“Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director, Medanta – The Medicity, is one of the most respected, admired and talented cardiologists in India. Dr Trehan is now working towards making quality healthcare available to every person in the country through his recent endeavor-Medanta.
In conversation with Divya Chawla and Dhirendra Pratap Singh, he speaks about his journey and the key issues that affect the Indian healthcare industry today”
What was your objective behind starting a world-class affordable healthcare facility like Medanta in India?
During the earlier days of my career, I was practicing in the United States and was well settled there. However, I always believed that India has all the ingredients for being a great and progressive nation, but it is not disciplined enough to achieve this. For this reason, there has always been a big gap between what it should be able to do and what it is actually doing. In India, patients were dying because of lack of appropriate facilities and nobody was able to do anything. In the US, with availability of latest technologies and trained manpower, 99 percent of lives were saved. Patients from India used to visit me in the US to get their heart surgery done and that cost them ten times more than the usual cost.
It was then that we built Escorts Heart Institute in 1988 to provide world-class facilities for heart patients in India.
From 1998-2003, India changed drastically with several technological advancements and developments. It was then, that the need for institutions, which not only offer the highest end treatment but can also be the fountainhead of knowledge with new therapies, in India. We wanted to develop institutes like Howard, Cleveland and Mayo in India and therefore we built Medanta as a next step in India’s progression towards healthcare self sufficiency.
The whole purpose of my life has been to make the highest-end facilities available in India. We already had the skills for doing that and through Medanta, we built the infrastructure and technology.
Further, we have been fortunate enough to have the best doctors join us as Chairmans of respective divisions in the centre.
Having achieved all this, our next biggest purpose was to provide treatment at affordable costs and all of us agreed to bring down the cost as much as possible, although this was difficult from the business point of view.
Being a world-class institute, how is Medanta focusing on research and development? How much of the total budget is allocated for research?
If we talk about affordability, if America with 300 million people and more than US $ two trillion spend on healthcare can not afford to give appropriate health services to its people, then how can a country like India can give service to its people at affordable cost. So, there is an urgent need for developing countries to come up with new therapies which are good, equally effective, less traumatic to the human body and at least at half the cost.
With this endeavour, we are now developing newer therapies using power of traditional medicines incorporated with modern medicines in the coming 5 to 10 years which not only India, but also countries like United States can use. Medanta is currently focusing on researches in neurosciences and Parkinsons disease. Ten percent of our budget automatically goes to research and this will progressively increase.
With all your endeavors, have you succeeded in making India the healthcare destination of the world?
Naturally India is the healthcare destination of the world; however, there are many lacunae, for instance poor infrastructure. We can still offer treatment which is even better than what is offered in the United Sates. We have the means, the expertise and the technology and we have patients coming to us from all over the world.
How many patients, on an average, are coming to Medanta from foreign countries?
Almost 20 percent of our patients are coming from other countries including Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Thailand. We are also getting patients from Europe, Canada and the US.
How many in and out patients do you get, at Medanta, in a day?
On an average we get 1200 out-patients and 120-150 admissions/discharges in a day.
As of now, what are the different technologies installed at Medanta?
In the medical technology space, we are using high-end technologies such as hand-held ultrasound equipment from Sonosite.
In the health IT space, we have a Picture Archiving and Communications System from Siemens installed. Health IT has contributed tremendously to patient safety. With the help of health IT solutions, one can do all sorts of monitoring remotely for every treatment available. You could be sitting there at home and avail the benefits. Moreover, telemedicine and video conferencing have multiplied these benefits.
How has the field of Cardiology grown in India and what have been the innovations in this field in the last decade?
Cardiology has made good strides. If we see knowledge-based techniques, then India probably ranks number one in Cardiology. Heart being a very critical organ of the human body, all healthcare providers including smaller hospitals are giving greater priority to it.
We are now moving towards less invasive and preventive therapies. Since our knowledge is improving, we are also focusing on preventive measures in cardiac diseases. As far as angioplasty is concerned, invasiveness and better things are happening. We are doing surgeries like bypass without using machines. There have been many technological improvements in Cardiology. Research has improved to a level where we can do heart surgery with 99.8 percent accuracy.
Similarly other fields are also progressing. At Medanta, new technologies have helped improve the accuracy of neurosurgery by 30 percent. Unfortunately, these newer technologies are very expensive, but the human benefits they offer are very huge.
Further, liver transplants have come a long a way and the results of liver transplant have improved tremendously. We are also about to include heart transplant. The biggest challenge is to lower down the cost of these technologies.
Despite being one of the fastest economies in the world, India still has 30 percent people living below poverty line with no access to proper health services. In such a scenario, what should be the role of government as well as health leaders to bring about the change?
India needs approximately 50,000 doctors a year. To achieve this target, we need to almost double our infrastructure, if we talk theoretically. India is not achieving the potential it can and to do that in the health sector, it needs to align prevention, primary, secondary, tertiary, research and education sectors together.
Another challenge is that currently primary and private sectors are not working in a cohesive way.
The problem is that we are not moving fast enough to achieve the required target and therefore we need to act on all these issues immediately.
What is your dream and who is your idol?
My dream is to make quality and affordable healthcare service available to every Indian. Professionally, I admire Dr Frank Spencer and try to follow his footsteps; while I consider Dalai Lama as my spiritual guru and my father as my idol.