Dr Kousar Ali Shah-A Game Changer in Healthcare Administration
Paras Hospital is among the top four hospitals in Gurgaon and has ambitious expansion plans in near future. Dr Kousar Ali Shah is the Zonal Director (Delhi NCR) of Paras and is an extremely competent healthcare administrator. Within a few minutes of interacting with him, I realised two of his core values which are his strengths too, one is "leadership with tough love attitude" and the other is "focusing on patient engagement with empathy"
Dr Kousar is known for his varied initiatives and interests ranging from encouraging innovation to supporting cyclothons (to encourage paddling for healthy bones). His other initiatives include "SHE" (recently launched at Paras), which aims to create awareness against the evil of female foeticide by engaging schools and touching the lives of the next generation by educating them to differentiate between right and wrong.
Dr Amit Nagpal- Why did you choose healthcare administration as a career?
Dr Kousar Ali Shah- Being honest, I entered administration actually by chance! Never really thought I would be working purely as an administrator in my career because I enjoyed and loved my clinical work as much as anything else. The story goes like this. Long back, I needed to shift to Delhi from my permanent job with HZL at Udaipur as my family was here and at that particular time I was getting a much better break in administration in Delhi than I was getting in clinical. So I took it up, and my ‘shortcoming’ of always giving 100% to whatever I do, got me noticed by my senior management team very fast.
After sometime when I started to analyze myself and thought for a long-term career, I realized I had started to enjoy administration equally and this was certainly not a bad thing! Hence I went in for a Masters in Hospital Management in order to consolidate myself formally as well. From there on, I have only been an administrator and certainly there are no regrets. I believe I was carrying administrative skills in my genes, got it from my father who was a High Court Judge!
Dr Kousar- Healthcare administrator, like any other leader, has to be a team person, in fact more so as the team is much more diverse especially with the presence of doctors in the team who carry a different persona altogether. For a healthcare leader it’s very important to bring the doctors and administrative heads on to the same page as both have their own challenges and unless they go hand in hand and understand each other, the elusive success will be difficult to achieve, more so for the organization.
It’s equally important to align everyone towards the common goal or vision of organization. There is a general concept that doctors do not like or want to discuss data and analytics, whereas my experience has been the opposite. Same way when it comes to marketing, there have been similar thoughts whereas the fact is, you can get some of the best ideas from doctors about marketing as well. I always carry the thought that as an administrator, my responsibility is like that of a grounds man – I have to ensure the pitch is properly laid so that doctors can play their ‘shots’ (read concentrate on their clinical work) absolutely carefree about everything else, because that will only give the best clinical results which is the main reason behind success or failure of a healthcare institute, or individual.
“Female infanticide is a social issue and cannot be dealt with legal instruments alone. We have to work as a community at different levels to get rid of this abhorrent practice that has been responsible for a silent genocide of our unborn girls. This evil can be rooted out only when we as a people junk the preference for the male child and start believing that foeticide is as wrong as murder,” says Dr Kousar Ali Shah, Zonal Director , Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, who headed the initiative (while speaking to media).
Dr Amit- Please share some interesting stories and learning from your career as a healthcare administrator?
Dr Kousar-With experience I have learnt and very strongly believe that empathy is the single most important quality for any or every hospital person which she/he must possess. This learning didn’t come without a past experience though. I was undergoing some training in one of the largest and best reputed hospitals of our country when I caught Malaria and during one of the sessions I had to be admitted in an emergency due to high grade fever and vomiting. I was advised admission and was being wheeled on a wheel-chair from Emergency to the ward. The GDA (Ward-boy) who was wheeling me had parked me outside the lift as he waited for the lift to come. At that particular time he suddenly started humming a song while I was sitting on the wheel-chair in high grade fever feeling absolutely sick. That time his song was sounding as if he was making fun of me or hammering me. He had no feelings for sure for me being so sick. That was a clear case of having no empathy.
Ever since whenever I have looked back, I realize I remember him for all the wrong reasons still so fresh today, despite this incident being more than a decade old, but on the contrary I also realize, if only he had put his hand on my shoulder when we were waiting for the lift and may be said some one-liners like “just 2 minutes more” then I would have remembered him for all the good reasons all my life. That’s how the human psyche is. That’s what empathy is all about and that’s why it’s so important especially in a hospital. Till date, people who continue to work with me have heard about this living experience from me and I particularly do talk about this to the new joiners as this makes them understand about the power of empathy, about my expectations from them in terms of patient engagement, and of course about ensuring every patient is cared for, with a personal touch.
Dr Amit- How important is patient engagement for a private hospital in the current scenario?
Dr Kousar-Patient engagement is still taken quite non-seriously by many health institutes who believe patients will anyway come! But if you analyze the data for such institutes, you will realize the change in the kind of clientele plus the repeat clientele over a period of time, which will speak for itself . Success for any private institute revolves not just about getting new clientele but more so about repeat clientele as that shows faith of your clientele in your services and faith can only be built by making a person feel important while being served.
Hence it’s extremely important to ensure every single patient is given personalized care and made to feel at home. It’s important for every hospital person, be it doctors or administrators or paramedical staff, all of them must understand the true meaning of empathy in a hospital and as a leader it’s the responsibility of the administrator to keep training, retraining, and reiterating this fact so that every patient gets a care with a personal touch. We must never forget, one happy patient can bring in / refer 10 more patients, and one unhappy patient can divert 20 patients to other hospitals._______________________________________________
“The most important thing here is giving a personal touch to the patient,” said Dr Kousar Ali Shah, general manager at Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurgaon while speaking to Reuters. The hospital started home services such as physiotherapy, sample collection and pick-up and drops nearly a year ago after requests from patients.
Dr Amit-How do you balance the interests of the management, staff and patients? What is your career and life philosophy?
Dr Kousar-Communication, communication, communication! That’s the best way to create a balance between all the diversities in a hospital – management, doctors, other staff, patients and others. It’s extremely important for all the groups to keep communicating directly rather than indirectly about their expectations from each other, about common end-goals, about their role challenges and at the same time understand other person’s role challenges as well, and then only they will respect other person’s role. As a leader I ensure there is enough communication going around with each other, and wherever I find it is lacking I pitch in myself or make processes where it becomes imperative for them to communicate.
My career philosophy is very simple. Always remain grounded especially when you go up in the hierarchy more people are noticing you Be always available for your teams & lead by an example to create happy teams of employees, because if your teams are happy they will create happy customers. But if your teams are not happy, any amount of training and efforts and money will not create a happy customer and hence the vicious cycle.
Dr Amit-Any other achievements or life stories you would like to share.
Dr Kousar-Over the years I have learnt that as a leader it’s extremely important to be unbiased as well as keeping a balance. One of my achievements certainly has been to carry on this philosophy of mine and implement this at the ground level. About keeping the balance, I remember one story from one of my previous organizations. I had started a program called “Customer Forum” where I used to invite the patients who had faced something wrong while being in hospital. I used to invite them to share their experience as to how they were feeling at that particular time when that wrong act was being done to them. I used to invite the entire hospital team to hear this experience direct from the patient’s mouth. It used to have immense impact on the team as they used to witness the emotions and this for sure used to make them more committed towards patient care in future.
After a few of such forums, I somehow realized my team was beginning to get demotivated by hearing only the negatives from patients and it came as a big realization to me. I changed the pattern for next few forums where I called the patients who had only good things to say about the care they received and this left a magical impact on the team. Biggest learning for me was that I had forgotten to keep the balance when I was organizing those forums. Since then I always try to keep a balance between anything and everything I do as a leader.
Thanks Dr Kousar for sharing your views with our readers. We wish you the best of luck in your game changing journey.
Dr Kousar Ali Shah is a seasoned Healthcare Administrator who enjoys challenges in the field of Healthcare and Hospital Management. He is currently Zonal Director, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, and is heading the entire operations including P and L of Paras Hospitals in Gurgaon and Delhi NCR. Prior to joining Paras, he was General Manager at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon,
Besides his medical degrees, he also holds an MPhil in Hospital & Health Systems Management from the prestigious BITS Pilani. He loves to train and mentor his team members and others in wide ranging areas from empathy to healthcare administration.