The last seven months have been challenging, particularly for the healthcare workers across India who have been tirelessly working to control the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic and
One of the leading forces in this battle amidst the pandemic in our country has been the Apollo Hospitals, the largest hospital chain in the country Apollo Hospitals has been one of the important contributors to an innovative and cost-effective treatment module against the virus.
In an exclusive conversation with NewsCaravan, Dr Hari Prasad Kovelamudi, President of Apollo Hospitals, shared some interesting insights and plans that the Healthcare industry in general and Apollo Hospitals, in particular, have adapted to counter the challenges posed by COVID19
COVID, THE FIGHT SO FAR
Q) How has Apollo Hospitals contributed to the fight against COVID?
Management of positive COVID-19 patients within a hospital means immediately moving entire departments, setting up multi-disciplinary teams, providing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as per the area of posting, training of the teams to manage the COVID 19 patients.
Identifying different routes to enter and exit the area with adequate signage, upgradation the electrical, oxygen system, room ventilation and negative pressure, installation of equipment, and in parallel separate the paths and find location for the other patients (transplants, oncology, etc) ensure the continuation of treatments that cannot be postponed, while protecting them from the risk of being infected.
Keeping all this in mind, we transformed many of our wards into COVID specific wards with negative pressure enabled rooms, space of PPE donning & doffing Intensive Care Units (ICUs) to accommodate the ever-increasing number of suspected and confirmed COVID 19 patients.
The sudden influx of COVID 19 patients made it essential to immediately increase bed strength, particularly ICU beds, specifically equipped wards
with negative pressure, with separate routes, anterooms and dedicated teams.
Many areas were transformed and reopened in a few hours, renovations completed in a few days, beds made available, equipment installed, adequate PPEs provided, risk prevention and reduction measures adopted. All this, constantly and relentlessly with a contingency plan for all scenarios possible.
Over 2500 isolation beds were made available to treat COVID patients and over 55000 suspected/confirmed patients were treated since March 25th.
Q) Apollo Hospitals comprehensive response plan to COVID-19 was Project Kavach, that was announced on March 26 2020. How is it faring? How successful has “Project Stay I” been?
Project Kavach has been very innovative and supportive for handling COVID cases. Even Stay I helped us to handle thousands of COVID cases who did not require hospitalization.
SAFETY AT APOLLO
Q) The COVID spike is far from over, we may have to live with it, How are you making sure that COVID Warriors at Apollo remain safe? As a patient, how safe is it to visit Apollo Hospitals/Clinics? What precautions have been taken?
With regards to Patient Safety, we triage and screen all patients, including outpatients for COVID 19 at the entrance of hospital premises. To even reduce the use of paper and pen contact, we are now doing Online declaration for screening the patients with an algorithm to evaluate if the patient comes under the suspected category of COVID 19.
We have set up fever clinics in our hospitals, with separate access from the Non-COVID areas to manage the suspected and conformed COVID 19 patients.
For planned admissions, keeping in mind how many can ideally be in the hospital at a time, we have implemented bedside admission and discharge billing to reduce the patient/attendant overcrowding, waiting near the admission and billing counters.
All the patients undergo a COVID test before admission, surgery. Only one person as an attendee is permitted along with the patient. Attendant the photograph is put on the visitor pass to eliminate the chances of having multiple attendants during the stay of the patient.
The entire structure of hospital operations is segregated, minimising contact among patients, with the highest safety standards with adequate PPEs for patient and
As far as Staff Safety is concerned, We Screen all our staff every day at the entrance of the hospital. Adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as per their specific job role and assigned area. Regular physical and mental wellness monitoring and counselling. Accommodations in the campus and designated places for our COVID warriors.
Specific arrangements were made ensuring social distancing in all the work areas and cafeterias to avoid infections among staff.
Strict oversight and monitoring by staff clinics and infection control team.
COVID AND MENTAL HEALTH
Q) COVID-19 has caused a general sense of fear. Stress and worry are responses that people are experiencing in the context of the COVID-19. How has Apollo Group addressed this important yet constantly ignored (in India) aspect of mental wellbeing?
Healthcare workers experience high levels of work stress even under normal circumstances.
The pandemic places additional pressure on our frontline COVID warriors and on the healthcare the system in general as they strive to balance the duty of caring for patients with concerns about their own well-being and that of their family and friends.
To address this issue, we have put a few coping strategies like getting them enough rest between shifts, an adjustment in staffing procedures and schedules, specifically planned a healthy diet for all the doctors and staff working in such areas, continuous monitoring by the staff clinic as well as infection control areas and continuous reminder that despite the current challenges and frustrations, the work they do is a noble calling – taking care of those in need in a time of great
We also tried doing multiple virtual sessions by Sadhguru and Brahmakumaris from time to time.
COVID, THE DIGITAL PUSH & POST COVID ERA
Q) Was COVID 19, the digital push which was required for adoption of tele-consultations & Home Healthcare, do you reckon them playing a significant role post-COVID era? How much increase (%) has Apollo group noticed in the last 6 months?
Yes, they definitely played and even in the future will be game-changers. Being the first entrants, we have already seen utilization rates going up. Physical consults have reduced considerably while tele consults have gone up by almost 50%.
Q) Would the dynamics of healthcare be the same again? If not, what would change?
Healthcare on a global front is facing its sternest test in the wake of Covid-19.
Telemedicine and AI are the future of healthcare now. If there ever was a golden hour for telemedicine, it is surely nowDr. Hari Prasad, President – Apollo Hospitals
Going forward, all the innovations, strategic thinking and decision making would now be considered keeping this in mind.
In a bid to find alternate revenue streams, hospitals are increasingly looking at home delivery of medicines and home pathology tests to serve the patient base.
Further, hospitals are seeing a greater acceptance towards digitization through EMR and Patient Data Analytics to minimize leakages and drive patient engagement through preventive healthcare. This new data-driven ecosystem will be crucial for future healthcare delivery.
Q) Looks like the COVID vaccine may take at least a year to be available for the public at large, as the largest hospital chain in India, how are you placed in terms of helping the government with mass vaccination drive?
We will work with the government hand in hand and do whatever best is required to reach out to the Indian population.
Q) How has COVID 19 Impacted Apollo Hospitals? Did you have to do away with some of your colleagues or take any tough calls?
COVID19 has impacted all industries and we are also not untouched. Our focus has been on cost saving in areas where wastages were there.