“An emotional connect with patients complemented by cutting-edge technology is the bedrock for bettering outcomes at Cygnus.” Dr. Sudhir Gupta, Director, Cygnus Hospitals.
During my medical school days in Haryana in the year 1985, I received a call that my younger brother has met with an accident and has been taken to PGI Chandigarh as that was the only place where all trauma cases were referred to. Out of the injured three, only two survived! Again, in 2014 in a similar incident my uncle who was suffering from heart attack was being rushed to Chandigarh for the necessary intensive care, however we lost him on the way as the ‘Golden Hour’ was wasted in shifting from a local primary center.
Three decades down the line since then and India boasts of the latest, state of the art medical facilities in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai; however nothing really has changed for a district town or even smaller towns, as far as healthcare and related fields are concerned. Thousands of lives are still lost which could be saved easily by modern day medical facilities. Incidents like these are faced by most of us almost daily, but neither government nor large private corporate hospital chains have taken concrete steps saving these salvageable lives of common man. All of us who have seen healthcare in western world also feel the pain and agony at such situation. We at Cygnus Hospitals therefore took the initiative to bring this tertiary healthcare revolution to tier-II and III towns of North India, with passion to bring accessible, finest quality healthcare, at the most affordable purchasing power parity. Cygnus Hospitals is a group of four doctors who are at the helm of affairs of Cygnus Group, and share common background of hailing from these small cities and therefore, all of us had the passion of changing the prevailing scenario.
Passion driving perfection
In line with this, in 2011, Cygnus commenced its operations with just one Hospital in Delhi, and soon the group realized the need for providing tertiary care in the district towns of neighbouring states. The usual challenges which have till now scared away the large corporate hospital chains like Fortis, Max and Apollo etc. could not deter their resolve to make a difference in the lives of common man of district and smaller towns of Northern states of India. These enterprising doctors came from middle class families of small towns of Haryana and invested the savings of their lives into this project of saving lives by bringing tertiary care to the doorstep of common man. They were faced by the glaring problems of procuring specialised manpower of super specialist doctors, nurses, technicians, retaining them and relatively much lower compensation for medical treatment at these towns. But as rightly said ‘anything that gets your blood racing is worth doing’, propelled their passion for the cause and the meaningful experience in healthcare industry endowed them confidence to take up the challenge.
A plan was drawn to materialise their dreams. It was decided to lower the cost of acquisition by not investing in real estate-instead building upon the existing infrastructure; paying more salary to doctors and nurses to retain them and lowering the expectations of profits to realistic and reasonable levels. Honest central procurement of consumables and using robust IT infrastructure to minimise wastage and pilferage helped further to decrease and rationalize the expenses. All these techniques and a constant keen eye on quality of medical care as well as supporting services, resulted in the fastest ever growth of any chain of hospitals in India providing tertiary care in district towns of India. Our facilities grew from state of Haryana and peripheral Delhi to now Punjab and soon spreading to Rajasthan with number of beds growing from one hundred in 2012 to the present state of 1000 beds in 2015.
We provide super specialised care in trauma, all medical and surgical emergencies and cardiology besides the usual specialist care. All our facilities typically have full time in-house neurosurgeon, orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon, general and laparoscopic surgeon, intensivist, radiologist, physician and gynaecologist with 24×7 supportive staff. These super specialists are available round the clock in house and are supported by state-of-the-art infrastructure of well equipped ICU, modular operation theatre, CT scan, ultrasound, X-Ray, dialysis, ventilators etc. Cardiology centres are equipped with flat panel fixed cath labs and manned by in-house interventional cardiologist and supportive staff.
When medical professionals take a plunge into entrepreneurship the usual challenge is of managing finances and attracting patients. With a society plagued with mistrust and doctor patient relationship at its nadir, it is not an easy challenge to face. But as I always say that the best way to market for service sector is to provide best quality care which spreads as positive word of mouth and that is exactly what we did. We not only converted a huge supply gap or virtual absence of emergency care into an opportunity but also provided best quality health services at a reasonable cost, which acted as icing on the cake. Because healthcare is a public service, it is very important to connect with the community that we serve; therefore we have developed special outreach programs. If we want to realise our dream of healthy India, it is very important to involve community and educate them. We have developed special privilege card drive which involves the socially active members of the community who are considered as opinion makers and leaders, have helping attitude and are keen to contribute their bit towards the Dream of Healthy India. A regular monthly awareness session with interactive slots is organised, picking one important disease or symptom at a time and all the myths are thrashed in addition to providing factual knowledge about them. This knowledge is spreading to masses through these community leaders.
Another common problem that we encountered frequently was the non-availability of funds for the treatment and no insurance coverage to tide over such problems. We are coming up with a credit card facility that will be available through banks and patients can pay by EMI. We believe that this will give a big boost to the healthcare in smaller towns with more and more people taking up cures of various diseases confidently.
When we talk about our concept of providing quality Medicare at reasonable cost, people do want to know the authenticity of our claim. So far as the cost of treatment is concerned it can be easily compared to the cost of the same procedure in Metros or state capitals like Chandigarh or Jaipur, which is approximately 50% more there. But when it comes to quality check we have two objective methods in place one is real-time feedback mechanism from the patients which is a very sensitive method of assessing quality but even more objective method is accreditation by standardising agencies. We have already started the process of accreditation of all the hospitals which will be another first in these district towns. NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare facilities) has its own objective system of certification and accreditation audited by outside Assessors.
Opening up Superspeciality hospitals in district towns alone does not address the problem of non-availability of medical care in villages. We are trying to make use of technology to overcome this problem. Telemedicine centres are being started at these villages where local nurse-practitioner or pharmacist can connect the patient to the specialist at the district Cygnus hospital and as per the advice, can treat the patients or advise him to visit the hospital depending on his condition. This telemedicine can also help in better compliance in follow up cases after surgery or admission to the hospital for medical reasons. These village centres will be equipped with basic lab investigations also like blood sugar, BP, ECG, XRAY etc. and these can be connected to the specialist.
A journey of thousand miles begins with one step
Our journey of serving the masses is bringing new challenges before us every day. Besides the financial challenges of a steeply growing organisation, keeping all the stakeholders happy and satisfied is very important. Very conducive and latest HR practices are being gradually adapted to ensure dignity of all doctors and other employees. These kinds of health projects not only save lives but also provide employment to many people in the vicinity. So realisation of the Cygnus ‘Dream of Healthy and Disease Free India’ has just started and we want to see it rolling to other states, however our effort can multifold conditioned we are able to join hands and work in tandem with governments of the states.
We are trying to the best of our capabilities to develop a similar model with the state government, as providing healthcare to masses is a state subject. We sincerely hope that a win-win situation emerges and common man is the real beneficiary, because healthy people can make successful, productive and happy state.
Dr. Sudhir Gupta
Director & Co-Founder