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Just what the hospital ordered: Global accreditations

India's healthcare industry is looking global while acting local. Spurred by a phenomenal boost in the medical tourism industry...

Written by Zeenatnazir | Pune |
September 18, 2006 1:24:18 am

India’s healthcare industry is looking global while acting local. Spurred by a phenomenal boost in the medical tourism industry — poised to touch the $2 billion mark in India by 2012, according to a joint report by McKinsey and the Confederation of Indian Industry — a number of premier healthcare institutes are now vying for international accreditations to give themselves a global appeal.

And to cater to the surge in demand are a basket of accrediting bodies, prominent among which are the Joint Commission International (JCI) and ISO 9001:2000, which is the generic standard for Quality Management System across the world.

So far, two Indian healthcare chains — Apollo and Wockhardt — have been granted the Joint Commission International (JCI) Accreditation, catapulting them into an exclusive league of 71 international hospitals, such as Harvard Medical and Massachusetts General, to have cut the grade.

In fact, most Indian hospitals seem to be vying for either ISO accreditations or the JCI, as other reputed ones like the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards and the Malaysian Society for Quality in Healthcare primarily grant recognition to hospitals in their own country.

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What’s spurring the demand is the increased medical tourism activity in the country and the lack of any credible domestic accreditation body. “Even now, Indian hospitals are not required to provide information on the outcomes of treatments or procedures used. In such a scenario, there is a pressing need to have standardization norms to discipline the healthcare delivery process throughout the country,” feels Vishal Bali, CEO of Wockhardt Hospitals, which received JCI certification a year ago.

And the importance of international patients is evident. “Our Delhi hospital alone admitted 12,000 foreign patients last year, most of whom needed high-end, super speciality surgeries. Typically, these patients are charged more as we provide them a whole bouquet of services and package deals that include flights, transfers, hotels, treatment, better rooms and post-operative care facilities. So although they may comprise 15 to 18 per cent of our total patients, they bring in much higher revenues,” explains Anil Maini, president, corporate development of the Apollo Hospitals Group.

With each such patient shelling out an average of Rs 3 lakh on treatment, it’s little wonder that Indian hospitals are spending big to procure such certifications. As Bomi Bhote, CEO of Pune’s Ruby Hospital says, “Typically, a certification like JCI requires a spending of roughly $100,000 as it requires a comprehensive rewriting of protocol and innumerous consultancy work. And this is over and above any infrastructure upgradation work that may be needed.”

Despite the expense involved, most hospitals feel such recognitions are essential to place Indian healthcare firmly on the global map. “Moreover, most of the global insurance companies like SAS have begun to demand such accreditations and recommend only certified hospitals to their clients,” says Dr B.K. Trivedi, CEO of Pune’s Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital, which is also vying for international accreditions. These days, Trivedi adds, Indian insurance companies and big corporate houses are also demanding top standards.

While most hospitals may be opting for such accreditations to boost their outpatient revenue, the biggest beneficiaries would be domestic patients. “For instance, most of these accreditations prescribe detailed parameters on quality standards, benchmarks, metrics and compliance norms, ensuring gold-standard quality,” says Bali.

And as R Basil, MD and CEO of Manipal Health System, which has acquired an ISO 9001:2000 certification and an accredition by a German body, TUV, says, “If protocols are followed strictly, the number of complications arising from negligence and malpractise would also drop significantly.”

But he is quick to add that international standards would not mean that Indian hospitals charge more from their domestic patients. “Rather, increased volumes of patients would enable us to keep our costs down, while delivering the best service,” he feels.

However, most experts feel that India would have to pull up its socks quickly and formulate stringent domestic healthcare guidelines. “Else, countries like Thailand and Malaysia with international healthcare standards would capture the market,” warns Maini.

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