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A cardiologist by profession, Dr Reddy, Founder and Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group conceived the idea of The Apollo Hospitals when he encountered a patient’s death due to lack of money for his surgery in the US. This incident moved him personally. He then decided to create a brand that can be trusted for best medical services in India benchmarked with international standards at a fraction of the cost. Intuition is a mysterious thing that stems every big dream. You know when you are right, but it becomes UR moment of awakening when you act on UR intuition.

Dr. Reddy’s vision was to save the lives of billions who can’t afford access to foreign medical care. Nearly four decades down the line, Apollo Hospitals Group today, is a giant with over 72 hospitals, 12,000 beds, 3800+ pharmacies, 200+ primary care clinics and 148+ telemedicine units. The hospital works 24/7 to champion the gift of good health for all in India. The group offers customized health packages depending upon the healthcare needs of the country at the time. For example, the moment COVID hit India; the hospital armed itself with all the knowledge, measures and safety precautions needed to effectively deal with the patients and launched Project Kavach to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Kavach offers a comprehensive, integrated response plan to protect people across the nation via online risk assessment, risk-based guidance, certified help centers and isolation rooms for serious patients.

Founder & Managing Director, URLife, Ms Upasana Kamineni says, ‘I owe it all to my grandfather – Dr Reddy.’ In a candid tête-à-tête grandfather and granddaughter provide a sneak-peek into the visionary’s life and Apollo’s plans. Read on to know more.

Ms Upasana: I have been always inspired by U. UR vision helps countless people live happy and healthy!

Dr Reddy: It all starts with a purpose. All individuals should find out their true purpose in life and do the thing that makes them happy. It leads to good outcomes!

Ms Upasana: Let’s talk about COVID!

Dr Reddy: The pandemic has been our biggest testing time. No one expected COVID to last so long! But both government and private healthcare took timely measures to contain the virus as much as possible. The government launched several bold steps such as lockdown and PPE distribution. Private healthcare sector including Apollo joined hands with the government to offer AI technology. Apollo’s AI technology helped with sample collection facility at homes, testing clinics and in-patient service. Our Kavach project has proven to be helpful too. Nevertheless, we need to appreciate the government for what it has done so far.

Ms Upasana: Was isolating the patients a great challenge?

Dr Reddy: We took in the COVID patients and kept them in complete isolation. All the healthcare workers who dealt with patients on a day-to-day basis had to pass through specific entry and exit routes. During this time, the healthcare workers were not allowed to join their family. We arranged a separate, comfortable place for the doctors to stay as well. This way, we managed to contain the virus to the maximum possible extent.

My humble thanks go to all the healthcare workers and housekeeping staff who sacrificed their family time for the treatment and care of the patients. What they have offered and contributed during COVID is remarkable!

To put it in numbers, about hundreds of housekeeping staff and 38,000 pharmacists worked day and night to carry the medicines and deliver it to patients’ doorsteps. Our gratitude goes to all of them. I tell them that I am happy that they cared for all the patients like their own family.

We have achieved another remarkable feat. Many corporates came to us asking to take care of their employees. While it was not possible to accommodate everyone at the hospital, we used the power of telemedicine to offer consultation to those people who were in need.

About hundreds of housekeeping staff and 38,000 pharmacists worked day and night to carry the medicines and deliver them at doorsteps during the COVID crisis.

Ms Upasana: Everyone talks so negatively about the pandemic but the Indian medical system has actually stood up to this situation. The government too has done a fantastic job. I understand now!

Appreciation is such a noble quality of yours. Can U share with us some more positive stories that inspired U to establish Apollo?

Dr Reddy: Back in 1970, there were no good healthcare facilities in the country. People had to plan overseas travel for specific surgeries. As a matter of fact, Indian doctors were working overseas. If Indian doctors at overseas were at par when it came to clinical excellence, I thought why shouldn’t we create the same magic here? I made about 50 trips to Delhi and finally, I was able to win over and convince the government for the need for private corporate healthcare in India. The government gave us an opportunity and we proved ourselves! I believe that God helps those who help themselves.

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Ms Upasana: What according to U, are the trends ruling healthcare?

Dr Reddy: Artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics are empowering the healthcare sector. The precision and intelligence of these trends is matchless!

Ms Upasana: Please share with us some of the things you have implemented in UR birthplace.

Dr Reddy: I have always loved my village Aragonda. All of us should have gratitude for the place where we are born.

I observed that the number of maternal deaths in my mandal were high due to lack of proper nutrition and care. I felt bad about it and I ensured that every mother receives primary care from the day she gets pregnant. Apollo offers all the essential vitamins, supplements, consultation and meals to get complete nutrition for to-be mothers. Delivery is taken care of too. This way I could reduce the number of maternal deaths from 60 to 0. It gives me immense satisfaction while I do this!

Also, I have seen the poor standard of education. Back in my father’s days, he could not finish primary education in the village. I too had to go to another school to continue my education. Taking this in account, I collaborated with ISHA foundation who had already delivered excellent school education. Apollo resourced the required land and money needed for the building and operations. Studies were taken care of. Today, I’m proud to state that the first 10th standard batch of the school attained excellent results. Of 19 students, 17 scored 10/10 pointer and others stood at 9.8 and 9.7 respectively. Apollo has promised scholarships for bright students too.

Carrying out all of this at my village gives me happiness and satisfaction. I am still a small child at my heart and even now, I love spending time at my village. I often warn the people in my village to quit smoking – I tell them, “If you want to smoke, do it privately behind a tree. But don’t play with others’ health and stop influencing others!”

Ms Upasana: I have always seen U wearing UR work uniform every day. Why?

Dr Reddy: Work is my worship. To me, all the doctors, nurses, nutritionists, healthcare workers, ward boys and watchman hold the same position. In fact, I greet Namaste to my watchman first. He is a very important person in the hospital because people come with fear to the hospital. They are worried with thoughts like ‘can I get well’ and ‘will this hospital cure me?’ The watchman is the first person who welcomes people at the hospital. He needs to behave with patients like they are part of his own family. If everyone in the health fraternity can do this, patients will feel better and relaxed!

Ms Upasana: Everyone thinks that health-checks are a money making strategy. But isn’t it like an exam we used to appear for at schools?

Dr Reddy: Let me ask U this – ‘What’s the cost of UR body?’ Scientists from the Yale University say U have got 750 billion neurons in the brain and billions of cells in the body. All of these work to throw away the unnecessary dirt and take pure oxygen from the dirty air. Our heart beats about 100,000 times in a day. Isn’t our body a great miracle? Scientists say if we have to calculate the cost of our body, it would amount to about 6000 trillion dollars. Compared to this amount, what is the amount you need to spend for a health check? Almost negligible! Don’t you think you should do everything for it? Does the cost really matter? Ask URself.

On the topic of the importance of a health check-up, we have a package called ProHealth. It is a personalized health check. Suppose blood is drawn from 10 of us – the tests are not the same. From your history and the physical, it will give you a personalized health check. This is called ProHealth.

By leveraging the services of ProHealth you can save URself from the five major catastrophes including heart attack, stroke, cancer, infection and diabetes.

Ms Upasana: That would be a great advantage. If U care for UR loved ones, give them something to do with health. Do not give them mithai! It’s not rich in nutrition! It only offers instant gratification but does not help in the long run. Ensure you give them things that help them improve their health. Help them to become a better version of themselves. Think about it!

Also, people often come to me saying Apollo is expensive and they overcharge. What do you have to say?

Dr Reddy: What we want to give is the best for the patient. Sometimes, a doctor writes too many tests. People think that he/she is doing so because they will get the money. But the fact is they don’t get the money! The doctor primarily writes the tests to understand the intensity and nature of the problem – to be able to arrest the problem in the early stage.

Suppose if someone undergoes a CT scan or MRI and finds out that there is a cancer – the early detection will enable the doctor to remove it in stage 1. This way the patient will be able to live a healthy life without any further complications.

Similarly, if a doctor detects a problem with kidney functioning, an early-stage treatment can help a patient to recover. Otherwise, the patient needs to undergo dialysis or a kidney replacement which are difficult procedures.

Patients should care more about proper treatment and every patient should ensure they have medical insurance.

Ms Upasana: Yes, people often complain that medical bills are pushing them to poverty. What’s the way out?

Dr Reddy: I tried to push the need for general health insurance bill in the government. But unfortunately, the government could not attain a majority for the particular legislation.

Every person needs to have health insurance. When people get sick, they would want a hospital that cares best for them. Having insurance will help them to take on a worry-free approach and they can proudly say that the insurance will take care of the bills!

Another point to keep in mind is that health insurance leads to tax benefits! Now, don’t U want to avail it? Having insurance is the best way to manage your health bills!

Ms Upasana: We are striving towards #healinindia. What do you think about it?

Dr Reddy: Today, India is becoming a primary center for healthcare treatment. I am proud to say that the country now has at least 500 best hospitals that can offer holistic, personalized care.

India and the whole world need a lot of medical professionals. Which country can train the highest number of medical professionals? None other than India! We have the highest youth population. What we need is to educate more doctors, double our number of doctors and triple the number of nurses.

Also, overseas people are coming to India with the intention of receiving good treatment. India is way ahead in treating cancer!

Ms Upasana: What’s UR advice for young people?

Dr Reddy: Indians are at-par excellence in every field but a little improvement in terms of ‘focus’ can do wonders. Japanese are great at focusing. Youngsters should adapt this.

We need to remember that people are a very important resource. Merely having state-of-art equipment cannot do much. Human intelligence combined with machine power can help attain glory in any field!

If you want to start a business – U first need to think how sustainable it is. How clear your intention is and what positive change can it bring to the country and world. Keep UR mind positive and do something that keeps U happy. It helps!