In Conversation With Dr. Mahendra Bhandari

Dr. Mahendra Bhandari is the Chief Executive Officer of Vattikuti Foundation

1. What are the major developments & achievements of Vattikuti Foundation in recent times?

Being the enablers of nonpareil robotic surgical techniques throughout the world, the Vattikuti Foundation continues to foster innovation towards patient-centered developments. The foundation has undertaken the responsibility of developing reproducible new techniques with global teams of experts. Techniques such as robotic kidney transplant procedures and precision robotic prostatectomy have improved the quality of patient outcomes following surgery. The efforts of the foundation have been recognized by the Smithsonian Museum of American History under the aegis of their section "Many Voices, One Nation", showcasing 500 years of the history of immigration. The foundation was recognized for Indians developing robotic surgery in the United States and taking the new technology back to the country of their origin, in this case, India. The foundation has not only invested in developing robotic kidney transplant recipient surgery in India but also helped establish this procedure and train surgeons across the globe.

The financials associated with the initiative are being sponsored fully by the foundation. The genesis behind the initiation of the program was to benefit patients across the world with the precision surgical techniques developed in India with the help of a global team of experts and export them back to the USA and other parts of the world. The major advantages of the technique over the conventional procedure are that it helps in the containment of major complications related to transplant surgery. It drastically reduces postoperative pain and thus requires minimal need for painkillers post-surgery, which could pose a threat to the new kidney. It also allows for better cosmetic outcomes, which is highly appreciated by younger patients.

Apart from advocating robotic surgical techniques, the foundation has always taken a panoptic view of the holistic development of the medical biome. Through the advent of the Vattikuti fellowship program, the foundation aspires to deliver quality surgical education coupled with the application of emerging technologies to enhance the surgical armamentarium to raise the standards of patient care. The program is designed for young Indian surgeons who aspire to pursue overarching excellence as professionals rather than just scratching the surface. The mentor surgeons are assiduously empaneled to ensure the fellows are trained as competent and safe surgeons under their tutelage.

The ecosystem for excellence in medical science, especially robotic surgery, is being driven by the foundation’s prestigious KS International robotic surgical video awards, conducted in the memory of Sri Krishnaswami Subramaniam, the late CEO of Vattikuti Technologies, who contributed mightily to the development of robotic surgery in India. This award, besides recognizing the best talent in robotic surgery, also showcases the best practices, adding to the catalog of videos on our website. For the first time, the competition is now open to robotic surgeons from around the world in 2022. The goal of the awards is to recognize surgical talent and share new, cutting-edge educational robotic surgery videos with the world.

2. How has Robotics taken over surgeries amid Covid and post-Covid?

As such, the COVID pandemic had no specific effects on robotic surgeries other than impacting non-emergency surgical workload. The number of surgeries did decline a bit; these patients could have waited to make room for the extra attention required for COVID patients.

3. Please shed some light on opportunities in robotic surgery?

Even though robotic surgery is a capital-intensive and cost-sensitive treatment, the potential for it in a country like India is vast. It is very useful for the majority of our labor class in India, as it has a shorter recovery time and its human costs are greatly decreased. The surgery at high volume centers saves money for both the patient and the hospital because the length of stay and the complications are drastically decreased. From a socioeconomic standpoint, this also means that a patient's early release results in no loss of wages. With the advent of robotic surgery, even sick patients who would otherwise be unfit for conventional surgery could be operated on. This situation is bolstered by the fact that India already has a low-cost robotic program, and the government must adopt it as an essential method of treatment by taking steps to attain and implement these surgical techniques into the public healthcare system. In addition, insurance companies should include this procedure in their portfolios so that it can benefit the general populace.

4. What is the market scenario in the post-pandemic world & trend of digital adoption in the Healthcare Industry?

The adoption rate for virtual consultations has shown an ascendance of up to 80% in India and the USA. By providing a virtual liaison for patients and practitioners in cases where there is a lower degree of health issues, the digital dimension has helped in better manpower utilization. The situation in the market has certainly faced an egregious impact in the wake of the post-pandemic alterations, as many hospitals have not manifested the required level of trust that could inspire them to invest in such technologies. However, the problems of proximity have given the adoption of these technologies an opportune chance as they have enabled interactive training models for the expedited and convenient inculcation of newer methods and proactive mentorship.

The onset of the installation of the facet of digital healthcare has also helped in breaking the barriers of prerogative notions amongst patients, where the assumption was that technology was for the benefit of doctors. The overall attitude has undergone a change, which has created a favorable posture towards the adoption and incorporation of digital technologies within the healthcare industry.

5. How are emerging technologies shaping the healthcare ecosystem?

The overriding convenience given by the emerging technologies in the healthcare ecosystem is the effort to assist the providers in a seamless way to deliver patient-centric medicine and healthcare. Software and communication tech-tools have certainly ameliorated the upkeep of data records and provided an easy-to-use and accessible common platform, making data available to healthcare providers via SMS. Due to the convenience that it provides, it is also creating a community of satisfied patients by furnishing contrivance services such as tele-radiology and diagnosis.

6. How has Covid-19 triggered a sprint towards smarter healthcare?

The adoption, incorporation, and implementation of smarter healthcare augmented by digital systems were never going to be a sprint but a marathon towards a better and holistic healthcare system. The COVID-19 pandemic has surely been the catalyst in the process and expedited the efforts by many pioneering medical institutions such as ours to assist in the influx of smarter healthcare practices. Due to the pandemic, the problem of proximity was engendered, and the digital dimension added an interlink for communication between the practitioners and their patients, creating more trust and fostering an acclivitous inclination towards such neoteric technologies. The period of the pandemic has also delivered innovative and interactive training models for accelerated, accessible, and novel methods of training for mentors and mentees.

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Vattikuti Foundation Dr. Mahendra Bhandari


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