“Once the first center in Navi Mumbai is up and running, AEI would look forward to developing more centres in other tier II and tier III cities,”
…says Dr Vandana Jain, CEO & Director, Head of Department -Cornea and Refractive Surgeon, Advanced Eye Institute Pvt Ltd, New Mumbai. The institute is expected to be operational by July 2012. She shares insights on the due diligence and the strategy for the new venture.
I am an internationally trained cornea, cataract and a refractive surgeon. Having worked at institutes such as L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard, USA for several years I realised the lacunae in the current healthcare delivery models including the eye hospitals.
Healthcare delivery industry is supposed to function just like any other service industry but it does not function as a service industry at all. There is a prevalence of tunnel vision on quality. Historically, healthcare organisations relied on traditions of quality performance as their primary differentiating strategy in the marketplace. Healthcare delivery industry is yet to see that clinical quality alone is not a sufficient differentiator. Despite the fact that our society is changing to one of enhanced consumerism, intolerance for poor service and impatience, many organisations continue to fall back on ‘clinical quality’ as their distinguishing feature. Non-clinical touch points can far outnumber those that a patient has with a physician or caregiver.
Besides, there is a lack of research and education being tied as an integral part of most healthcare organisations.
This is accompanied with the fact that in tier II and tier III cities there is a dearth of multispecialty eye care services. Patients from places like Navi Mumbai and other smaller cities have to travel to bigger cities like Mumbai to get any specialised eye care services.
How will AEI be different from other eye care institutes?
We aim to establish a centre of excellence that will provide comprehensive eye care services, for basic and clinical research into eye diseases, and training eye care and para-medical professionals, with a focus on extending proficient eye care to the population of Navi Mumbai. AEI aims to revolutionise eye care by using cutting-edge medical technology, excellent work processes and personalised patient service. The key goals will be to achieve:
- Establishing a cutting-edge eye institute with international collaborations
- Breakthrough research provisions
- Community eye health programmes focusing on prevention
- Higher quality education
- The ability to influence eye care patterns globally
We want to create a caring, philanthropic, practice environment and yet have sustainability as a business model, for I believe, that it is very difficult for one to co-exist without the other.
What is the current scenario of eye care in India like? Which are the other eye care centres around Vashi?
The current eye care scenario in India is a mixed bag. On one hand, there are non-profit institutes like LV Prasad Eye Institute, Aravind Eye Hospital, on the other hand are for profit multiple VC funded chains like Vasan eye Care and EyeQ. The overall availability and access to eye care is improving. However, it is not only the size of the patient population in a city, which is important but also the ‘large vaccuum’ that is still prevalent in terms of personal care and quality care that continues to provide an opportunity for growth.
We have done the complete eye care assessment of Navi Mumbai and the surrounding Raigarh district. Vasan Eye Care in Vashi and Laxmi Eye Hospitals in Panvel are the only two multi-specialty eye hospitals.
According to the data that we have gathered, the population of Navi Mumbai is roughly 30 lakh and has been growing at the rate of over 10 per cent over the last few years mainly due to increased migration. An estimated 800,000 people in Navi Mumbai will benefit from a multi-specialty eye care.
It will be beneficial to some visually debilitating diseases such as:
- With a national 7.2 per cent prevalence, an estimated 200,000 people with moderate visual impairment will potentially benefit from specialised eye care
- Diabetic retinopathy (develops in more than 75 per cent of diabetic patients within 15 to 20 years of diagnosis of diabetes, which affects 15-20 per cent population) affecting approximately 450,000 people in Navi Mumbai,
- Glaucoma (affects 3-5 per cent population, approximately 125,000 people in Navi Mumbai), require specialty eye care for control and treatment
What will be the total expenditure for setting up the hospital? By when will it be operational?
The total expenditure will be to the tune of Rs 12 crore. It will be partly self-funded and partly with the help of HNI’s/ institutional money. It is estimated to be operational by July 2012.
What will be the business model followed at Advanced Eye Institute Pvt Ltd?
Advanced Eye Institute (AEI) will develop stand-alone centres providing comprehensive, high quality, service-oriented consumer focussed and super-specialty eye care. AEI will also develop peripheral centres – ‘Eye care’ – in each city in which it sets up operations. The surgery centre will be in a geographically central location in the city, while the eye care centres will be peripherally located, with an aim to cover the entire city population. These will be connected to the hub with the help of telemedicine. AEI plans to open its first centre in Navi Mumbai, city nearest to India’s business capital in phase I and then look at expansion into other tier II and tier III cities in India in phases II and III.
Medical tourism with a focus on the European, South American and North American markets will also be a component given the international branding and the high quality service component.
We will operate as ambulatory surgical centres. Efficient use of technology will help to improve outcomes, reduce costs, better customer retention and provide access to those who cannot physically access the eye centres. There will be focus on creating great customer service that leads to a unique culture similar to the Ritz-Carlton Hotels.
What kind of services will be offered here?
AEI Pvt Ltd will operate in ambulatory set-ups and will discharge the patient within a few hours after the surgery.
AEI will provide comprehensive eye care catering to all the medical and surgical specialties of ophthalmology. We will also have Femto Second machine (Visumax) with SMILE technology, which will provide the latest and one of the safest ways to correct patient’s eye numbers.
We will have in-house pharmacy and spectacle outlet also for patient’s comfort and convenience. There will be additional provisions for online appointments, access to med summary and the ability to communicate with specialists using log-in through our advanced website. We will complement on-the-ground high quality comprehensive eye care with online medical access and knowledge.
What will be your strategy for expansion?
Once the first centre in Navi Mumbai is up and running, AEI would look to develop more centres in other tier II and tier III cities. Expansion plans would start only in the third year of operations.
During the third year two more centres will be started and subsequently two centres every year will be opened. Simultaneously, from the third year itself a team will be looking at tie-ups and opening up eye hospital in the neighbouring south-East Asian, Middle East and African countries.
Could you give us a few examples of eye care hospitals that have come up in the past one year?
Vasan Eye care is expanding and has several centres that have come up in the past one year including the one in Vashi. Others are Centre for Sight and EyeQ both of which are North India-based chains.
Could you explain with a few examples of VC-funded hospitals that have shown a sustainable growth?
Sequoia Capital had invested in Chennai-based Vasan Eye Care, which has developed into a corporate chain with a total of 125 centres. Vasan’s revenue, estimated at Rs 300 crore in 2011, is expected to double this year.
Venture capitalists Helion Venture Partners and Nexus have invested in specialty eye care chain Eye-Q. The Gurgaon-based eye care network has 10 hospitals and will use the funds to expand nationally.
By Arshia Khan (firstname.lastname@example.org)