In conversation with Dr. Sanjeev Kanoria, FRCS, MBA & Ph.D.] Founder Suasth Hospital, Healthcare Entrepreneur and Senior Liver Transplant Surgeon

There is no hiding from the fact that these past 180 days have turned the healthcare industry in over its head.

1. How have the last 180 days been for you? When do you think the current pandemic will end?

● Suasth Hospital has been at the forefront of fighting the coronavirus. We've had a 95% success rate with Covid-19 patients, in addition to treating Non-Covid-19 patients. There is no hiding from the fact that these past 180 days have turned the healthcare industry in over its head. As we are grappling to normalise the situation, our own health eco-system at Suasth is working continuously and tirelessly towards saving lives while minimising risk. With the commendable efforts that institutions world over are putting into the discovery and development of a vaccine, I am hopeful that a brighter future lies ahead of us.

No one can pen down an expiration date to the pandemic, however we can all hope for a systematic easing of the virus with an effective immunisation drive. The health ecosystem should stabilize once the vaccine is commercialized. Until then, it is advisable to continue to follow preventive measures like hand-washing, mask-wearing and maintaining social distancing.

2. Role of spirituality in modern medicine: can the two go together?

● The spiritual dimensions of healthcare have always been a long-standing topic of debate across the medical fraternity. Any ailment puts a patient under emotional and physical stress. Spirituality offers its own path, one that includes psychological benefits, a better response system to stress, healthier coping mechanisms and the activation of the immune system; all of which can help accelerate the process of recovery from prolonged illness and surgery. While in no way can we undermine the importance of treatment protocols, I firmly believe that a holistic combination of both can aid in healing the mind and the body.

3. The current state of public health infrastructure in India and what policy changes do we need?

● COVID 19 has been an eye-opener into India’s current state of healthcare and how well we are equipped to handle a pandemic situation. It has offered a unique opportunity to prioritise infrastructure in terms of no. of hospital beds available per 1000 population or availability of critical care equipment like ventilators; Govt. investments in public health schemes and manpower - medical or paramedical. There is a distinct need to build a better healthcare ecosystem that is preventative in nature.

One of the key agenda points that should be raised is to develop affordable healthcare infrastructure for the lower economic strata. Such centres need to be developed in rural, peri-urban and urban areas. Due to several challenges, specifically in rural areas it is important to set up tele-consultation hubs, hospitals on wheels, medicines on wheels etc. Additionally, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) should seamlessly collaborate towards strengthening India’s healthcare delivery system to achieve the last mile.

4. The future of healthcare - India needs to invest heavily in advanced healthcare systems through the latest technologies - like the use of AI, etc. What is your view?

● Digital advancement is the new frontier of innovation in healthcare. The healthcare industry can develop next-gen results by exploring new, intelligent and emergent technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI) is gradually being leveraged in recent times to predict which COVID-19 patients are at risk of developing complications. We’ve seen some great examples of leveraging technology in contact tracing and use of robots for thermal scanning. Additionally, there are some stellar examples of using technology in various aspects of healthcare; be it patient care, service delivery, adherence to treatment protocols or even disruptive innovations like robotic surgery and precision medicine. Essentially, technology can play a pivotal role throughout the continuum of care.

5. Tech innovations in medicine such as precision medicine, robotic surgery, minimally invasive surgery; what are your comments on these?

● AI and Technology in healthcare are laying a strong foundation world-over in healthcare and should be included in the medical curriculum to increase awareness and acceptance. Even before the pandemic, the growing awareness on healthcare has paved a way to imbibing tech for quality medical services. The current pandemic has accelerated tech acceptance. With assistance of robotics, faster data generation on patients' demographic and medical history has been crucial to progress.

6. What are the lessons to be learnt from COVID for effective healthcare management and infection control?

● Since the COVID-19 pandemic was a novel situation for the entire globe to handle and no one had ever witnessed such a massive health scare in the past, there have been immense learnings for all of us as individuals and as medical professionals. Below are a few highlights:

● Focus on increasing skilled manpower

● Equal focus on upgrading healthcare units in rural and city areas

● An attempt to set norms so as to be prepared for a widespread health attack

● Allocation of funds by the government towards preventative care

● Infection control forms a crucial part in managing such situations, therefore an effective and efficient infection control system which aids in curbing in-house infection spread and curtails infection exposure of healthcare workers

7. Do you think the rural health eco-system in India needs an immediate boost with villages not equipped with even the most basic healthcare services?

● We are witnessing a great disparity in the availability of skilled resources between rural and urban areas. In rural areas, the access to basic diagnostic equipment, medical tools and technology, and proper funding and resource support is lacking, and this must be addressed by the government.

8. How can we address the mental health of the young generation? Most of them have been dealing with anxiety, insecurity and high-stress levels.

● We strongly believe that the below is to be followed for a healthy wellbeing, not just for youngsters, but for all age groups:

News consumption to only be restricted to credible sources

Mindful use of social media

Yoga and meditation

Try to demarcate personal and professional life

Reduce work stress

Remove the stigma associated with mental health and offer counselling support

9. In an effort towards post pandemic recovery of healthcare facilities; governments across the globe need to think about measures to boost the healthcare units to normalize business in terms of opening services for non-COVID patients, especially senior citizen medical care, gynecology services, critical surgeries like transplants etc. What's your comment on this?

● Covid-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in the healthcare sector across the globe. The lockdown has resulted in a backlog of uncompleted treatments that had been scheduled over the lockdown period, as well as a dynamic backlog of elective surgical procedures that continue to be overdue as the health system experiences strained capacity. Currently, the prime focus of healthcare ought to be improving patient care and quality of life. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has resulted in significant fear amongst people of contracting the virus by visiting the hospital, leading many patients to avoid seeking healthcare. Healthcare leaders and governments should design strategies that make patients’ lives easier such that seeking treatment and care does not feel like an undue burden. For example, telehealth services have expanded substantially in response to the pandemic and have proven to be an influential means to connect with patients and their families. Even as clinics have reopened, we should continue to leverage telehealth services for preoperative counselling and permission to continue to offer the incredible convenience it offers. Stringent infection control protocols are necessary to ensure that Non-Covid services run smoothly in parallel.

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Healthcare industry Dr. Sanjeev Kanoria


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