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Our growth will focus on both testing capabilities as well as network growth and access

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Emphasing on a customer-oriented approach as a key strategy for business growth,
Dr Sanjay Arora, MD and CEO, Suburban Diagnostics, has set forward with his expansion plans for the company. The company is looking for synergies that will allow complimentary testing capabilities to consolidate. In an exclusive interview with Raelene Kambli, he shares his idealogy for a successful business enterprise

What is the current scale of your business in Maharashtra and the neighboring states?
Suburban Diagnostics is a comprehensive diagnostics service provider since 1994 (25 years and counting) with NABL and CAP accredited labs. Our network is spread over 150 customer touch points across Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Goa. We service over 4000 patients/ customers a day and perform over 14000 medical tests daily. Our central lab in Mumbai is spread across 8000 sq feet.

Suburban Diagnostics offers a comprehensive menu of preventive health check-ups, pathology, radiology and cardiology tests along with several other value-added services.

What has been your success mantra? What were the challenges you faced in this journey?
At Suburban Diagnostics, our three-pronged approach focusses on the best team, utilising best technology and providing best customer experience. While the best team and best technology ensures quality and accuracy, customer centricity ensures a caring experience. This embodies our philosophy of precision and care.

Adding value is something we believe in everything that we do. “A good surgeon is one who knows when not to operate.” Similarly, a good diagnostic service provider must add value by doing what is necessary and avoiding what is not. We don’t just look at the sample, but the patient or customer behind it. “Does it make sense, does it correlate” are questions we ask ourselves with each and every test. “Impacting medical outcome” is the purpose of our existence since we know that 70 per cent of medical decisions depend on diagnostic testing. We do this by “putting a face to every test”, allowing our doctors to become more accessible and bringing in that sense of transparency with our customers.

Like in any service industry, we are people dependent. Delivering a standardised customer experience and quality standards across the network keeps us on our toes. We have a strong QA, operations, training, audit and business process departments that work tirelessly in overcoming these challenges. An engaged workforce is key to delivering a ‘wow’ customer experience. We have to ensure our internal team feels a sense of ‘wow’ at work, only then will they deliver a ‘wow’ experience to our customers. The HR team continually works on building better employee engagement programmes in ensuring this.

Dr Arora, how much significance do you give to patient satisfaction as a key strategy for business growth?
The opportunity with our customers was not to make the patient feel like a patient but to make them feel like a customer. When you go to a restaurant it’s out of choice but not out of compulsion. In healthcare, patients do not come because they want to; they come because they have to. The opportunity here was that when there is a need, the patient should not come over as they have to, but because they want to. They need to know that they are at the right place which they can trust. Patient’s want to feel comfortable and this was the approach we wanted to take across the brand.

Suburban Diagnostics, as a brand, is driven by patient satisfaction. Every customer feedback that the brand receives is also marked to me. I take every feedback personally and I want my team to believe that unless we don’t feel how a customer feels, then we have failed in our role of a healthcare provider. Bottom line for me and my entire team is to find a way to add value to someone’s life every day.

One of the biggest tasks is how to keep our customers engaged and how we use technology to reach out to our customers. We create user groups of various diseases/ health conditions within our customer base and reach out to them proactively, specifically targeting their individual needs.

Today patients come to us only when they fall ill and if a doctor has recommended some tests but we want to change this habit of the patient so that they can come to us to remain healthy.
At Suburban Diagnostics, we advocate proactive healthcare, inspire people to live healthy and deliver a wow experience with precision and care.Our mission is “To be the most admired diagnostic company in the world.”

What do you do to ensure patient satisfaction and experience at Suburban?
Healthcare is all about establishing a relationship with the patient. I share my own experiences (of interacting with customers) with our team, which allows them understand the values we stand for and learn from the mistakes I have made. Standardisation plays a critical role in ensuring quality. To ensure experiences are fairly uniform, there must be a strong focus on training. Our training head has been with us for more than 20 years working in different functions of the organization and has a 360 degree view. She ensures that the values the brand stands for are imbibed by the team right from the induction process. One other way of ensuring patient satisfaction is being a good listener. We value our customer’s feedback and take action on it.

A monthly NPS score is monitored across the organisation and all feedback is taken to analyse the gaps in our processes. A corrective action (CA) and a preventive action (PA) plan is made along with case studies; these are shared across the organisation allowing the team to learn from each other. The best way for us to improve is to listen and work on the feedback our customers share with us. We also have regular audits of our centres and build a customer satisfaction score. Based on this, we have the Josh award which is an intra-organisation, inter-centre competition every quarter based on service delivery parameters.

What will be the way forward for Suburban diagnostics? What are your growth plans for the coming times?
Healthcare is becoming increasingly transactional. At Suburban Diagnostics, we want to remain anchored to delivery medical value and everything else is an outcome of this.
Our growth will focus on both testing capabilities as well as network growth and access. In both areas, technology will play a critical role.

While we remain western India focussed, we are always looking for synergies that will allow complimentary testing capabilities to consolidate.

Our aim is to reduce the healthcare burden in our community, our society, our country by focusing on those disease areas where we as a diagnostic company can collaborate with our clinical partners in unburdening healthcare. We should diagnose more at OPD so that the IPD burden goes down. We should detect early where we can prevent or reverse disease progression.

Healthcare is getting more personalised; molecular diagnostics and genomics will play a big role in how healthcare protocols and practices will be decided. Medicines that work on one individual may not necessarily work for another and if one is able to personalise the diagnostics, the therapeutics and the outcome, it’s a win-win for everybody. With the tremendous advancements in technology, what is specialised today will become routine tomorrow. We will continue to invest in these newer technologies allowing us to be more relevant in the future.

Self-sufficiency in terms of sourcing talent plays a crucial role in Suburban’s dominance in the segment. Hence, the organisation has setup its own paramedical training institute – Suburban College of Paramedical Education (SCOPE), under the aegis of S M Arora (Chairman, Suburban Diagnostics) who recently received a Ph.D. in paramedical education, at the age of 80. Suburban believes that SCOPE, where currently 300+ paramedical students are enrolled, will play a pivotal role in its further growth focused on penetrating diagnostics deeper, and exploring rural markets of India.

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