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Understanding management essentials

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Radiology is not unique when it comes to doctors turning entrepreneurs. However, operational and financial aspects of setting up a diagnostic centre can be different from other medical fields as technological investments are pretty high. Therefore, the last panel discussion of Express Healthcare’s Radiology and Imaging Conclave 2019 addressed the management essentials of the radiology business.

Moderated by Dr Bharat Aggarwal, Director, Max Hospital, the panel also saw participation from Dr Ajay Thakkar, Chairman and Managing Director, Jupiter Hospitals; Vivek Gupta, Partner and National Head, KPMG; Dr Harsh Mahajan – Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging; Dr Avinash Nanivadekar, Director – Radiology, Ruby Hall; Dr Namita Sinha, Consultant, Columbia Asia Hospitals; and Dr Sona A Pungavkar, Consultant Radiologist.

The panel discussion addressed crucial questions such as ‘What is the state of business awareness among radiologists in general?’, ‘Do they understand the financial part of it sufficiently?’ etc. “Doctors, or corporates for that matter, have been fairly sharp when it comes to having sound business acumen. They have been able to extract relevant connotations of value from financial investors. They have expanded impressively over the years. India is a very unique market. Compared to the West, pricing here has been on the lower levels. In this atmosphere, an individual should be very careful about investments and their ROI since radiology is a very capital intensive field,” said Gupta.

He further added, “You need to be very cognizant about what is the cost being incurred by an investment, and what is the revenue that you are able to generate. Each centre, each machinary that you invest in should be individually sustainable.” Agreeing with Dr Aggarwal that often doctors do not take into evaluation the cost of real estate in cases where a centre is setup in a personal property, Gupta remarked, “Often doctors take a leap of faith, hoping that sufficient patient turn-up may tend to any additional, invisible costs that have been incurred. Doctors need to take into account every minute cost generating factor.”

On being asked about his journey of setting up one of the most successful diagnostic chains in northern India, Dr Mahajan said, “Starting out was a bit overwhelming- I know nothing about finance. But with time you learn, your vision evolves. You learn that from team-work, learning to listen to people who are experts in their fields. The problem is that we are technology hungry, you always want to be upgrading, and that is where we fall in trouble.”

In sync with Dr Mahajan about listening to experts on subjects that one is not comfortable with, Dr Thakkar quipped, “When I faced my first financial crisis, I decided that I will not trust three people- I, Me and Myself.” An entrepreneur should carefully evaluate the safety margin that financial experts build for them, and they should be fine”, he added.

On facing financial or growth challenges, Dr Pungavkar said that one of the biggest challenges that she faced, and still faces, is that she is unsure of how to set up a properly functioning operational system. She noted that often, more than anything, fresh entrepreneurs need mentorship and seasoned entrepreneurs could fill in those shoes.

The discussion ended with the conclusion that entrepreneurs should strive to keep evolving themselves and adhere to advice given to them by financial experts. As Dr Thakkar says, “We are doctors, we should know everything about our field. It is not required of us to be experts on finances, and we can safely leave that responsibility on the shoulders of those who are experts in it.”

Key highlights:

  • The discussion addressed the challenges that radiologists face when they start an entrepreneurial venture
  • Radiologists need to have business acumen, should understand the financial attributes of a business. They need to be wary of investments and their ROI since radiology is a very capital intensive field
  • Machines should be individually sustainable and doctors should take into calculation even minute investments
  • It is important to keep evolving, to keep changing. Rather than just expanding the existing business, it is important to delve into newer technologies
  • There is a need to create more efficiency without compromising quality- optimising may be the key to strike a balance between the two
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