How hospitals can bounce back from the current downturn in business, caused by the COVID-19 outbreak?
Hospitals need to transform and find new ways to engage. The ones that cannot transform would perish. Hospitals need to maintain the balance between providing treatment to COVID and non COVID patients. When COVID cases surge, hospitals have to cater more to COVID treatment than non COVID treatment, and when COVID subsides they have to cater more to non COVID patients. This see-saw between COVID and non COVID would continue for some more months.
Already, hospitals have started witnessing recovery in business and they would recover fully in the next few months. Hospitals need to realise that surgeries have only been deferred and soon the number of surgeries would be like before, and soon the business would be like before. However, like other industries, healthcare also needs to embrace the ‘New Normal’.
Cost of care has increased due to the ‘New Normal’. Would it be the same in the future?
Hospitals would not be able to provide services at the earlier cost, given the safety measures and infrastructure changes needed now. So, obviously, the cost of care would be more than before.
Hospitals have received flak for exorbitant charges of COVID treatment. What are your views on making the treatment more affordable?
While it is true that a few private hospitals have been charging patients exorbitant sums for COVID treatment, this is not the case everywhere. At all private hospitals under the FICCI umbrella, minimal working costs have been agreed upon that allow for hospitals to continue functioning without being a burden to patients. Additionally, we have streamlined processes to distribute the costs of protective equipment across patients. Regular and repeated internal audits help prevent misuse and remove redundant costs in bills. Capping of fees is not the answer at the level that has been ordered by some state governments. A broader understanding on the minimum possible pricing with leeway for expensive medications like Tocilizumab and extreme procedures like Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation will go a long way in making treatment more affordable.
FICCI has provided a rational costing solution for COVID treatment at private hospitals. What has been the response from the Government regarding it?
We submitted the first cut of the costing strategy, which was based on hypothesis, in the month of April. The revised version, submitted in June, was worked out based on analysis of actual data of 150 cases of COVID treatment in major private hospitals. After FICCI submitted the costing framework to the Union and State Health Ministries, many stated governments have referred to the costing solutions before deciding on the costing for COVID care.
FICCI member hospitals have pledged to adopt these cost recommendations and display it transparently on their hospital website in their endeavour to fight this war against COVID-19.
Which are the other areas that FICCI is working on regarding COVID?
We are continuously imparting training to nurses and healthcare workers. We are organising webinars. Also, we are in talks with the insurance companies trying to work on an insurance package for COVID patients that is viable to all.
What are some of the positive learning from the pandemic for the healthcare industry?
It is evident at this point that we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future. It is prudent to adopt designs and operational processes that serve to prevent cross infections and outbreaks.
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