Placing patients at the heart of healthcare

The rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in the blink of an eye, disrupting millions of lives, damaging the global economy, and creating myriad challenges for leaders in every industry across the country. Considering this, being at the front of a healthy community’s foundation simultaneously carries a lot of expectations and responsibilities. Today, we are going to talk about a state-of-the-art healthcare provider which has been incessantly climbing the ladder of success irrespective of all the challenges that stood before it. We are talking about none other than the Pune-based hospital Ruby Hall Clinic. Much of the credit for the successful operation of Ruby Hall Clinic goes to Dr. Manisha Karmarkar, COO of the hospital who has been an integral part of the Institute for over 25 years. 

Dedication, passion, hard work and support. These few words could aptly summarise the journey of her growth. Dr. Karmarkar began her career at Ruby Hall Clinic in 1995 as a Senior Registrar in the Intensive Care Unit. Shortly after, she assumed the role of a Consultant at the Department of Anaesthesiology. The management noticed her keen involvement in process improvements and emphasis on quality, which then culminated into her heading the OT services as Director at Ruby Hall Clinic for the past eight years. She extended the same authority to the Hinjawadi and Wanowrie branches of the hospital. 

Through this time, she utilised every opportunity to learn the nuances of leadership and even completed her MBA in healthcare management. She was presented with the opportunity to take up the reins of Ruby Hall Clinic Wanowrie as Chief Operating Officer and successfully transformed the financial trajectory of the hospital. Looking at her leadership style, the management then roped her in as the Chief Operating Officer at the 650-bedded Ruby Hall Clinic. She has since then become the first woman in the hospital’s 60-year legacy to shatter glass ceilings and enter the C-suite. Currently, she is also heading the Department of Robotic Surgery, the Breast Clinic and the Mother and Child Clinic to name a few.

Quality patient care with unrelenting attention to clinical excellence

Talking about her vision for Ruby Hall Clinic, Dr. Karmarkar says, “My vision and goals for Ruby Hall Clinic’s future are aligned with the essence of what our beloved founder, Padmabhushan Late Dr. KB Grant had in mind when the hospital first opened its doors to serve the community.” The hospital has been dedicated to providing quality patient care with unrelenting attention to clinical excellence, patient safety and an unparalleled passion and commitment since its very inception. As a leader in clinically proven healthcare, she aims to expand access to quality healthcare, employ the use of technology to create clinical milestones and simultaneously ensure the growth and development of the team at Ruby Hall Clinic.

However, her journey has in no way been easy. She has had moments of contemplation and exhaustion, but the passion and satisfaction she feels at the end of each day prove that it has indeed been a journey well worth taking. Throughout her tenure, she has been of the strong opinion that having a purpose and working towards achieving it is what makes a world of a difference. But for a doctor to manage her medical practice, family and additionally an entire hospital is no easy task. However, it’s her resilience, can-do attitude and belief in her capability that’s got her to where she is today. 

Talking about the challenges she faced right after becoming the COO, she says, “We were right in the middle of the COVID-19 battle when I took reins in the capacity of the COO at Ruby Hall Clinic.” It was a challenge she was willing to take head-on. 

“Coronavirus upended life for all of us and as a leader, I continued to do everything in my stride to keep our patients and employees safe. Perhaps the entire aspect of juggling my medical practice along with managing the hospital along with so many other departments within it has been the most challenging aspect for me. There have been days where I wish I had more than 24 hours to manage the entire system. As a doctor, I want what is best for my patient — similarly, as the COO, I want what is best for the hospital”, she continued. 

One of the biggest factors that have contributed to her success is her family. Throughout her journey, her family has been the compass that guides her, the rock that steadies her and the ladder that helps her climb to success. Her husband, who is a surgeon, has been her backbone, making her sail through lifes most complex decisions. He has constantly pushed her to take risks, growing in every stage of life. Her daughter, who is a medical student, understands the pressure of being in this field and has been very supportive every step of the way. 

Investing in equipment that’s evolving the paradigm of care it offers

Another hallmark of her success is her self-confidence and ability to make quick decisions which have been the driving factor in helping her be where she is today. “At the core of my self-belief is the realization that I – and only I – am the driver of my own success”, she says. This is where personal power is built: in claiming agency to overcome challenges in life – both on a personal and professional level.  

“I believe in achieving the impossible. In fact, I feel more driven when a person tells me that I cannot do something. I go out of my way and push all boundaries to achieve what I have in mind”, says Dr Karmarkar. Another facet that’s helped her on this journey is her thirst for knowledge and eagerness to learn. It has opened her eyes to so many new possibilities, and given her so much more to look forward to achieving. One such possibility has been the utilization of technology in healthcare services. Technological innovation can transform the way healthcare is delivered, improve clinical outcomes and even change the very essence of how healthcare functions — by making it more proactive than reactive. 

“At Ruby Hall Clinic, we’ve always placed our patients at the heart of our operations and for this very purpose, we choose to constantly innovate our services and offerings”, she says. From Varian’s Halcyon and the TrueBeam STx for the cancer care to the daVinci surgical robot for minimally invasive procedures, the Modulith SLX F-2 Connect for modern urological demands or even Asia’s first Senographe Pristina Mammography Suite, Ruby Hall Clinic has invested in equipment that’s evolving the paradigm of care it offers to its patients. Its 3 Tesla MRI, the Einstein Vision 2.0., a digital PET and SPECT CT scanner further fortify patient care. It is also harnessing the power of AI to transform diagnostics and track patient well-being, and has partnered with a global leader in electronic medical records

Apart from technological innovation, she has been quite vocal about the right kind of leadership. According to her, leadership has two types of ingredients: skills that can easily be learnt and traits which are largely innate but can be imbibed over a period of time. She attributes her learnings as a leader to the CEO of Ruby Hall Clinic, Mr. Bomi Bhote “Without his guidance, none of this would have been possible. What stands out about him is his generosity, he is open to sharing his knowledge, wisdom, experience and insight at all times,” she says.

Building trust

Additionally, transparency and ethics at the hospital drive trust, and trust enables an environment where people feel they belong and can benefit by being part of the team. Retaining staff and knowing how to defuse tension and solve conflicts is key as the leader. That is especially true in settings like hospitals, where mistakes can mean life or death. 

For Dr. Karmarkar, work is similar to training for a sport. Getting back home to her husband and daughter every single day is what keeps her going. Not only do they help her unwind, but also motivate her to be the best version of herself. She is an avid reader and not a day goes by where she sleeps without listening to music. According to her, setting aside personal time to decompress is vital – it’s essential to cut yourself off from your problems. For her, this means starting her day with exercise, the occasional family holiday, movies with her daughter and time out with friends. 

Every day, as the COO, she faces the relentless task of making tough decisions — about tactics and strategies, patients and finances, operations and management, and more. These decisions vary in significance and complexity, but some have the potential to determine the fate or fortune of Ruby Hall Clinic. “I try to master the art of balancing a multitude of tasks. As a leader, I know I have to display business acumen, healthcare expertise, and forward-thinking — all at once.” 

Some of the most common decisions she has to make revolve around developing technology, including equipment upgrades that facilitate greater collaboration and improve clinical outcomes. She also monitors hospital finances and ensures compliances with healthcare policies and laws. At the same time, she addresses staffing concerns, from both increased demand for care and burnout. But at the heart of it all, she considers patient safety her most essential duty.

A force to reckon with

Being the first woman COO in the hospitals sixty-year legacy, Dr. Karmarkar was initially apprehensive of the response she would receive after getting into this position. However, the warmth and acceptance she received showed her that leadership is ultimately about creating a culture where people feel trusted, motivated and valued. She strives to maintain this balance with her team through all her actions.

Being someone who has a strong mindset, she always set out to achieve what she dreamt about. “For me, it’s always been about making a difference in the lives of people I associate with.” This is why she has always endeavoured to keep up being a practising anaesthetist in spite of the many hats she dons whilst continuing to be a mother, daughter and wife. Besides, she has established herself as a leader and a force to reckon with. 

Stepping into a leadership role is one of the most courageous decisions in one’s career. In today’s digital world, a new kind of leader is required – a leader that consistently leads others by supporting people and the organisation to grow. Dr. Karmarkar has been one such leader. She has opened a door of opportunities for others and helped them become better managers. While sharing some of her learnings for other aspiring leaders, she says, you must:

Lead by example: As a leader, you must not simply lead by telling others what to do. You must lead by showing others what to do, by setting a good example yourself.

Be confident in your abilities: A good leader is brave yet prudent. Confidence is as important to leadership as oxygen is to breathing.

Practice Integrity: As a leader you need to realise that your words, actions, decisions and methodologies help create the company’s true values and culture. Being honest and having unshakable moral principles is something every leader must imbibe.

Read every day, stay curious: “Millions saw the apple fall, but only Newton asked why.” Curiosity is one of the main traits of a good leader and this, I believe, stems from being a voracious reader. 

431 K