Feb 21InterviewIssue

Providing Precision Cancer Care

Dr Jagprag Singh Gujral, Group CEO, CTSI South Asia talks about the company’s strategy for the Indian market

Cancer Treatment Services International (CTSI) is a privately-held provider of comprehensive clinical and administrative solutions for the treatment of cancer and other complex diseases. CTSI was co-founded in 2006 by a group of physicians and industry experts with decades of experience in the development, operation and networking of private and academic medical practices. CTSI owns and operates an expanding network of comprehensive cancer treatment facilities primarily focussed on India and South Asia. CTSI’s flagship international centre, American Oncology Institute (AOI), commenced operations in 2013. American Oncology Institute is a 300,000 square foot cancer-focussed multispecialty hospital in Hyderabad, India. The hospital serves as a state-of-the-art treatment destination for cancer patients, featuring radiation oncology, medical oncology, surgical oncology, full-service diagnostics and other supportive care services.

CTSI is the parent company of AOI, could you tell us about the company and how is it structured to integrate cancer care?

CTSI was started by a group of clinicians and entrepreneurs from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) who came together to bridge the gap in cancer speciality care between the Western developed hospitals and the speciality hospitals in emerging markets. The key objective was to develop a comprehensive cancer care setup across the emerging markets with a vision to build an evidence-based practice to meet the highest standards for trust, transparency, and technology while taking care of patient needs.

What is the current strength of CTSI (AOI) in South Asia and how do you see this number rising?

CTSI (AOI), a focussed cancer care chain, has grown from a network of three hospitals to 15 hospitals over the last 26 months. With presence ranging from the North East to Jammu to Sri Lanka, the cancer care chain caters to a population base of 300 million and has maintained its leadership in differentiation due to its quality clinical protocols, superior technology, evidence-based practice to identify and prevent cancer at the earliest stage possible, benchmarked clinical outcomes and superior service standards. There is a huge geographical presence which we have been able to establish in the last few years in the region keeping in mind the demand-supply gap.

Apart from Sri Lanka, we plan to set up facilities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar which are currently under consideration.

With affordability, access and best-in-class care at the forefront, AOI is leading the fight against cancer in South Asia. AOI’s growth trajectory, industry-leading financial performance and differentiated approach to healthcare delivery have driven this recognition.

CTSI has been registering a compound annual growth rate of around 65 per cent over the last few years. Considering that we are a very young company and have $100 million in revenue with a robust growth pipeline, I see us sustaining this growth rate. We have launched on an average of five cancer hospitals annually and would continue the trajectory. Our hospitals in Imphal, Guntur and Nagpur are stand-alone cancer hospitals.

What challenges did you face while catering to patients during COVID-19 pandemic? How did you overcome it?

Covid has been especially challenging for cancer patients due to their added vulnerability as a result of cancer. It was important to not only ensure continued treatment of cancer but also create an environment of comfort for the same. Keeping patient safety, AOI has adopted a comprehensive set of measures for infection-control, personnel-screening and hygiene to ensure that all patients and staff remain safe from the prevailing virus across our 15 facilities. The oncology clinical protocols followed at AOI are benchmarked with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Guidelines of the US.

During the pandemic, AOI treated more than 25,000 cancer patients over the last nine months in a safe and covid restricted environment in its hospitals.

What are the main differentiators of AOI and what strategies help you keep ahead of the competition?

The differentiated competencies developed by AOI address unmet industry needs including meeting patient expectations and addressing grievances. The constant feedback mechanism and a customer-centric approach in a patient’s journey is key to a differentiated services model that AOI adopts. The use of a central treatment planning and clinical dosimetry team allows for a standardised and data-driven approach to identify necessary treatment pathways across its network.

Superior clinical outcomes with minimal tissue damage are achieved through precise dosimetry and the central team supports both India-based American Oncology Institute clinics and partner institutions affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) in the US. AOI also provides patients with expert care by leveraging an international board of tumour experts affiliated with UPMC. All centres participate in weekly oncology discussions and selected patient case reviews.

What is the business model of AOI?

Oncology is a dynamic science with advancements being achieved almost daily. The strategy of CTSI – American Oncology Institute constitutes a holistic care model to support the needs of the patients. AOI’s hospitals are designed to offer a spectrum of treatment services including medical oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology, haematology-oncology, and high-end oncology diagnostics (like PETCT, SPECT, CT, real-time tumour tracking). Moreover, the company offers advanced diagnostic services such as histopathology, molecular pathology, cytogenetics, and next-generation sequencing. The robust IT infrastructure ensures seamless data processing across the treatment cycle.

CTSI is an established benchmark for most of the technology adaptations-Product Technology, Information Technology (IT), and Clinical Technology.

It is well established that these three are synergistic to each other and ultimately- how well you translate the technology for the end consumer or doctor or patient is the value that can be derived from these adaptations.

Which new technologies did you implement recently in your hospitals to provide precision cancer therapy?

We are a 100 per cent subsidiary of the largest oncology product company – Varian. All 15 hospitals that fall under this group have access to the latest radiation equipment and protocols. Another significant thing is the utilisation of available technology for patients. The technologies are all based on NCCN protocols and information technology networks, with the help of which we deliver benefits of advanced technology to the patients.

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