Bridging the Health Care Gap in India

"My goal was to create a new health care delivery model that improves lives and patient outcomes."
Dr. C.J. Vetrievel, founder of Be Well Hospitals
The Soros Economic Development Fund looks for ways to help people access lifesaving care—and for a successful business model to accompany these efforts. SEDF, along with Omidyar Network and Google, created SONG, a fund that invests in small and medium enterprises in sectors such as health care. In 2011, SONG invested $3.7 million in Be Well Hospitals in India. I spoke with Dr. C.J. Vetrievel, the founder of Be Well and an orthopedic surgeon.

What is Be Well?

My partner, Chidambaram Lakshmanan, and I founded Be Well Hospitals in 2011 to make high-quality, affordable health care available to people who live in under-served towns in South India. Be Well operates in places where access to reliable emergency and critical-care services are unavailable or of poor quality. Our mission is to establish and grow a network of professionally managed, highly ethical secondary-care hospitals.

At present we have seven multispecialty hospital locations that serve semi-urban and rural populations in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. We focus on emergency, specialty, and preventative care.

What problems are you trying to address?

Before Be Well, patients had to travel to the major cities for emergency and specialty care, with trips taking up to three hours. In any emergency timing is critical. By having the Be Well network of hospitals located in and/or near these communities we help ensure that people get the appropriate course of treatment at the right time. And we believe it should be affordable.

Another big problem in rural and semi-urban locations is that patients are often misled about treatment and are provided with substandard care or subjected to outright fraud. This can mean the difference between life and death. Our goal is to provide care that is trustworthy, accessible, and affordable.

What is the real-life impact of the hospitals?

Be Well has treated over 20,000 patients, a majority whom earn less than $8 per day. Let me give you an example of how we are seeing an impact. Be Well built its third hospital in a town called Pudukottai, Tamilnadu in September of 2012. The town, a district headquarters, had no dialysis facility, despite the fact that the town had high incidences of diabetes and related chronic kidney disease.

Diabetic patients had to travel two hours round trip twice per week to the closest city for dialysis. The time and cost of travel for a diabetes patient and their family was astronomical. Be Well introduced a dialysis unit in Pudukottai allowing patients access to quality and affordable treatment near their homes.

How does Be Well address the issue of patients’ rights, information, and complaint resolution?

Be Well is committed to developing an organizational culture of treating patients humanely and with respect and ensuring that patients are well informed about their health and the care they are receiving. We are continuously improving our procedures and processes which help patients understand the care they are to receive, the associated costs, the risks and benefits, and precisely whom to go to for any concerns of complaints.

What differentiates Be Well in the private health care industry in India is how we respond, both humanely and responsibly, to patients’ needs and rights.

Can Be Well be replicated across India and in other countries?

Yes. My goal was to create a new health care delivery model that improves lives and patient outcomes. The Be Well model is, at its core, patient centric and aligns specialists, health professionals, and management to support people in underserved communities. 

Our model can be expanded throughout India and replicated in other countries where people struggle to access reliable, affordable health care. This will be proven when we expand from South to North India.

What is your vision for Be Well for the next five years?

Over the next five years, we envision 50 hospitals delivering accessible, affordable, ethical and high quality health care all across India.  By continuing to prove that return on investment can be achieved, we believe our access to capital will increase. This will allow us to expand and serve more people. 

We are confident that Be Well Hospitals is demonstrating a new standard of excellence for delivering private health care services to a vast majority of Indians.

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4 Comments

BE WELL is a very good model if you can allow people like me will replicate it.

Our Institution is working in regarding the development and welfare of women and children. The main ambition of our institution is that we need to change the life of women and children for which we need your help. We kindly request you to please support and help my institution for the progress and development related to these matters so that we can alter the condition and life of women and children. We know that small steps result in alteration of the lifestyle of human beings.

Health care is most valuable service for making a healthy generation. We can reach out to unreached places especially focused on health care of women & children.

I work for an organisation called Kalinga Institute of social Sciences ( KISS), Bhubaneswar, Odisha which works for 20,000 indigenous children by providing them free food, education, health, training in sports and vocational training. KISS is now setting up its branches in the 20 districts of Odisha which are mostly dominated by the indigenous population who are deprived of health facilities in terms of healthcare centres and hospitals because of their location. These areas are compared to the regions of Africa ( world Bank) because of the poor infrastructural facilities and poverty situation. This areas of Odisha is marked by the prevalence of high rates of Malaria and high Infant and maternal mortality rates. (highest in India).
In this regard, i would request if your organisation can support us in building hospitals for this underprivileged section of the society who constitute about 225 of the total population of the region. Intervention of organisations like open society will definitely help to open a new chapter in healthcare facilities for this section of society.

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