Pandemic transformed interaction between govt and private healthcare institutes: Dr. Vikram Shah

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the greatest medical emergencies in the modern world. With crores of cases across the globe, it is one of the gravest crises to grip nations. The pandemic transformed the interaction between government and private healthcare institutes and created a pathway to bring effectual change in the healthcare system. Given how technology has been transforming and building evolved business processes, hospitals are now gearing to engage digital technologies that will revolutionize the way they operate. caught up with Dr. Vikram Shah who is an M.S.Orthopedics and an entrepreneur. He is the founder Chairman and Managing Director of Shalby Hospitals, headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Excerpts:

How has Covid-19 impacted the diagnosis of other life-threatening diseases and treatment of chronic illness?

Covid impacted the treatment of other life-threatening diseases and the treatment of chronic illness by limiting medical resources and service disruption for its diagnosis. Lesser travel opportunities and other amenities, along with restructuring the staff to cater to Covid patients on priority, resulted in other kinds of treatments being severely impacted. People had to postpone the treatment and thus diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases were equally impacted owing to Covid-induced disruption. Being the largest joint replacement center in the country, at our hospitals we witnessed that patients suffering from joint disorders had to postpone joint replacement surgeries that they were planning to get.

What suggestions do you have for the healthcare industry which is braving the Omicron wave and has been stretched to the limit?

Omicron, though a milder variant as compared to Delta, does, however, affect the body’s upper respiratory system. The omicron-induced third wave has waned now, however, we need to be prepared for future waves, induced by omicron or other future variants. Creating alternative diagnostic strategies and adopting technology to address the ailment is critical. Since travel and physical contact may be limited in most situations, the use of telemedicine can be leveraged to replace in-person consultations with patients.
What aids do you expect from the Government for Tier – II and Tier – III cities, viewing the present healthcare condition in India?

The Government’s vision to increase public healthcare spending to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025 and its immunization efforts showcase its commitment to bring about a change in improving the present healthcare conditions in the country. However, I think more needs to be done about this. Its support in enabling hospital chains and specialty centers to build more facilities for testing, increasing isolation beds, medical staff, and equipment demonstrates the importance of a pro-health care government. For Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, the government is utilizing technology and providing additional support by increasing the number of beds per thousand population. This will eventually close the gap in suburban and rural parts of the country. Nevertheless, special and significant incentives to set up hospitals in smaller cities would go a long way in improving healthcare facilities in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. By announcing and activating schemes such as Ayushman Bharat and National Digital Health Mission, the government is increasing its efforts to spread awareness of its universal health cover ‘Health for All’ and making healthcare accessible and available. Various applications and tools have been offered to help even private players set up their base to increase the availability of their healthcare facilities. Besides the aids in smaller cities, what is desired is that soft skills like communication and grief counseling are included in the medicine and nursing curricula. Besides, there should be training sessions in hospitals to train the healthcare staff for faster response to the rapid rise in a number of patients.

As an expert in Joint Replacement Surgeries, tell us about Shalby’s Total Knee Replacement.

We started with a 6-bed nursing home in Ahmedabad way back in 1994. I had trained in the UK and USA in joint replacement and when I came back that is what I wanted to do. However, there was hardly any awareness about this those days. So, we had to educate people about joint replacement surgery. In the first year, we performed 14 such surgeries. Then we reached 100 the next year and then it started growing exponentially. Then there was no looking back and today we perform about 15% of all joint replacement surgeries performed by the private hospitals in India. In total, we have performed more than 1,25,000 joint replacement surgeries in the last 28 years, which is the highest in the world. With regards to Zero Technique, it is my method to conduct joint replacement surgeries that involve prior planning, implant selection, surgical technique planning, and patient counseling, among other things This process removes all unnecessary instruments, making the entire surgery very simple and effective. The zero technique is named because all the usual surgery requirements such as surgery time, method, recovery time, hospital stay, medicines, blood loss, patient, and relative’s mental stress, etc. come down to almost zero levels. Even the blood transfusion that is required is minimized. This technique is successful because it involves prior planning, implant selection, planning on the surgical technique, and counseling the patient regarding the surgery. All the requirements of the surgery are pre-planned and arranged so that the surgery and post-surgery recuperation time is negligible. I would like to add that besides the number of people whose quality of life we have been able to improve with joint replacement, what has been really satisfying for me and my team at Shalby has been the longevity. A great number of people whose surgeries I had performed 20-25 years back are still walking pain-free today. For a surgeon nothing could be more pleasing and satisfying than this.

How do you think the new Digital system mentioned in the budget will help as we brave the Omicron wave?

The pandemic transformed the interaction with government and private healthcare institutes and created a pathway to bring effectual change in the healthcare system. By making telemedicine legal, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, along with NITI Aayog rolled out guidelines for medical practitioners to provide medical and healthcare services by using telemedicine. The digital mission incorporates the revolutionary components of telemedicine, healthcare IDs, health records, e-pharmacy, and Digi-doctor services for the patients. With over Rs. 64,180 crores being invested over six years to improve the primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare systems in the country, the budget also announced the launch of 23 telemedical health centers in partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience. The open platform for the national digital health ecosystem would comprise digital registries of healthcare providers and facilities.

How has the healthcare industry evolved since the pandemic?

The healthcare industry has witnessed an increase in public spending on health and well-being. Since the pandemic, health and wellness have seen active participation across public and private players. This has consequently improved the healthcare delivery system, which became the foundation for new initiatives and government-led schemes. This evolution is the right shift in terms of fostering a convergence across health schemes and policies available in the market. The pandemic has caused the creation of a robust and collaborative healthcare ecosystem that further enhances the partnership between public and private healthcare providers to contribute to improving the health care of the country.