Exclusive Interview: Dr S Narayani, Zonal Director (Mumbai), Fortis Healthcare

How this hospital group is developing skills and using automation to improve services.

“Medicine is a science and an art. It’s the fine balance of maintaining the science and art,” Dr S Narayani says on the sidelines of Hospital Management Asia last year.

In her role as Zonal Director (Mumbai) at Fortis Healthcare, a chain of private hospitals in India, she constantly strives to understand the healthcare needs of the communities she works in. She wears many hats, but the most critical one is where she brings together “the right clinicians, the right technology and the right infrastructure,” she explains.

She shares her vision for delivering quality healthcare services – a vision which prioritises talent development and technology to automate all sorts of processes.

All about automation

In terms of technology, the hospital group is working towards better patient safety. The focus is on minimally invasive surgeries, which decrease the length of time the patient needs to recover in hospital, according to Dr Narayani. Fortis is also “actively” using robotics in urology and oncology, she says, and is developing capabilities in gynaecology.

At the same time, Fortis is looking at tools that can “bring down the workload” of clinicians – for instance, artificial intelligence in radiology imaging and high-end diagnostics. Another area that is promising is the use of wearables to monitor patients’ vitals more effectively in the ICU, Dr Narayani says.

Meanwhile, the hospital group is using tech to make it easier to generate reports that are required for regulatory and accreditation purposes. “We’re constantly looking to see how to bring down the repetition and bring down to the rework. So that bit, we do,” she remarks.

Besides improved services for the patient, there is another clear benefit of boosting operational efficiency, Dr Narayani continues. “Working hard on getting the operations right is, I believe, a big factor of keeping your employees engaged.”

Attracting talent

She suggests that hospital leaders create a long-term vision to attracting and retaining talent. The hospital group faces a shortage of nurses, much like many others around the world. “We realise nursing is quickly going abroad,” she notes.

The hospital group is experiencing a trend of nurses that train with them before leaving to work in countries such as the US and the UK, Dr Narayani shares. But Fortis’ strategy is to attract these young talents back to India after a few years. “We accept the fact that they will utilise the training and go abroad. But in some ways, we think it’s kind of an ambassadorship for us,” she explains.

There is “constant interaction” with this pool of talent, Dr Narayani continues, so that they are encouraged to return to Fortis. The hospital group also focuses on creating the right environment for clinicians to thrive.

But the hospital group’s priority remains on retaining talent as much as possible. It is important to “create a legacy” by staying committed to one healthcare organisation for a while, Dr Narayani believes. As she puts it, “One has to have a long term vision, one has to stick to a long term vision and creating legacy is a way to do it, the value is in creating legacy.”

Fortis is constantly looking at ways to develop the careers of its pool of talent – for instance, mentoring nurses to take on leadership positions, or training clinicians for administrative ones. “I’m a classic example, I do not believe that the role in which you start out is a role in which you need to remain,” Dr Narayani shares.

“I’m a classic example, I do not believe that the role in which you start out is a role in which you need to remain.”

A final key aspect of her vision is to develop “end-to-end” healthcare services, where patients receive support even after they are discharged from hospital. Fortis has a strong focus on preventive healthcare just as much as curative, Dr Narayani explains.

The hospital group is exploring community partnerships for patient education and improved patient experience, she says. “You have not just a patient who’s been treated, but a patient where we handhold them, into psychosocial rehabilitation, into their daily lives,” she says.

When asked about her vision for the next five years, Dr Narayani’s goal is neatly summarised into one sentence. “For reasons of the service we deliver, and for reasons of the patient experience, every patient will be coming to us.”