Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Apollo Hospitals; Founding President, NATHEALTH
Speaks on personal battles, lessons learnt from them; he speaks about resilience & the importance of positivity
The video is a detailed account of a conversation with him. Below is an excerpt…
Q. Do you have any personal anecdotes to show how the efforts of those working in the healthcare sector can create waves of change as they did during this pandemic?
The COVID pandemic caused feelings of panic in the vast majority of people. A small minority remained valiant and committed to taking on this pandemic as a challenge. This minority includes champions like doctors, nurses, NATHEALTH members, security and support staff across hospitals.
Our HCWs put their heart and soul into COVID relief, and learnt to use tools and gadgets like respirators quickly. Young doctors, technologists, pharmacists and nurses did their bit to make a great difference. It is important to remember that Indians have the same abilities and potential that professionals from nations like Japan and USA. We simply need to set goals and act with purpose each day. After setting goals, the next step is to take initiative to plan for success.
In 1979, I lost a young patient because he was unable to raise funds to get cardiac surgery abroad. It was very distressing to think about the number of patients we were losing every year, as most could not afford to go to nations like the USA and UK to get treatments that were unavailable in India. At that moment, I resolved that if India has so many skilled and intelligent individuals, we could also create sophisticated healthcare facilities within the nation itself. After this incident, I went to New Delhi and met the then PM Ms. Indira Gandhi to discuss the possibility of introducing quality private healthcare in India. Step-by-step, important measures like removal of import duty charges on medical equipment were introduced.
It took enormous effort to attain this goal of delivering private care, but in 1983 the first Apollo Hospital was established in Chennai.
Cleveland Clinic was once the number one in coronary bypass surgery, but in 2019, Apollo Hospitals performed 1920 of these surgeries, while Cleveland Clinic did 1700, that too at a fraction of the cost charged in America. This made Apollo No. 1 in the world, showing that Indian healthcare can attain the best results when we act with determination. The one thing I would like to emphasize repeatedly is that once you want to do anything in life, you have to be very sincere in taking action and dealing with every obstacle that emerges in your path.
Q. You have always been a major advocate of preventive health. What efforts have you recently made towards amping up our preventive health sector?
In 2017, the World Economic Forum mentioned that 80% of deaths will be due to non-communicable diseases like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes etc. As per the WEF, the world would have to spend 30 trillion to tackle NCDs, and India alone would have to invest 3.8 trillion. Preventive health also involves individual effort to avoid things that increase the risk of NCDs. Genetic predisposition cannot be changed, but people can avoid the other lifestyle-based factors that put them at risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
Apollo Hospitals developed a tool to enable the strengthening of preventive health, which after a few transitions came to be dubbed as ‘Pro Health’. Herein, we use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze millions of healthcare records and medical histories. This allows us to find out the probable health problems that currently exist or might develop in future, for a person whose records we have. This tool can be a major aid to preventive health in India, but we were unable to launch the same due to the emergence of COVID. This effort was made successful due to the collective efforts of healthcare warriors at Apollo Hospitals. As people place immense faith and trust in hospitals and professionals, institutions like Apollo ensure that we live up to this trust by working together as a strong familial unit.
Q. What can be done to make the Indian healthcare sector raise its bar in terms of quality of service and skill?
An important aspect of improving both preventative and curative healthcare, is to encourage our family members and others around us to get into healthcare as a profession. There are immense opportunities in this sector, as we need more professionals in India and in the world. Today, the IT industry in India has amassed great credibility. Similarly, having more healthcare professionals with the right skills can do wonders for the Indian healthcare sector and its reputation worldwide. This is made even more easier due to the fact that India has one of the highest populations of young people, who can contribute to our economic growth. There is also a demand for healthcare workers in other countries, which have fewer human resources, that can be met by Indian professionals in the future.
For Indian healthcare industry to be Number 1 in the world, there are four things that we need to do. The first two things are to undertake more clinical trials and then do more clinical research. The third task is to invest in innovation and finally, we need to have patents. Policymakers and institutions need to commit to making these goals a reality. Apart from these four tangible goals, Indians need to focus on building a positive and ambitious attitude that says, ‘I can do it’.