28 Feb 2020 16:26 IST

Apollo Hospitals: King of healthcare in the South

A pioneer on several fronts, it is the only hospital chain in India to achieve the Superbrand status

Known today as the hospital for the city’s rich and powerful, Apollo Hospital was conceived reportedly when a patient of the founder passed away in 1971 due to his inability to raise the amount required for a US trip for surgery. The determination to avoid any such tragic recurrence led Dr Prathap C Reddy (then at HM Hospital, Chennai) to dream of a hospital where one could provide treatment to Indians on par with the best hospitals in the world.

Dr Prathap C Reddy

 

 

More than a decade later, he was able to realise his dream. Apollo Hospital, the first corporate hospital in India, opened its doors at Greams Road in Chennai in 1984.

Chennai was the best place then for medical practice, having already acquired a reputation for providing quality medical care at affordable rates, with about 400 hospitals and four highly regarded medical colleges in the region — Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Pondicherry, and Stanley Medical College (SMC) and Madras Medical College (MMC) in Chennai. Public spending for health infrastructure was at its height. Private nursing homes run by eminent doctors had gained people’s trust. The Adyar Cancer Institute, Sankara Nethralaya and other centres, with their values and professional ethics, had also contributed to making Chennai the healthcare capital of India.

In this promising healthcare scene, Apollo Hospital made tentative first steps, armed with its founder’s determination to provide high-tech care with a personal touch. It had several firsts to its credit even then: the government gave it permission to have a capacity of over 30 beds, a prerogative till then of government and charitable trust hospitals. It was even credited with reversing the brain drain of brilliant medical talent, attracting some of the best medical minds into its fold.

The trust

It took five years, some say a decade, for the hospital to make a name for itself. As recognition and trust among the people increased, the hospital started bringing in the best medical equipment and technology.

By 1998, it had received the ISO:9002 certification. It later became the first hospital in South India to receive the ISO 22000 – HACCP certification from the British Standards Institution. In 2013, it received ISO 14001:2004 certification for its environmental management system (EMS).

Apollo Hospital started expanding slowly, first in Hyderabad in 1988 and in the next decade in Delhi, even as it started advertising its services in print. Within two decades of its launch, it was recognised as a healthcare Superbrand — and to date, remains the only healthcare organisation in India to have achieved this status. The Indian government even released a commemorative stamp on the hospital in 2009.

Not only did Apollo Hospital become the first healthcare provider to introduce artery stenting, it also pioneered open-heart surgeries and cardiac catheterisation in India. It started India’s first and largest branded pharmacy network — the Apollo Pharmacy.

Retaining the top spot

Today, as other hospital networks follow in Apollo’s footsteps, the pioneer has retained its position as one of the leaders. The transition to the next generation has been seamless, owing to the strong family ties that bind the four daughters of the founder, each one of whom manages a separate division of the network.

The founder, doctors and the hospital network have all won multiple awards. Dr Prathap C Reddy was first conferred the Padma Bhushan and then the Padma Vibhushan. The Apollo Hospital Group received the ‘Brand of the Year 2018’ award in the category ‘Hospitals and Healthcare’. It was awarded ‘India’s Most Admirable Brand 2019’ by The Brand Story. Its ‘Billion Hearts Beating’ Campaign won the Best Marketing Campaign of the Year Award at the World Brand Congress 2010.

It is regarded as one of India’s leading multi-specialty hospitals today and has received awards in almost all categories it operates in – healthcare, food safety, cleanliness, patient care, employment, insurance, innovation, leadership, medical excellence, safety, medical value travel, nursing, training, CSR initiatives, branding, marketing, image building and online presence, and most importantly, the use of AI. It has won the Asian Hospital Management Awards in different categories.

Asia’s largest

From just one hospital, the brand has grown to become one of Asia’s largest and most trusted healthcare groups, with more than 10,000 beds across 70 hospitals, about 3,500 pharmacies, over 170 primary care and diagnostic clinics and above 700 telemedicine units spread across 13 countries. Apart from being active in clinical research, web broadcasts and collaborative forums, it offers medical, nursing and paramedical courses and academic fellowships and titles. Early on, it went in for digitisation of patients’ healthcare histories for easy referencing and tracking. Always at the forefront in breakthrough technological research, it launched robot-assisted cardiac surgery last year. It has also commissioned the first Proton Therapy Centre in Chennai.

Recently, in collaboration with Baja FinServ, the group launched a ‘Health EMI Card’ which would be accepted at all Apollo Hospitals. It is also extremely active on social media platforms.

Apollo Hospital has gone beyond patient care to launch a health service along with the Indian government — ‘SEHAT’ (Social Endeavour for Health and Telemedicine) — aiming to connect 60,000 common service centres (CSCs) pan India to a common network. It has also organised free monthly health check camps across several locations for pregnant women.

The founder has shown keen interest in developing rural areas, starting with his native region of Chittoor district, which has become an example of how a dedicated, holistic health service can transform society. The ‘Total Health Programme’ begun by the Apollo Hospital Group is India’s first integrated rural healthcare service delivery network. It is not just treatment but prevention that is focussed on, by offering solutions for problems related to daily needs such as water, sanitation and nutrition.

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