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Rajeev Rajan leads healthcare transformation at Bumrungrad International Hospital

by Mahmood Hossain

CBDO talks about transforming healthcare frontiers

By Mahmood Hossain

There are certain individuals that are unaware of their brilliance at such a young age. They are youthful and ambitious, and confidently express their natural talent that leaves admirers and peers alike in awe. Granted, particular areas of expertise require a good number of years spent in the field before an individual can consider themselves an expert. One of those fields happens to be the healthcare industry. So, when I met Rajeev Rajan, Chief Business Development Officer at Bumrungrad International Hospital, for the first time, I was taken aback by his relative youth. Apparently, my reaction to his achievements and current position was not all too different from his colleagues’ initial interactions.

Prior to our conversation, I was slightly briefed about this Kerala-born and Kolkata-raised 36-year-old, who currently holds a significant position in one of the most prestigious private hospitals in Asia. One of his colleagues revealed how pleasantly surprising it was to work with a person of Rajeev’s age, and more importantly, the vision he has to enhance the environment he thrives in. It’s rare to find such an astute young gentleman who has a commanding presence, is respected for his work, yet also admired for his personable approach to the people around him.

After shifting to Kolkata from Kerala with his family and completing his undergraduate degree, he made the move to Delhi for his MBA. This was naturally followed by an internship with a local healthcare provider before he received an offer for a permanent role. Rajeev actually stumbled into healthcare; it was never planned nor was it a dream of his. He did, however, have a knack for the business side of things, and the healthcare industry provided him an opportunity that caught his attention.

“To be honest, the first offer I received meant that I would be travelling frequently. The idea of experiencing different cities, countries, and cultures was very enticing,” began Rajeev. “And I loved to travel and see new places. In that process, I was fortunate enough to learn more about the Indian healthcare system. For someone who doesn’t come from a healthcare background and who went into healthcare sales, marketing, and promotion, this was a priceless experience.

“We were able to explore more options throughout India with the help of the government and significant collaborative efforts with various organisations,” continued Rajeev. “There wasn’t a set precedent at the time, so it was more about showcasing India as a preferred destination for quality healthcare for foreigners. This progressed to working in Bangalore, and then for a company that enabled me to work in both India and Dubai for about four years. And now, I’m here in Thailand, where I started my journey in Bangkok 16 months ago with Bumrungrad International Hospital.”

We continued our conversation to learn more about his journey through the healthcare landscape and how Bumrungrad International Hospital continues to advance its caregiving process.

Could you please give us a better understanding of your responsibilities as a CBDO, especially within the environment of such a prestigious private hospital?

I have worked with several different service providers around the world. So, I first want to state how much of an honour and privilege it is for me to be accepted into the Bumrungrad family. This hospital continually maintains its high-standard clinical practices and service excellence, along with affordable healthcare, which attracts more patients to the hospital. As for my direct role in business development, I must nurture an already impressive business portfolio, keep up with current trends, and as a team, we have to provide value-added services for patients coming from over 120 countries. And we’re always looking into new areas that enable us to improve the health tourism space in Thailand.

With your extensive background in the healthcare industry, what major differences have you seen between the healthcare services in India and Thailand?

First and foremost, we must keep in mind that the populations of each country are vastly different. There are over a billion people in India and very diverse environments in each region. Next, you have to separate the public healthcare system and the private healthcare system. We at Bumrungrad International Hospital, of course, are in the private sector, so I can only compare things from the private hospital perspective. In comparison, we stand out from the rest. Not only through our adoption of new medical technology but because this hospital is also the first Joint Commission International-accredited hospital in Asia.

There are certain hospitals in India that use Bumrungrad International Hospital as a case study, to better understand what it has achieved today; in terms of safety practices, operational processes, branding, positioning, patient care, and so on. In other words, Bumrungrad International Hospital has set certain trends, especially for the healthcare fraternity in India. Even 14 to 15 years ago, I was already reading about this hospital and hoping to be a part of its success.

We also shouldn’t forget the obvious factor: Thailand is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. That is a major contributor factor for our patients seeking care at our hospital. Thailand’s accessibility is there and the easy logistics of coming here with direct flights makes things more comfortable. This helps us take care of our patients better.

Bumrungrad International Hospital is quite a popular choice among the Thai-Indian community. Why do you believe this is the case, and is there more being done to capture the international market from India?

I believe it is important to acknowledge that Bumrungrad International Hospital has been established for more than 43 years. It has set its foundation as one of the country’s leading medical facilities. Our brand is widely recognised among embassies, chambers of commerce, corporates, and expatriate communities, including the Embassy of India, India Thai Chamber of Commerce (ITCC), Indian Women’s Club (IWC), and many other business and cultural associations.

We are open to learning about the community, as we have eight doctors of Indian origin who are either directly treating patients, or are part of various support clinical teams. When our team engages with the Indian community, on countless occasions the conversation starts with them mentioning how they have been coming to the hospital for decades, and sharing heartfelt stories about the treatment and services they have received. The brand holds the trust of the community, as we have consistently delivered excellence in both treatment and services, along with state-of-the-art technology. The hospital also adapts to the needs of patients during their visit by establishing a direct communication channel between the hospital and the community seeking assistance.

We have witnessed an accelerated shift in the healthcare landscape post-pandemic. From your recent experiences, and from a business development perspective, what are the top concerns or priorities for healthcare providers?

In the healthcare community, there has also been an acclerated transformation in prevention and wellness programmes that empower care providers to establish early detection of illnesses in patients. For instance, within the hospital’s premises, we have our VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center. This is nothing new, but it’s a standalone facility that addresses a range of medical prevention measures, from longevity, antiaging, cleansing, detox, rejuvenation, and so on. Every party involved in an individual’s wellness is proactive about health. This is a significant foot forward.

Finally, from the healthcare providers’ perspective, we must help people lessen their fear of visiting their healthcare providers. Unfortunately, people are still afraid of going to the doctor and actually finding something wrong or facing health related challenges. But the pandemic accelerated the necessary steps to enhance our well-being, which means people are finally starting to realise things could get worse. Again, we are fortunate enough to have technologies that highlight early detection and diagnose patients in the most accurate way possible.

Generally speaking, South Asians are prone to various health challenges, such as heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. How does Bumrungrad International Hospital excel in helping them overcome those healthcare challenges?

We try our best to not only create awareness within the community but maintain consistent outreach initiatives with public and private international schools and various organisations. We have clinicians who engage with groups of people to not only connect with them, but to share medical knowledge with non-healthcare professionals. We also utilise digital platforms, of course, to connect with the masses, from basic knowledge to more in-depth information in healthcare. We continue to periodically have healthcare campaigns as well, and it has become greatly beneficial for people who never knew they were dealing with particular symptoms or illnesses.

We are constantly encouraging people, at least over the age of 35, to do annual health checkups. I would urge the readers of Masala to do the same if they don’t already. We now live in an environment that can be highly detrimental to people’s wellbeing. It is better to detect and prevent than to go through the challenges of treatment or cures.

When all is said and done, what do you hope to achieve with Bumrungra International Hospital in the near future?

Working for Bumrungrad International Hospital has been a dream come true for me, and I would love to associate myself with this name for as long as I can. From the business aspect, of course, the market dynamics are very competitive, which leads to a lot of opportunities. My key role going forward is to maintain a balance while seeking more opportunities that attract patients from across the world and not the usual list of countries. The medical-value travel in Thailand continues to grow, and while challenges remain, but must make sure we serve to the best of our abilities. And as long as I continue to work for this hospital, I will learn as much as I can to contribute to its success for years to come.

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