'India Needs More Trained Healthcare Professionals'

By Arun Kumar

Washington, March 1 (IANS) A leading Indian-American cardiac surgeon suggests a "lean healthcare" system model for India to attract larger private investments and widen its reach and says the country needs more trained healthcare executives to manage the growing industry.

"The best implementation of lean principles is optimising of available resources directly reflected by visible increased productivity," says Dr. Mukesh Hariawala, 50, who has just completed a "Physician Executive Healthcare MBA" programme at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

"This methodology, if implemented correctly, makes most hospital systems viable with augmented profitability," the Boston-based doctor told IANS. "This in India will attract and increase private sector participation including larger investments in the healthcare space."

"My dream is to see a vibrant Indian healthcare industry managed by trained educated professionals who can navigate India to the path of prosperity."

Hariawala, who did his MD from Topiwala National Medical School, Mumbai, said doctors in India too could do a better job of managing hospitals with a specialised management course like the one offered at Tennessee.

"Predominantly the culture of hiring CEOs in Indian hospitals is to seek retired defence personnel," he said. "The attraction is not experience or good finance acumen but simply their ability to bring in higher standards of discipline in the organization."

"Some excel with experience gained on the job," Hariawala said, but "it would be more desirable if healthcare executives go through a formal business education and the results would be exponentially greater."

Doctors in India particularly those in the pre-retirement age group phasing out from active clinical practice should consider an MBA programme especially since there are US programmes that are available which offer full internet distant e-learning, he said.

"This will lead to heightened career fulfilment and could open new revenue streams. This will also keep MBA graduate doctors actively engaged and productive longer in the Indian healthcare industry" Hariawala said.

Many medical colleges in India, including D.Y.Patil College in Navi Mumbai, had expressed interest in running combined MD/MBA programmes to make the Indian healthcare system more efficient.

India has a dual track healthcare system with government-funded hospitals catering to lower income group and the private sector geared to the affluent and upper middle class. As both are integral parts of the larger Indian healthcare community, Hariawala said, mandatory basic management education to all levels of providers of service would help them understand the values of conservation of available resources and run them more efficiently.

A doctor with an Executive Healthcare MBA with a better understanding of corporate governance and strong clinical knowledge offers a perfect combination of talent to steer Healthcare corporations to a position of strength as they develop new products or educate other doctors about their products.

Turning to the hot button issue of healthcare reform in the US, Hariawala said President Barack Obama had rightly given it top priority during his election campaign. But the timing of its push is not the best due to the current economic turndown which dilutes the attention it deserves, he said, as American citizens want all energies to be focused on job creation and address other urgent matters.

Healthcare reform must also be accompanied by insurance reform for it to be a meaningful long-term solution, Hariawala said.


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