Established in 2001, Fortis Healthcare is one of India’s largest health services providers serving 2.5 million people annually via its network of 28 hospitals and over 410 diagnostic centers spread across major Indian metro cities. It is at the front lines of helping the country battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and is also ensuring its patients get the care they require by pivoting to remote consultations online, keeping both healthcare workers and patients safe.
In the latest episode of Tete-a-Tech, Microsoft India president, Anant Maheshwari, caught up with Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, CEO and managing director, Fortis Healthcare over a Teams call where they talk about life in the new normal and the rapid digital transformation the healthcare industry is going through to address the challenge.
Anant Maheshwari: Welcome to Tete-A-Tech, Ashutosh. Let me get started with a question around the changes that all of us have experienced in the last six to eight weeks. For me, the new normal is working from home. What is it for you?
Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi: Thank you, Anant. For us, it’s kind of a strange situation where we are working from home, but our teams are working at the forefront. And sometimes, that can be a little distressing as well, because all your colleagues are out there and you’re not really at the front line. But, yes, working from home is a pretty big change for me personally. It’s something which we had never ever done.
It’s a big change but I’ve started seeing the value of it. We have realized that we can be more productive, and we are able to do much more as a team than probably we would do in physical meetings. So, yes, it’s a mixed bag. But some of the changes which have happened are here to stay and there is going to be a very different way we will look at work, life in general and specific components of our businesses, such as supply chains. Everything will become different, in my view.
Anant Maheshwari: As we look at your business and any business today, tech intensity is becoming the need of the hour for doctors, nurses, the clinical support staff, and the administration inside your company and hospitals. How are you enabling them with especially in a situation that nobody ever prepared for and it’s changing every day?
Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi: I think for a long time, various technological solutions have been coming, but their acceptability to become mainstream has been very slow. In a way, this event has acted as a catalyst to just put all that into the centre of it and people are realizing how we can be more efficient by using all those digital technologies.
Just to give you a simple example right now about how we use Microsoft Teams. We had this tool even before the current situation, but the usage was very low in our organization. But we are glad that we had this, because if we didn’t have this medium available to us, we couldn’t have functioned even at the normal kind of level. What we are realizing is that we’re able to function more than the normal level because none of us are spending time in commuting or waiting for people to join meetings physically.
We are also using Teams for our internal meetings, for teleconsultations with the patients, and for our learning and development needs.
Within the business, we also need to make sure that the information flow to our people about the various guidelines, advisories and all other restrictions, is readily available to them in a digital format. It’s a trying time for them and they have to be supported with as much information in real-time as possible. There is no other way other than going digital on that.
Similarly, going forward I think that the patient relationship is going to be very digital as well. People don’t have to come to the hospital to just gather some report or have discussions. All that can be done remotely.
Anant Maheshwari: In these times, how do you continue to manage culture and empathy in an environment where everybody is in crisis management mode?
Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi: It is a big challenge and I think in order to be able to keep the people motivated, it is very important that they have a sense of safety and security.
There are a lot of soft aspects of how we conduct our operations at such difficult times because it is a very stressful environment. We took various initiatives like increased insurance coverages. We created patterns of duties which were different from the normal so that people do not encounter the logistic challenge of travelling.
Our Fortis National Mental Health Services have created a helpline which works 24/7. It’s manned by our in-house psychologists and psychiatrists, and that is available in about 15 languages.
In this stressful time, healthcare workers usually step-up much more than we expect. They go beyond call of duty and I think that’s it is almost like what soldiers do in times of war. There are so many examples of how people have really gone beyond the call of duty and I think that the culture of empathy gets translated if the organization demonstrates it.
Anant Maheshwari: This is really inspirational. A big thank you from all of us who would depend on you and your organization in fighting this war. The healthcare industry and Fortis will transform during this crisis and will change as you emerge out of this crisis. How do you see that change landing? What kind of transformations do you foresee?
Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi: One of the first changes is that we will have to depend a lot more on technological platforms. I think we did not do enough in the past to promote teleconsultations, for instance, and many other things which could move onto the digital platforms, like our reports and our information systems. That is a very important part of what is going to happen.
It is going to happen in different ways and forms in other industries, but more so in healthcare, because healthcare is at the centre stage. As Fortis, we will definitely focus on various technological initiatives in order to be more relevant and provide more solutions to people so that that is going to be our main way of going forward.
Anant Maheshwari: Thank you so much, Ashutosh, for sharing your thoughts with us.