplant and robotic surgery`
How this happened is the story   titled ` Healer- Dr.Prathap Chandra Reddy by , Pranay Gupte,(Portfolio Penguin). Pranay Gupte,the author of several books and a columnist for Newsweek, tells the story based on interviews with  hundreds of Dr.Reddy`s  friends, relatives, colleagues and others who crossed his path during the course of his illustrious career as a top cardiologist  and as a visionary who built the Apollo group. `Healer` is a blend of  anecdote, reportage, analysis and narrative` The book  has interesting  information about how Dr.Reddy had to manoeuvre through difficult bureaucratic and complex medical systems to realize his dream of establishing the first corporate hospital in India.
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Dr.Reddy hails from a rich agricultural family in Aragonda in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, where his father was the village chief. Born as the fifth  child among seven siblings Dr.Reddy was the first in the family  to move out of the village. He came  to study  medicine in Chennai. He received his M.B.B.S from Stanley Medical College in Chennai in 1957.  In 1963 he went to Britain and later to U.S.A where he worked in hospitals in Worcester, Massachusetes & Boston before settling down in Springfield, Missourie, gaining a reputation as a heart specialist. Seven years later , he and his family returned to India after receiving a letter from his father `reminding him to come back to India to do his duty to his Desam and Samajam` . He joined HM hospital in Madras as the head of its cardiac division. 
Soon after his return in 1970 he lost both his father and mother and was disturbed  that he could not do anything to save their lives. But the real trigger to start a world class hospital happened when he lost a thirty eight year old patient because the man could not mobilize the resources for a heart bypass operation in the US.
What started as a single 150 bed hospital in Chennai,  inaugurated on 18th September, 1983  Apollo has now grown into one of the largest healthcare provider in Asia with over 8500 beds at more than 50 hospitals in India and abroad.    Giani Zail Singh the then President of India who inaugurated the hospital called it ` An American hospital in India`
Among the many firsts that the group can claim,  here are a few:
Apollo was the first corporate hospital in India  to list its equity shares in Madras & Bombay stock  exchanges and later the National Stock Exchange; First to have a multi-organ transplant in the country; a  dedicated Linac based stereotactic radio surgery unit outside the  USA ;  telemedicine facility in the country using  satellite technology and  a PET CT, the 124-slice CT scan.
Medvarsity Online Limited was the first medical e-learning venture established in India;
 Apollo Hospitals New Delhi became  the first hospital in the group ( later to be followed by other units) to receive accreditation from  Joint Commission International (JCI), USA considered a `Gold Standard` in healthcare accreditation.
Other firsts include,  Introduction of Master Health Check up as a preventive and disease control measure,.   `Hospital on Wheels` and  `Reach` hospital concept leveraging technology to make available quality and affordable tertiary health care accessible to BOP individuals in rural areas .
 Dr.Reddy,  comes across as a visionary, a risk taker, a strict disciplinarian, a transformational character and above all as a good,  friendly soul who sincerely believed in the `healing touch` of the doctor with his  patients. Whenever he meets a patient in his consulting room or during his Rounds of the Wards he will never fail to put his arm around the patient giving the reassurance to the patient that the doctor really cares for him. This `Making one feel good` experience has been echoed by not only patients  but by many others  who have crossed his path. Any guest visiting Dr.Reddy`s home would have to have something to eat and drink. Even their drivers would receive the same hospitality.
Dr. Reddy always  emphasized that the  key ingredient in health care is the personal attention and qualifications of  persons who attend to the patients. Medical colleges and hospitals around the world are taking note of the fact that technology isn`t the only thing that drives success in  health care. `Dr.Reddy and Apollo have practiced `the high-tech/high touch` philosophy since Apollo opened in 1983`. Other characteristics of  of Dr.Reddy which wins people over are his ever smiling face, his self assurance and self confidence. According to B.A Kothandaraman,( of Viveks fame) one of Dr.Reddy`s oldest friends, ` the important thing is that his success hasn`t gone into his head.`
Dr. Reddy also highlighted that while practice of medicine is at the heart of any hospital, administration and management  are key components as well. He often takes time to meet Apollo`s management team and never fails  to felicitate them on special occasions such as birthdays.
One of the biggest  achievements of Dr.Reddy has been his ability to persuade hundreds of highly qualified NRI doctors, each a specialist in his field,  having very successful practices abroad to come back to India. He did this by promising them the best technology support, equal to the best available in the world and a congenial atmosphere with the freedom to pursue their practice without interferences from the management. And of course a good remuneration package. No wonder many of them have continued to be associated with the hospital since its inception. Considered the  `pillars` of the system or `Tigers` as Dr.Reddy would like to refer to them, are  big names like Dr M.R. Girinath,  Dr. Mathew Kalarickal, Dr. I. Sathyamurthy- all well known heart specialists -  Dr. M.K.Mani,  the Nephrologist , the late Dr. N.Rangabashyam  a gastrointestinal surgeon & Dr. Joseph V.Thachil,  an  Urologist.
Dr.Reddy is a very spiritual man with implicit  faith in God. His favourite deity is Hanuman. He never  fails to spend time every day in his Puja Room and also makes it a point to regularly  visit the Krishna,  Mariamman temples located inside the  Apollo Hospital premises. According to his daughter Preetha, `Daddy gets a lot of strength from the Veda and the Mahabharata. He meditates for an hour every morning. Daddy has the ability to focus on his goal. His goal was better health care for India. There are other characteristics that daddy exemplifies: leadership, integrity, strength and wisdom`
Dr.Girinath, who has worked closely with Dr.Reddy for over three decades says,` I`ve watched Dr.Reddy  develop from a struggling businessman to a corporate giant. It is a story to be studied by anyone who wants to know how knowledge, will power, determination and foresight and intuition can be put to work in the pursuit of an ideal.`
Dr.Reddy has also won several Awards for his enduring  contribution to  the health care scene in India including the `Padma Bhushan` in 1991.
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When questioned by Gupte, if  he  considered himself a visionary, Reddy replied,` Being a `visionary` simply  means observing your environment and thinking how you can make a difference…. I believe that each one of us has it within us to become transformational figures. As I look at my life, I can say truthfully that I did the best that I could do. But that is not enough for me. There is more to be done – much, much more. I feel blessed by the continuity that my four daughters and their children and the Apollo family offer for Apollo. They are the standard bearers of our brand. They are the keepers of my legacy and they will all become leaders in their own right. Can a man in my place expect anything more of his family?`
`Healer` tells Dr.Reddy`s inspirational story like it has never been told before.
Footnote:
Outside the Apollo world, horse racing and card games are Reddy`s passion
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