Interview

‘Mental health needs to be recognised as severe health issue’

Gerald Jaideep

Medvarsity being India’s first and largest online medical certification and training company has played a significant role to train healthcare professionals. Through a wide range of clinical and non-clinical courses, it enables to upgrade clinical, management & leadership skills of a healthcare professional. Gerald Jaideep, CEO, Medvarsity Online Ltd, underlines the role of quality medical education, the importance of mental healthcare, and many other facets, in an interview with Kartik Sharma of Elets News Network (ENN).

Tell us about the initial journey of Medvarsity—a unique concept to equip medical professionals with the knowledge and right expertise.

It had been a part of the Apollo ecosystem as one of the ventures. Apollo has two medical colleges, 14 nursing colleges, and one management college. In addition, it has one institute for skill development and Medvarsity which takes care of the online education part.

The challenge of being closely associated with one of the largest healthcare companies of India was students, faculty, key opinion leaders, and experts are working with the competition which is two-third of the rest of the ecosystem, would be very resistant catering with us.

Then we decided to distance ourselves with the Apollo ecosystem. It was in 2016-end, we moved away from the Apollo ecosystem in a way that we are structured as an independent organization.

Also read: COVID-19 takes a major toll on the mental health of people

We have promoters held by the same promoters of Apollo, but we are not part of the Apollo group now.

What is the mission and vision of the company?

Our objective is to make an impact in healthcare via education. To bring a difference in healthcare through education, we need to work with every single healthcare facility whether it is college, hospital, or any institution that impacts healthcare.

By 2017-18, we partnered with almost 60 percent of the healthcare group across the country, which allowed us to bring significant value to our students.

In 2016, 1500 students graduated while in 2020 March, almost 8,000 students graduated from set of our courses. That shift allowed us to grow significantly.

One of the things which we have been focussing from last four years at Medvarsity is the non-communicable disease ecosystem, which has been a primary killer in India.

Encapsulate your focus areas where the organization wants to make a difference?

Non communicable disease has been a primary focus in India i.e diabetes, cardiac care, oncology, trauma, and road accident, where the skill gap exists.

During 1960 to 80s, infectious diseases used to be a big focus for healthcare in India. WHO, and other big healthcare organizations found to be working on an agenda to eradicate it. Every city used to have sanatorium, isolation hospitals as the infectious disease was a number killer at that time. But that profile changed due to vaccination and all. The ongoing Covid-19 tells us that infectious disease has yet not been overpowered.

We have realized two key things enabling the healthcare. Understanding of infectious disease has gone down across the healthcare ecosystem. Cholera, malaria, and chickenpox continue to be a threat but the impact has not been on the epidemic level. It is just a localised impact.

What are your key takeaways about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis?

We need to understand infectious disease, its spread, and the management process. Amid Corona outbreak, we need to understand the biology of this and many other such viruses.

The second thing we realized as a consequence of recent outbreak is the recognition of mental health as a disease condition, which needs to be addressed by mainstream healthcare. We never recognised it as a nation, culture, and ecosystem. 1.8 percent of our GDP dedicated for our healthcare and out of that mental health gets an insignificant portion. It is a microscopic part of 1.8 percent. There are not enough psychologists, lacks introduction to mental health as part of the MBBS curriculum, not enough students choosing to become physiatrists post MBBS.

We might get treated for symptoms but not for the underlying mental health issues driving those symptoms.

This realization came to us when we did an early workshop on stress during the covid-19 lockdown. Students were found stating that they were dealing with a huge amount of stress staying at home during the lockdown.

When we did first workshop, almost 60 percent of attendees were anesthesiologists and emergency medicine physiologists who are at frontline of Covid-19. They were dealing with lots of stress related to the fact that whether they would be back safe or not to their families.

In this light, we have focussed on three new segments—infectious diseases, mental health, and digital health, this year. Digital Health has become big focus for us.

Shed some light on your online courses which augment knowledge quotient of medical students.

Courses have been divided into three increasing level of competencies—certificate, advanced certificate, and fellowship. For an example, we have certificate in diabetes mellitus, advanced and fellowship in the same. The only difference between the three levels is that it starts from information aware to applications and practice. At level one, you understand the disease, what are symptoms and treatment protocols, where did it start and all. In intermediate level, you understand as a clinician how do you manage diabetes as a condition, when a patient visits are symptoms you would be observing, what are treatment protocols recommended by WHO and IMA. In level 3 which is the fellowship level, you understand the practice of it. You are deployed in a healthcare setting as an observer or clinical attachment where you work along with the specialist in managing the patient.

Also read: Bhopal to have National Institute of Mental Health

You start the journey with theory part of it, then the theory is relevant to the real world, and actually practicing in the real word under the supervision of expert.

How do you plan different courses keeping in mind relevance and requirement for students..what are the strategies for digital, mental health, and other courses?

We are a product organisation. While launching we need to check its relevance in the market and its acceptability. At the same time, it should also generate returns for our shareholders. And it has to shift the index for healthcare providers. We first work with the clinical advisory group to articulate a set of competencies gaps that exist within the healthcare system. This advisory panel is across our network of hospitals like Columbia Asia and Medanta. This panel gives recommendations. For example, if we take infectious disease as a category—the panel suggests different facets like understanding communicable diseases, corona and all. Corona comes under influenza so the panel suggests management of it and all other related infectious diseases. Then we map their relevance, expertise level required for practice, and which audience we are addressing. We map audience across all healthcare professionals. There is a long process. Finally we articulate a list of courses.

For infectious diseases, we currently released three courses. Our pipeline is to launch 12 new courses across all aspects of infectious diseases.

We have same strategy for mental health. We are not focussing psychiatric side in mental health which is prescriptive in nature. We focus diagnostic side—psychology aspect. We have courses like mental health and anxiety neurosis, Neuropsychology disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression management and all. We map the data in terms of a predominant disease condition in India and on that basis we create our priority list.

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