Magic of Medanta

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Jul 20 2010, 03:06am hrs
It is hard to overlook Medanta, the Rs 1,200 crore multi-super speciality institute, abutting the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, where its chairman and managing director Naresh Trehan is writing a new prescription for success. Like a man possessed, the cardiac surgeon-turned-entrepreneur is working hard to match the highest standards of healthcare delivery across the world, courtesy his dream project. Specifically on the lines of a Mayo, Cleveland, Harvard and John Hopkins in its basics. Medanta intends to go beyond what any conventional medical institute has attempted, the renowned heart surgeon says.

Its been less than six months since the facility commenced operations and the results have been encouraging. The hospital is running to 100% occupancy something what conventional healthcare facilities normally achieve in 2-3 years time. Around 300 doctors and 1,100 paramedics have already joined the integrated healthcare facility comprising a hospital, a research centre and a medical and nursing school.

Patients from developed markets such as the US and European countries have also started trickling in, lured by the affordability factor. Treatment for diverse therapeutic areas such as cardiac, cancer, kidney transplant, diabetes and plastic surgery is being made available at one-tenth the cost of what is offered in the West. And given Trehans reputation, critical specialities like cardiac care are already running to full capacity.

Medanta has also generated excitement in the Rs 1,50,000 Indian healthcare market. Our healthcare costs are already 15-20% lower than the current market rate, Trehan says, adding, Medanta will make the highest-end healthcare affordable to the masses, including the weakest sections. Already, the hospital offers 5% free and another 20% as subsidised treatments.

Healthcare analysts say that Medanta is following a specific pricing strategy to take on its competitors such as Apollo, Fortis Hospitals, Max Healthcare, among others. It aims to cater to a large patient pool and hence will be able to keep its prices down. Thus, cardiac surgery, which normally costs around Rs 2.5 lakh in other locations, would be made possible at least Rs 30,000-40,000 cheaper at Medanta.

Muralidharan Nair, partner, life sciences practice, Ernst & Young says, To achieve 100% occupancy in less than six months of operations is incredible. Normally, it would have taken 2-3 years for any other hospital to achieve that scale of operations. According to him, Indian healthcare market is increasingly becoming price-driven and if Medanta is able to sustain its price advantage, other big hospitals in the National Capital Region would be forced to lower their healthcare costs as well.

At a core level, Medanta is a conglomeration of multi-super speciality institutes which are led by renowned medical practitioners who lead their respective fields. Spread over 43 acres, the integrated healthcare facility includes a hospital, a research centre and a medical and nursing school. It has over 1,250 beds of which 600 are already operational. There are 45 operation theatres catering to over 20 specialties. In a nutshell, we have built an institution which matches the highest standards of healthcare delivery across the world. It will offer not only the best technical facilities, but also clinical research, education and training, he says. As an equity partner, Punj Lloyd developed the infrastructure for the sprawling healthcare facility.

Without any doubt, Trehan seems to have adopted a multi-pronged strategy in the creation of Medanta. Given the brand value that Trehan commands in the market place, he has successfully leveraged his reputation in the medical fraternity and managed to attract the best talent available. And given its proximity to Delhi international airport, Medanta has the potential to attract fast-growing medical tourism in the country. For cheaper medical care, patients from Europe, Asia and Africa have been frequenting Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Now, Medanta could be a viable option too, says Nair.

In addition to the world-class infrastructure, Medanta has deployed cutting edge technology, and a highly integrated and comprehensive information system, in order to explore and develop newer therapies in medicine. It has collaborated with Siemens Healthcare to introduce advanced imaging and IT solutions in India. These include SOMATOM Definition Flash CT scanner, Artis Zeego cathlab, ACUSON SC2000 ultrasound system and Biograph mCT, a PET.CT scanner.

The SOMATOM Definition Flash enables fast scanning, for example, complete scans of the entire chest region in just 0.6 seconds. Thus, patients are no longer required to hold their breath during the exam which they did in the past. At the same time, the SOMATOM Definition Flash operates at an extremely reduced radiation dose. For example, a spiral heart scan can be performed with less than 1 millisievert (mSv), whereas the average effective dose required for this purpose usually ranges from 8 mSv to 40 mSv.

Similarly, the new Artis zeego angiography system introduces enhanced flexibility in catheter labs and operating rooms. The industrial robot technology integrated in Artis zeego allows the physician to move the C-arm to almost any position around the patient. On the other hand, ACUSON SC2000 is an ultrasound system, which introduces a technology called Echo in a Heart Beat for the first time in India, which delivers full-volume images of the heart with every heartbeat. Siemens has also installed Biograph mCT, the worlds first molecular CT that allows high definition PET.CT imaging, while scanning in shortest possible time.

So far, Medanta has acquired Rs 300-crore worth of technology, including Brain Suite for neurosurgery, Da Vinci robotic system for minimally invasive procedures of the heart, prostrate, gynaecology and gastroenterology; a 256-slice CT (computed tomography) scanner for 3-D imaging; a molecular MRI (magnetic resonant imaging). At Medanta, technology and innovation will be the key drivers for providing high-end services and at the same time keeping patient cost low, says Trehan.

In addition to its focus on hospital care, Medantas focus on clinical research, education and training is equally profound. Of particular interest is its tie up with the US-based Duke University. Together, the partners have established a clinical research facility, which will comprise of 60-beds within the premises of Medanta. Under the terms of this agreement, Medanta will fund the creation and operation of the facility while Duke will provide scientific, clinical research and operational expertise. The objective is of a typical early-phase study to provide information about the dosing, safety and toxicity of a drug by giving it to a relatively small number of healthy people and capturing pharmacokinetic, and other basic data, as well as patient reported adverse events. Indian systems of medicine such as Ayurveda will also be integrated with Western medicine to offer mind-body solutions for chronic conditions, he says.

Without any doubt, India needs to work on healthcare infrastructure and create better benchmarks. While in concept Medanta seems to be on course to match the standards of clinical care offered by the likes of Mayo/Harvard and Cleveland Clinics, in reality, it will be an acid-test for it to make treatments affordable for general population in the long run.