Corporates Set a Healthy Trend

Corporates Set a Healthy Trend

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is definitely on the priority list for most corporate hospitals. Nayantara Som elaborates on the reasons

2007081542-3076060Karl Marx in Das Capital called for a need to incorporate the social aspects of capitalism. He explained that expansion of markets and profits had “objectified economic relations” and appealed to men to be socially responsible. Decades after Marx’s appeal, corporate houses seem to have understood this need to incorporate an element of accountability and transparency in their dealings and transactions. Little wonder, why corporates are incorporating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as unavoidable in their business strategy model.

The good news now is that CSR is an important ingredient for most private and corporate hospitals in India. But if you presume that CSR is all about a hospital engaging in charity and donating money to an organisation, you are mistaken! Corporates now interact directly with society, and look at making them feel a part of their system rather than asserting superiority. Within the ambit of CSR now also includes, regular health check-ups for people both in the urban and semi-urban areas, free treatment, check-ups for traffic police, and awards for patients and extra curricular activities for students.

“It is all about giving quality care to patients and awareness and this is the sole aim of CSR,” says Dr Varsha Khatry, Head, Sales and Marketing, Asian Heart Institute (AHI), Mumbai.

Passing on Some Goodies

Change and evolution is the only constant in an ever emerging industry like healthcare. In the case of CSR, the skeleton is the same everywhere but the flesh is different in healthcare. Hence in healthcare, the profit factor is kept at a minimum. Says Dr Pervez Ahmed, Executive Director, Max Healthcare, New Delhi, “As doctors, it is our social responsibility towards the underprivileged. These projects are done mainly for our satisfaction and for a feel good factor.” CSR is not to be confused with philanthropy. Explains Ashish Bhatia, COO, Fortis Hospital, Mohali, “A decade ago, corporates relegated themselves to philanthropic activities, hence trust hospitals were formed to execute the details of the charity intended.”

R Basil, MD and CEO, Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore, agrees with this. “CSR in healthcare has slowly emerged from the traditional concept of corporate philanthropy. It acknowledges the role of the community within which it operates as a stakeholder in its sustainable success.”

For instance, Fortis Healthcare Ltd permeates into rural areas and engages people in medical camps and OPDs. “This way, you know that the money is being put to good use and one also gets the satisfaction of driving change. This is a motivator in itself to do more,” exults Bhatia. Hospitals have been brought home to the fact that CSR, if not the only, is a springboard towards their success and sustainability.

Moreover, the face of CSR has also changed to the focus now being on spreading awareness about lifestyle habits and diseases. Vinay Khandpur, Chief Communications Officer, Columbia Asia, Bangalore, says, “From prevention of communicable diseases to the prevention of lifestyle disorders and other emerging health problems, we have come a long way.” Again at Manipal Health Systems, for instance, the concept has undergone a drastic change. “Initially, CSR was limited to the identification of economically challenged patients and providing them free or subsidised treatment. Later on, the hospital in its efforts to have a focused approach, expanded the scope to include health awareness, preventive health management, early detection and education,” says Basil.

MNC and Healthcare

The strategies and business model employed for CSR in corporate healthcare is a little different from those followed by corporate companies. Experts claim that in a scenario of a multinational organisation, CSR comes handy for capturing a particular market or segment and somewhere down the line the goal of profit maximisation does exist. Opines Basil, “In CSR followed by MNCs, the activities are bound to a defined territory/village/specific community and emerges from its recognition of the importance of Reputation Capital (it is the amount a company spends on building its brand) for capturing and sustaining markets.”

For healthcare, on the other hand, because of its very nature, the CSR projects are mainly restricted to medical activity rather than other forms of social responsibility pertaining to the general health of a person. It then becomes more of an extension of their core business activities. Richard Larison, Managing Director, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, opines, “At Apollo, we plan our CSR activities based on the needs and sections of society.” Suganthy Sundararaj, Manager-Public Relations, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, says, “Corporates are increasingly realising that CSR is a business commitment not only as healthcare, but as a society sensitisation programme.” However, the models for both these sectors are not poles apart. The foundation stone for any CSR project is building up an institution of social responsibility and community metamorphosis. “The result is the same, improving the quality of life of a community,” says Bhatia.

Bangalore’s Columbia Asia conducts the annual soccer tournament where children from over 22 schools participate to compete for the Columbia Asia trophy
Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute conducted a health check-up for the Mumbai traffic police for cardiac and non-cardiac diseases
2007081540-1046592 To create awareness about HIV/AIDS among the youth, Wockhardt Hospitals Group initiated the WHARF Youth in Mumbai 2007081541-4065397
Fortis Healthcare Ltd permeates into rural areas and engages people in medical camps and OPDs

Lending a Helping Hand

Upliftment programmes meant for the destitute and underprivileged definitely rule the roost for most CSR projects in corporate hospitals. However, its horizons have now broadened to include awareness programmes for the general public in urban areas, educational programmes for school children, telemedicine consultation programmes, and preventive management programmes.

Preventive Models: For instance, AHI recently conducted a health check-up camp for the Mumbai Traffic Police. “To our dismay, we discovered that 20 per cent of the force is susceptible to diabetes and cardiac diseases,” says Khatry. Next, the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Department of AHI, held a ‘Brave Heart’ Awards, felicitating the achievements of heart patients who had undergone mammoth cardiac surgeries and shown a positive response to the institute’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Support Programme, post surgery. It introduced some innovative categories like, ‘Mr Smoke Free’, ‘Stress Buster’, ‘Most Regular Patient’, ‘Young at Heart’, ‘Best Runner’, ‘The Warriors’, ‘Special Awards’, and finally the ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Superman Award’. “Society has this mental block that life ends when a person has heart diseases or a surgery. We want to create a positive outlook with these awards,” avers Dr Aashish Contractor, HOD, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation, AHI.

Health Clinics: Since health check-ups are in focus, setting up health clinics is a common feature in most CSR models. Columbia Asia has set up such a clinic at their centre. “We are actively involved with the local community through our health-based social outreach programmes. We conduct regular programmes targeted at specific high risk groups at our Centre. The programmes, Health Clinics, help us raise awareness on critical health issues,” points out Khandpur. In the capital city, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals has adopted Jasola village, which lies in the hospital’s vicinity for free health checks and medicines for women and children. “This clinic is organised thrice a week. The hospital has also adopted a cluster of villages, close to Sohna township on the outskirts of Delhi to provide tips on prevention of water-borne diseases, and medicines for its inhabitants,” adds Larison.

Child Health: Children are a particular segment of society most CSR projects target. Max Healthcare, for instance, has affiliated itself with an organisation support to provide free care to poor families. “Max Foundation, the CSR project of the parent body Max India, funds Max Healthcare for these programmes,” says Dr Ahmed. Fortis Healthcare has a programme called ‘Chetna’ dedicated to the upliftment of the underprivileged children.

“We have ‘School Buddies of Fortis’ which is an extensive programme to engage school children in good practices for better health and well being,” says Bhatia. Again, the Rotary Heartline Project in conjunction with the Rotary International aims at giving a new lease of life to underprivileged children with serious cardiac problems.

Columbia Asia holds sports tournaments for school going children. “We are actively involved in conducting the Annual Soccer Tournament where we invite children from over 22 schools in our community to compete for the Columbia Asia Trophy. This teaches the young to keep active and healthy,” says Khandpur. In Chennai, Apollo Hospitals is targeting children through a project called Save a Child’s Heart (SACH). “The aim of SACH is to provide quality paediatric cardiac care and financial access to children from underprivileged sections of soci-ety suffering from heart diseases,” says Sundararaj. AHI has joined hands with US-based organisation, ‘Children’s Heart Link’ to finance poor children. “We also finance the stay of relatives,” adds Khatry.

Rural Projects: Most of the projects focus on reaching out to the rural masses. Basil says, “The focus is on rural areas and on the economically challenged in urban areas. The former because they represent 70 per cent of the population but have only 20 per cent of healthcare infrastructure.” Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, for instance, designs its CSR projects on two levels.

The first area is centred around preventive healthcare and is achieved through awareness creation of diseases, their causes, early warning symptoms and preventive management. The second is based on providing treatment that is either free or highly subsidised for people who are economically challenged.

Free Treatments: As a matter of fact, many hospitals even go in for providing free treatment. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital extends free care to ill-affording patients. “Our unique public private partnership with the Government of Delhi has ensured 100 beds in the hospital are available to poor patients,” adds Larison. The same is the case at Max Healthcare. “At two of our society hospitals, we give 25 per cent free rate for poor out-patients and 10 per cent to our inpatients,” enlightens Dr Ahmed.

Support Groups: Setting up support groups and organisations to target a particular disease and generate awareness is also popular among many hospitals. Realising the acute need for suppressing HIV/AIDS in India, Wockhardt Hospitals Group and Harvard Medical International (HMI) came together in 2002 to form an NGO – Wockhardt-Harvard Medical International HIV/AIDS Education and Research Foundation (WHARF). Nafisa Khorakiwala, WHARF Trustee and President, says, “Wockhardt as a corporate body wanted to be more socially responsible. We brainstormed and realised the biggest threat facing us was HIV/AIDS. So WHARF was born.” A ready platform for clinicians, nurses, paramedics, and counsellors, WHARF helps them acquire knowledge in specialised areas.

It also educates and creates awareness at the community level, grassroots level and the working populace in urban and semi-urban areas of India. On this basis, the youth wing called WHARF Youth has been initiated across schools and colleges in Mumbai.

Awareness for other diseases is also on the forerun. Fortis Healthcare has set up Saarthak- a support group for cancer patients and Sahaayak- a support group for dialysis patients.

The New Ethics of Business

According to analysts, prime business houses go in for CSR to advance their self interest, maximise profits, sustainability and give their brand a ‘competitive advantage’. But that is not the actual picture in healthcare. Experts involved in CSR say the motive is to sow the seeds of “Feel Good Factor” as it helps a hospital to connect with different segments of society.

“I do not think any hospital approaches CSR with competition in mind. There is a need in society today that every hospital understands and tries to help in the best w-ay possible,” claims Sundararaj.

“It improves the image of a hospital that is viewed as progressive and transparent to the people,” says Dr Ahmed. It also helps in allocating limited resources at their disposal. Basil points out that the first responsibility is to use scarce resources well. “Being responsible means finding the right balance between what patients need and how resources are deployed.” CSR, at the end of the day, has to be funded from a hospitals own kitty hence CSR helps in the right of allocation of resources and setting priorities.

What’s more, there is no direct Return of Investments (RoI) for such a venture. “If you look at the profit aspect, it is a roundabout way. CSR improves your reputation. This attracts more patients, your beds get filled, and the profits roll in,” adds Dr Ahmed.

This creates a base for sustainability. The business benefits are enormous for pharmaceutical companies but for hospitals it is negligible. Khatry provides an angle to this perspective. “CSR leads to people buying medicines and hence pharmaceutical companies profit. For hospitals it is more of a social responsibility,”she adds.

Some experts claim that excluding the profit element would not be a wise idea. Says Basil, “Private healthcare providers need to be profitable so as to invest in the best technologies, attract and retain the best doctors and other staff members on a long term sustainable basis.”

The More, the Merrier

CSR has indeed a strong foundation and future. Telemedicine is the latest on the cards for many corporate hospitals. Bhatia says Fortis is planning to initiate telemedicine facilities to reach out to the people in remote areas. Similarly AHI, Mumbai, plans to introduce this facility in rural Maharashtra. With more support camps, more health check-ups and accessibility is getting better, CSR is showing its positive aspect thus consolidating its position in the priority list.

So with CSR in the block, there is hope for better accessibility, better quality of life and life on the healthier side.