SERVICE EXCELLENCE

Malaysia 2017 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dato' Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari bin Yakub, CEO of National Heart Institute (IJN), on the key achievements of the institute, its strong focus on quality, and its preventative care initiatives.

 Dato’ Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari bin Yakub
BIOGRAPHY
Dato’ Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari bin Yakub is CEO of IJN and also serves as Senior Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon. He obtained his degree from the University of Western Australia and the Royal College of Physician & Surgeon of Glasgow. He is member of the Cardiothoracic Fellowship Programme of the Ministry of Health, and the Cardiovascular Surgery Subcommitee of Asia Pacific Society of Cardiology. He also serves as a member of the Cardiothoracic Specialty Board of National Specialty Registry, the Association of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgeons, the Asian Society of Cardiovascular Society, and the National Credentialing Board for Cardiothoracic Surgery.

What would you consider your main achievements at the National Heart Institute?

We are considered one of the leading cardiac centers in Asia Pacific. In terms of volume, we only come behind some centers in China and India. We take pride in our high standards—we have an international JCI accreditation. Many of our consultants are key opinion leaders in Asia Pacific and are often invited to give scientific talks. We combine our clinical care with a strong research agenda and publish our studies in international publications. We participate in medical trials and for a center to be chosen, it is an indirect way of saying we have reached a certain level. Initially, the hospital provided cardiac treatment for Malaysians; however, as our quality reached the highest standards, we now have a large foreign patient base. At the same time, we have grown to become a reference point for training and research. We provide training to many young doctors around the region and have trained nearly 120 doctors who have spent at least one year with us. The fact these young doctors later choose to work with us is another measure of our quality.

How do you present yourself abroad to attract an international client base?

The crux of it all is our quality, ensuring that we have clinical and service excellence. Without this we cannot move forward; this is our key philosophy. Meanwhile, we make strong efforts to position ourselves as the heart center of choice in the region. We have a marketing department to collaborate with other partners and a representative office in Jakarta as Indonesia represents our largest foreign client base. We also target other regional markets like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Myanmar. The Middle East is the next region that we will target. Another element that supports our value proposition is that we have trained many doctors from overseas, who after returning to their home countries become ambassadors for us. We grow by reputation and medical care is all about trust. Having references from friends and relatives is the most reliable and guaranteed method of marketing abroad. In Malaysia, we are leading the game if we compare ourselves to other regional players like Thailand and Singapore. The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) is doing a great job in streamlining promotional efforts abroad; however, the responsibility also lies with individual hospitals, and, therefore, we have our own international agenda as well. We have all the ingredients; however, we could organize ourselves better to get the message out into the right forum. A successful system of medical tourism requires the efforts from all players in the ecosystem, and we work to do our part and develop our own branding strategy. Essentially, our value proposition is two-fold: quality and care, and competitive pricing.

Can you tell us how you enhance the health of the nation with wellness programs and preventative care initiatives?

In recent years, we have promoted ourselves as not just the place to go when one has health problems, but also rather as proponents of heart healthcare. We look more and more into preventative care activities and run several awareness campaigns that are also as part of our CSR agenda. We have a trailer equipped with echo clinical equipment, and every month we go to rural areas outside of Kuala Lumpur to provide medical check-ups. We are softening our image and reaching out to a larger circle of people. Our wellness center has also been well received; we provide medical screenings to those who are keen on staying informed about their condition. This is a great vehicle for us, not just in terms of business but in healthcare terms—we can detect diseases at an early stage, resulting in much higher levels of success. The wellness center is not where our margins lie; however, it introduces our high-quality standards to our patients and demonstrates how our full-range of care is higher than private hospitals.