By converging multiple fragmented health schemes into the world’s largest medical umbrella, Ayushman Bharat, the Government of India has indeed taken a giant step towards healthcare innovation.
The second wave of Covid-19 has hit India’s healthcare sector hard and it is facing testing conditions. It has impacted the diagnosis and treatment of other chronic and life threatening diseases and has also shed light on the importance of home care, rehabilitative care, palliative care, end of life care, rehabilitation, home across the life-cycle of patients, once they are out of the hospital. Several conditions and chronic ailments, including complications from Kidney Disease, Neurological Impairments, Cardiac Disease, Cancer and Post-Operative Disabilities need immediate and continuous attention. Sukino Healthcare is one of the long-term health care providers in India, including home care and transitional care across the nation. It has launched the ‘Post Covid-19 Respiratory Distress Rehabilitative Program’, an initiative which cares for patients suffering from prolonged and lingering problems post Covid-19, again a first in India. In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online, Rajinish Menon, CEO & Founder, Sukino Healthcare talked about the impact of Covid-19 on the diagnosis and treatment of other chronic diseases, present state of healthcare in India and the work Sukino healthcare is doing. Excerpt:
How has Covid-19 impacted the diagnosis of other life-threatening diseases and treatment of chronic illnesses?
Health services have been partially or completely disrupted in many countries. The healthcare industry expected a relatively shorter disruption in the other essential health services but it is evident that this situation is going to persist for a longer period than anticipated. This has had a very reversing effect on the treatment of other ailments and minimizing their impact on patients is now gaining importance. The prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases have been greatly affected. Based on a WHO survey, more than half of the countries have partially or completely disrupted services for hypertension treatment, 49% for treatment for diabetes and diabetes-related complications, 42% for cancer treatment, and 31% for cardiovascular emergencies.
What suggestions do you have for the healthcare industry which is braving the second wave of covid=19 and has been stretched to the limit?
The healthcare industry has been tested to its limits during the pandemic. It is facing multifaceted challenges which not only involve coping with the surge of covid patients but also employee safety and economic sustenance. While most healthcare leaders have risen to the crisis and demonstrated commendable resilience, there are some struggling in terms of reimagining and reforming their structure and services. In my opinion, the industry has to unlock the exponential opportunity technology has to offer and graduate towards more virtual health platforms and artificial intelligence algorithms. The covid situation coupled with recent research has highlighted multiple opportunities in the realm of the continuum as well as overall healthcare.
For me, they primarily lie in the fields of continuity of the quality of services, innovation, and patient-centricity. It’s time to look beyond the limited brick and mortar medical treatments and work collectively for a more compassionate, technologically advanced healthcare system for optimal recovery of patients with dignity and safety. Especially the aged and the ones suffering from chronic illnesses.
The workforce also needs to be adequately trained with advanced technology and soft skills to keep up the pace. To put it in a nutshell, all aspects of the current healthcare processes require a relook for an audience that is much more aware.
How do you view the present state of healthcare in India, in both positive and negative contexts? What aids do you expect from the Government?
This year the focus of the world was squarely centered on the healthcare industry. By converging multiple fragmented health schemes into the world’s largest medical umbrella, Ayushman Bharat, the Government of India has indeed taken a giant step towards healthcare innovation. In addition to the National Health Mission, pragmatic measures such as the investment of Rs 64,180 crore over the next 6 years will significantly improve primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare. The number of free COVID -19 cases treated is remarkable given the challenging economic times faced by the country. The vaccine drive will ensure continued uninterrupted healthcare services for more people. The establishment of healthcare infrastructure in form of critical care units and hospital blocks will also help spur the growth of the domestic market growth and place India as a key player in the global markets.
What is ‘Continuum Care’ and why is it Important? How is Sukino Healthcare different and essential during these unprecedented times?
Founded in 2015, Sukino Healthcare is India’s first comprehensive continuum care provider. Sukino offers complete out-of-hospital recuperative, rehabilitative, and palliative care to all patients at any transitory stage of their illness for a speedy recovery. Be it long-term management for chronic illnesses or post-acute illness recuperation. The care is provided either at the continuum care facilities or at the home of patients.
There has always been a need for rehabilitative care. Every patient, especially those who have had a severe episode or a surgery of a chronic ailment and who gets discharged needs some kind of rehabilitation. This is even more essential in the present covid times as the number of covid patients is rising. Additionally in India annually around 3 lakh heart operations are conducted, rehabilitative care for these patients is a necessity. While they stay in the hospital for a short time, continuous care must be provided post the discharge of the patient for a longer duration. Incurring an expense of over Rs 20,000/- per day in the hospital becomes extremely difficult for these patients. Several standalone rehabilitative programs are coming up across countries to make rehabilitative care more affordable and patient-friendly.
I am a Chartered Accountant with over 20 years of experience across IT, Banking, Energy, Offshoring. Witnessing the lack of a good healthcare system in the country, I realized help was available at times, but constant care was not available to patients. Sensing an intrinsic need to bridge the gap between post-hospital discharge and optimal recovery for patients especially those in need of transitory care, I founded a healthcare company about 2 decades back and sadly the problems I witnessed then are present even today. My model was to offer the finest quality continuum care services using a combination of clinical expertise, skilled manpower, and advanced technology to alleviate the physical and emotional pain in patients. Thus, Sukino was born.
What sets Sukino Healthcare apart is the comprehensive range of services covering the entire gamut of preventive care, critical intervention, timely and appropriate rehabilitative care, and provision of sensitized palliative care for those who are terminally ill under one roof. Sukino has striven hard to set a benchmark by adopting a very holistic approach. We also emphasize the care, comfort, and conversation aspect of treatment and ensure that they treat all patients like their own family members. The doctors, nurses, and caregivers go beyond the stated technical protocol to bring a smile to the faces of the patients and keep them motivated.
How did you come up with the idea of the Respiratory Distress Initiative and how it helps patients? Could you tell us about the key parameters for patients suffering from Covid-19 at the rehabilitation centre?
Often, The patients recovering from covid-19 have multiple side effects that can affect any part of their bodies. They need physical and cognitive rehabilitation to reduce the damages of the virus and start living a normal life again. This level of medical care and rehabilitation is difficult to achieve at home. Some of them need continuous monitoring and non-invasive clinical intervention supervised by a medical expert. Sukino Healthcare, India’s first continuum care provider launched the post-covid-19 multidisciplinary respiratory distress rehabilitative treatment keeping these patients in mind, who have recovered yet suffer from the after-effects of Covid-19.
Sukino Healthcare’s round-the-clock team of doctors, nurses, and caregivers with their unique and multidimensional patient-centric approach has helped patients make remarkable progress within just a month of rehabilitative care. The current strength of employees stands at 425 highly competent and experienced team of multidisciplinary approach well-qualified Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists, and Counsellors currently provide services in six centers in South at any given time.
Once the patient is admitted, a detailed assessment is carried out by Sukino Healthcare’s Physio, Occupational and Respiratory therapists for mapping out the therapy sessions and fine-tuning a goal-oriented treatment plan depending on the condition of the patient. Throughout the treatment, the progress of the patient is assessed every week with the Borg Dyspnea Scale, six-minute walk test, 12-minute walk test, TUG scale, and the Cough Sputum Score. The treatment is an amalgamation of Physio, Occupational and Respiratory therapy.
What was the impact of Covid-19 on Sukino Healthcare and what are your learnings from it?
The pandemic has not affected Sukino in any way because their vision, mission, and all focus is geared at taking care of patients who need extended care. Times like these are when patient families need such a kind of support more than ever. The need is to be a trusted, dependable, and an economic viable partner. The need for continuum care has already been created with the current overload on the existing healthcare system and patients being more aware of their conditions. This has initiated a ripple effect. The medical fraternity has started accepting this concept of care to enhance the overall health quotient.
The uber lesson that Covid has taught is that is investing in healthcare shouldn’t stop and there should be an attitude of cooperation and collaboration. There is a need to take a hard look at the cost structures and ensure that operational efficiencies are brought in. Lastly, there has never been a good time than now to adopt technology, and to demonstrate an example, today normal beds can be converted into HDU beds with the use of technology. Sukino is a hospital agnostic organization and most of the patients come either through the doctor or patient referrals. Additionally, they are in a process of educating people further through our various offline and online initiatives.
Presently we are catering to around 120 patients of which 65% are undergoing respiratory rehabilitation as a part of our treatment program. But overall from the 5000 patients treated to date, 30 % have benefitted from our respiratory distress rehab program.
For instance, 69-year-old Mrs. Rama (Indicative name) was admitted to the continuum care facility. She was a case of primary CNS lymphoma, Diabetes Mellitus, and pulmonary embolism.
The family was finding it extremely challenging to offer optimum care to her due to her deteriorating physical and mental endurance during the chemotherapy sessions. Our multidisciplinary clinical team helped her fight this battle with much efficacy.
A goal-oriented, tailor-made effective care plan was formulated by Sukino’s medical, nursing, Physiotherapy, SLP, and Psychologist team. Among other crucial treatment protocols, she was given strength and endurance training for respiratory distress and it helped in minimizing the symptoms of pulmonary embolism. When she came to Sukino she was bedridden but when she was discharged, she was back on her feet and walked out independently.
What are your growth and expansion plans?
Seeing the huge adoption of our services and care modules, we wish to expand the operations both from the services and geographical perspective. We would like to continue building a domineering presence in Bangalore, Kochi, and the adjoining cities of south India especially the ones that have a pronounced elderly population, people with advanced knowledge of healthcare, and an awareness of the concept of continuum care. We have already drawn a road map to take the services to select cities of South India by deepening presence in Kerala and expand to Chennai, Hyderabad, Vijayawada which are on the radar. While Sukino currently has 150 beds, the aim is to have 500 beds two years from now, taking it to 1500 beds by 2025.