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Operational Excellence: The Key To Affordable Healthcare in South Asia


Years ago, when I was in my late teens, my uncle was diagnosed with epilepsy – a chronic disorder characterized by seizures. Back in the day, most people weren’t aware of this condition and didn’t even know how to identify it. I was living in Hyderabad, India, where I am originally from, and witnessed the hardships that my uncle had to face along with my family in dealing with this disease. I can still remember taking him to several hospitals and neurologists across town. None could provide proper treatment or care required. At one point, my family members began giving him home remedy treatments, which we later found out had adverse effects on his health. After 10 years of desperately trying to get proper treatment, we finally found a competent neurologist who informed us that it was too late for a permanent cure, and we would have to manage his condition with high doses of medication.

That incident opened up my eyes to the vast need for improvement in the healthcare industry. It is true that, in this sub-continent, India is leading in terms of healthcare services, but even then there remains a shortage of proper diagnosis and timely treatment. I eventually pursued a Master’s degree in Business Administration, but my uncle’s ordeal was always at the back of my mind. After a decade and a half in the telecom sector, I had an opportunity to work in healthcare, and I knew immediately that this was my true calling.

I joined Apollo Clinics in India as the Head of Operations and Service Delivery, responsible for overseeing all the pan-India Apollo Clinics. During my tenure, I saw that processes were not being followed by most professionals in this sector, and standards of quality were not being maintained – which is vital for patients and doctors alike. To streamline this, I created 55 SOPs for smooth functioning of the daily operations at the clinics.  

Earlier this year, I met Ms. Sylvana Sinha, Founder of Praava Health, during one of her visits to India. When she talked about the lack of effective and trusted healthcare in Bangladesh, I came to know more about our neighboring country and the need for proper healthcare. When I learned about Praava Health and its values and mission, it struck me as the kind of company that I could be a part of and have an impact in peoples’ lives. Given my experience of working for a market leader in India, I knew I could utilize my knowledge to contribute and benefit the people of Bangladesh.

Healthcare is a sector that directly affects the lives of people. There is no room for operational errors. Hence, it is all the more important for healthcare providers to devote more management focus towards operational excellence to boost patient centricity, quality treatment, and productivity enhancement.   

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A multi-pronged approach that puts hospital and patient care at the heart of performance transformation efforts can help health systems deliver more financially sustainable and patient oriented care. Healthcare personnel must actively participate in performance improvement efforts and be open to changes. The continual improvement not only aids operational excellence but also quality patient care, patient satisfaction, as well as staff satisfaction.

Operational excellence in healthcare deploys a variety of process improvement and change management concepts and approaches to increase operational efficiency and reduce clinical variability. The eventual goal is to reduce total medical care costs while improving quality.

Inefficiencies are the major barriers to excellence. There are various types of inefficiencies, and they can be identified and addressed with eye for inadequacies and awareness of continual improvement. Several tools & concepts of Operational Excellence (OE) such as Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Inventory Management, 5S, Visual Management, Standardized Work, and Poka Yoke – Error Proofing in health facilities can lead to dramatic results. Many healthcare companies across the world have adopted such operational excellence frameworks.

Implementating operational excellence concepts helps to address a number of issues concerning patient care and management, such as:

  • About 40% of time spent at OPD can be reduced through work balancing and improved patient flow.

  • Streamlining the layout and reorganizing can help to reduce the distance covered by patients by 20%.

  • Space utilization can be increased by 60%.

  • Inventory management modules based on scientific calculations can lead to improvement in medicine inventory management to avoid stock outs and over stocking (near to expiry scenarios), reduction in stock taking time, huge cost savings in inventory costs, etc.

  • 95% reduction in the time nurses spend searching for supplies and equipment.

  • Housekeeping and hygiene standards can be maintained through physical workplace improvement tool 5S.

In countries like India or Bangladesh, quality healthcare is still not affordable for the middle class. That is a core issue that Praava Health is addressing. Praava also aims to excel in service standards.

It’s time the healthcare industry in Bangladesh takes a leap. If not now, then when?