Why patients are not put first in Indian hospitals

By Dr Aniruddha Malpani
New Delhi: Despite most Indian hospitals claiming that serving the patient is their only priority, the reality is quite different.
Most patients in government-run hospitals are treated very shabbily – and their family members are treated much worse.
Why do hospitals continue putting patients last?
I think there are two reasons for this.
One, of course, is the fact that the hospital authorities can get away with it. They’ve done this for many years, and they feel that it’s not a problem which they need to address.  The number of hospital beds are far fewer than the number of patients, and since they have enough bed-occupancy (and, therefore, enough profitability), they see no need to change what they’re doing.
Their primary focus today is in incentivising doctors ( and other middle-men) to make sure that their beds are full, rather than trying to delight patients. This is a short-sighted approach which will come back to haunt them later.
Times are changing, especially in large cities, where lots of corporate hospitals have empty beds and are no longer profitable. At some point, when they find that their balance sheets are in the red, they will hopefully get their act together.
I think the second reason is that whatever initiatives they’ve tried in order to put patients first haven’t worked very well. Part of this is because they’ve been very half- hearted interventions – for  example, holding a conference;  or adding a few videos on their website.
However, the problem is that no one in senior management has taken ownership of trying to delight patients.  Each hospital should have a chief patient officer, whose job is to make sure that everyone in the hospital remembers that the only reason the hospital exists is to help patients to get better. He needs to champion the cause of the patient if we want things to improve. Ideally, this should be the Chairman of the Board, who can inspire change by taking rounds daily.
Dr Aniruddha Malpani is the Medical Director at Malpani Infertility Clinic
the article first published at docplexus.in