• Dr. Subbiah Vishwanathan

How India's Largest Hospital Is Transforming Itself For the 21st Century


The Setting

Apollo Hospitals is widely recognized as the pioneer of private healthcare in India, and was the country’s first corporate hospital.

The Apollo Hospitals Group, which started as a 150-bed hospital and today, operates 9215 beds across 64 hospitals. A forerunner in integrated healthcare, Apollo has a robust presence across the healthcare spectrum. The Group has emerged as the foremost integrated healthcare provider in Asia, with mature group companies that specialize in insurance, pharmacy, consultancy, clinics and many such key touch points of the healthcare ecosystem. The Apollo Group has touched the lives of over 45 million patients, from 121 countries.

Apollo’s mission is to bring healthcare of International standards within the reach of every individual. It is committed to the achievement and maintenance of excellence in education, research and healthcare for the benefit of humanity.

The Context

This journey I am sharing is structured around the interventions I have deployed over the last 15 months as the Chief Operating Officer and Enterprise Head of Transformation at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai – the flagship unit of the Apollo Group. The journey my hospital and I embarked on 15 months ago has been around answering essentially one question: is the pursuit of customer centricity and organizational transformation a journey or a destination?

The pursuit my team of over 4100 family members (Apollo employees are family members) and I are taking is described below.

In order to drive recognition, alignment, velocity and execution I have challenged my leadership team to answer a core set of questions that helped structure the management system we have put in place to drive this pursuit.

What am I seeing?

I believe Indian healthcare is at an inflection point. Much like the rest of the world, hospitals in India are confronted with macroand micro level winds of change swirling into an increasingly unavoidable perfect storm that is fraught with severe consequences

Stakeholders that refuse to evolve and adapt will not sustain.

The storm is being advanced by a number of factors including needing to address the needs of an ageing 300 million 60 plus population of Indians (the population of the entire USA!), an explosion in the incidence of non-communicable diseases, a rapidly evolving regulatory and healthcare business landscape with newer, more nimble business models, severe scarcity in clinical and administrative talent coupled with a empowered consumer that continues to rebalance the traditional information asymmetry in the healthcare equation as well as articulating a heightened set of service expectations created by a frame of reference that spans service industries.

Another compounding factor that makes this a challenge stems from the extreme complexity and variation that is inherent in the space hospitals operate in.

The typical purchasing lifecycle of a healthcare consumer starting from awareness through consideration through preference/intent of purchase to actual purchase/repurchase is now being driven by a larger set of stakeholders, influencers, opinion makers and decision makers.

The velocity of the cycle interestingly has shortened and to that end we have come to realize in order to sustain and thrive in this new normal we must completely own the lifecycle.

The new normal we work in requires every interaction to be more responsive, more custom, more experience obsessed. In short a custom experience at an individual patient level is the ticket to lasting success and significance.

What is the way forward?

The simple epiphany we had (reflected in the diagram to the right) was the realization that customer centricity and Enterprise Transformation were two sides of the same coin and one without the other cannot and will not sustain.

To that end we crafted a strategy and a business model that is built on a strategy of building a reinforcing set of obsessive actions, processes, mechanisms and models meant to operationalize and produce a world class experience for one individual patient which we could and would replicate as many times over –driven entirely by the needs of that individual patient. We have built a core engine that works around 4 pillars of clinical excellence, patient care excellence, technological excellence and operational excellence.

A sample listing of initiatives across these pillars (see below) details the macro approach we have taken to baseline, analyze, pilot, revise and fully operationalize a management system that ultimately is designed to deliver a custom experience built on cues and insights garnered from the system’s understanding of the patient.

Every initiative within each pillar in essence is building a network around the patient ensuring that all systems are connected to optimize each and every touch point of the patient journey within the healthcare system.

Is this approach working?

Since we have started this journey in addition to a slew of awards won, I am particularly proud about the fact that my hospital was ranked as the number 1 private hospital in the country for 2 years running, won the National CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) Business Excellence Star award in customer, people and operations management ( 1st time in the history of CII where a single organization won all 3 categories), won the prestigious Australian Service Excellence Awards for world class customer service.

Have we made it?

No. We realize that we have but scratched the surface and we intend to continue to humbly obsess and pursue a journey that promises the opportunity to manifest the personal and professional transformation of the lives of 1.3 billion citizens of the world and counting.

Dr. Subbiah Vishwanathan is the Chief Operating Officer and Enterprise Head of Transformation of Apollo Hospitals, which is ranked number 1 by the Fortune magazine as the most admired healthcare company in India.

An acknowledged global operations transformation leader, Subbiah offers a distinctive blend of change expertise in forming and deploying enterprise level optimization strategies, building/leading world class teams spanning a variety of key enterprise functions including Strategy, Finance, Performance Excellence, Sales/Marketing Operations, Product, Process and Project Management. He is credited with a strong ROI and successful organization wide strategic/operational/ technological & cultural transformations in heavily regulated global Healthcare, Medical Devices, Information Services, Pharma, & Engineering industries.

A journey for the ages folks!


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