How we’re helping Indian hospitals meet growing demand through ‘lean, green and digital’ practices

26 April 2023

Prof Julie Wolfram Cox, Prof Julie Davies, A/Prof Glen Croy, Janet Hsuan, Prof Amrik Sohal and Geoffrey Cox in front of New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital.

Prof Julie Wolfram Cox, Prof Julie Davies, A/Prof Glen Croy, Janet Hsuan,
Prof Amrik Sohal and Geoffrey Cox in front of New Delhi's All India
Institute of Medical Sciences hospital.

Monash Business School academics are working with several leading Indian hospitals to help their medical experts meet increasing patient demand, strengthening a long-term partnership in the country.

Their work is focused on not only streamlining the Indian health system, but also the way patients interact with it. Key to this is improving the flow of patients through the hospital system, thereby freeing up medical staff to better manage those patients and their needs.

Department of Management Professor Amrik Sohal recently led a delegation of management experts – including colleagues Professor Julie Wolfram Cox and Associate Professor Glen Croy – to conduct workshops at leading Indian hospitals in New Delhi, Jammu, and Chandigarh.

The delegation also included Professor Chris Bain from the Faculty of Information Technology and Associate Professor Zerina Tomkins from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, as well as Professor Julie Davies from University College London, and leading Melbourne consultant surgeons Dr Geoff Cox and Dr Janet Hsuan.

‘Changing the behaviour of patients’

Prof Sohal said there was a lot of work to be done, not only in changing and improving the Indian health system, but the way patients interacted with it. “One of the biggest challenges is changing the behaviour of patients,” he said.

The Indian government is currently establishing a new network of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospitals in every state. Prof Sohal’s team visited several hospitals, including AIIMS hospitals in New Delhi and Jammu (currently under construction) and the Postgraduate Institute for Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh.

“(Patients) will arrive early in the morning (for a midday appointment) and clog up the system because they fear missing out on an appointment they’ve been waiting many, many months for, or have travelled hundreds of kilometres to come to one of these elite hospitals,” Prof Sohal said.

“We create time for the doctors, nurses and administrators to think about doing things in a better way, because (at the moment) they are so busy dealing with a huge mass of patients coming in that they just do not have time.”

He said the team hoped to create pilot projects, following initial training, to support local teams. “They're all very bright people, they’re all highly trained consultants and medical practitioners. But they have got to be trained in this whole area focusing on improving the sytem,” he said.

A/Prof Glen Croy at an IIM Amritsar workshop with Prof Amrik Sohal and Prof Julie Wolfram Cox.

A/Prof Croy at an IIM Amritsar workshop with Prof Sohal and
Prof Wolfram Cox.

Prof Wolfram Cox said the team would track short and long-term outcomes, and their impact.

“And then, looking from those pilot projects, to see other opportunities to either upscale or transfer them into other departments within the hospitals, and also to build the capability of hospitals in the regions,” Prof Wolfram Cox said.

A/Prof Croy said the workshops were “much more than a skills-building or discussion exercise”, largely because they were supported strongly by senior management within each hospital. “Senior management dedicated a lot of time and resources to us being able to run the events there,” he said.

“So they symbolised – or signified, if you like  – the importance of what we were doing. Having that support from senior management means everyone is a lot more likely to follow through with their learnings on the job.”

The delegation’s work continues a years-long collaboration to meet increasing demand at Indian hospitals.

“Over the past four or five years, I've been leading some research teams particularly looking at the adoption of Lean management approaches in hospitals,” Prof Sohal said.

“These trips have been extended to green or sustainability action areas and to also digitise patient records.”

Other vital work on food supply chains and industry transformation

The team didn’t just focus on hospitals during their visit.

A/ Prof Croy said they also ran development workshops for Higher Degree Research students and guest lectures for MBA students in Amritsar and Chandigarh.

He and Professor Sohal also co-led a FoodSCAN workshop held jointly with the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana, situated in the northern Indian state of Punjab, which involved facilitating collaboration between Indian researchers and industry to create a food supply chain network to improve efficiency and combat food loss.

“What we see as very evident within the (current) supply chain is a number of imbalances, particularly imbalances of information and imbalances of power,” A/Prof Croy said.

“We're looking to address how we can particularly share information along that supply chain to start reducing those imbalances of power, so that we get those greater efficiencies and hopefully benefits, particularly to the farmers at the top end of the supply chain.”

Led by Prof Sohal, the team has been running multiple industry workshops in Australia on transforming supply chains to sustainable models.

Prof Sohal at Avon Cycles, one of the largest Indian bicycle manufacturing companies, in Ludhiana.

Prof Sohal at Avon Cycles, one of Indias largest bicycle manufacturing companies,
in Ludhiana.

Prof Sohal and A/Prof Croy also visited Avon Cycles, one of the largest Indian bicycle manufacturing companies, in Ludhiana, where they held a meeting with the Avon Cycle’s Managing Director and toured the company’s production facilities.

Prof Sohal said the company had transformed from a manufacturer of simple, everyday use bicycles to a producer of a wide range of two-wheelers and three-wheelers, including electric-powered and hybrid bicycles and scooters.

“Innovation, social responsibility and sustainability are key pillars of this company’s strategy,” he said.