June 21Opinion

Healthcare Leadership During Pandemic

Arpan Malhotra, India Business Head – Diagnostics, Siemens Healthcare

‘Diagnostics’ happens to be the starting point in the healthcare value-chain, and the entire diagnostic industry has been put to test in the ongoing pandemic, courtesy ‘COVID Wave 2’. I take this opportunity to share what worked, and equally important, what didn’t, as I reflect. At the same time, some key realisations on the way forward

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Come crisis, context needs to change from ‘Completion’ to ‘Maximisation’: ‘Priority is a function of Context – Stephen R. Covey’. Motivation levels get impacted by an anticipation of likely result in context of the end objective, which in turn is habituated for most of us as ‘Completion’. When in crisis, a nagging feeling of not being 100 per cent complete can inhibit the ability to achieve ‘maximum’ possible output under given circumstances. There’s a need to make the team feel “It’s okay!”.

Be ready, stress can bring along ‘Finger pointing’: What does a parent do when one child gets angry on the other? Probably it’s more important here as to what the parent should NOT do, and that’s not to get angry herself/ himself in the first place. Expecting this as a normal fallout of extreme stress will enable the leader to respond better. Most team members will start seeing it differently, once the leader shows them a ‘larger picture’.

Allow experimentation and let certain norms take the back seat for a while: When there’s little to lose, agility in trying out newer technologies and even newer ways of doing the same old tasks can open up unexplored avenues. Leaders need to allow the next level

managers to experiment, with little fear of being penalised. This obviously warrants caution towards quality, but many a times there are routines that never get challenged only because there was never a need to. Plus, those were never designed in the first place to address a crisis.

Need to create intervals of ‘Re-energising distractions’: Even when fully loaded, a routine that allows the team an opportunity to ‘Stop-Detach-Start again’ helps create higher efficiency peaks. Howsoever small it may be, and whatever form it may take (music, exercise, reading), it helps.

A shift in the balance between ‘Spare capacity’ and ‘Optimum utilisation’: The industry has now woken up to a different balance between the warranted ‘spare capacity’ and acceptable ‘Investment utilization’. The nature of work we do is such. I hope that post-crisis, realisation on this shifted balance stays.

Staying connected, sharing stories and recognising the extraordinary: When people are performing under extreme stress, one aspect that needs to be put to rest is Is someone even watching, and does someone even care?’

Pamper the R&D folks, they deserve it: What we’ve been hit with is something new. And to respond to that, our solution also probably needs to be new. There’s been an unprecedented pace at which the R&D teams have worked round the clock and never before we saw such a portfolio of new assays getting launched in such a short period of time. RT-PCR testing, Rapid antigen tests, neutralizing antibody tests, lab based antigen tests, COVID care assays like IL-6 and the list goes on. This increased focus will need to continue as the new normal.

Local manufacturing to compliment global portfolio: In the IVD space, role of local manufacturing will continue to gain momentum in coming times. As a leading player in diagnostics, we are adding a manufacturing line for molecular RT-PCR kits at our factory in Vadodara, Gujarat, besides the existing lines for the manufacturing of biochemistry reagents and Urine-strips.

At the sametime, it’s back to the basics of mass-scale testing: Lab automation and AI-enabled IT infrastructure will be a must in the new normal. The diagnostic industry will have to gear up to a much higher level of test volumes, which is likely to bring in a need to have a fragmented presence nearer to the patients; advanced logistics infrastructure; and total lab automation. Preventive testing is likely to see an all-new level going forward.

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