A WHOLE OTHER LEVEL

Turkey 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Erhan Bulutcu, CEO of the American Hospital, on the significance of being outside of the Ministry of Health and Social Security system, and new investments and programs.

Dr. Erhan Bulutcu
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Erhan Bulutcu graduated from School of Medicine and completed his residency in Anesthesiology at the Hacettepe University. He has been working at the American Hospital since 1996. In 1998 he became Chief of the Operating Room and in 2007 he became the Medical Coordinator of the American Hospital. In 2009 he became a Board Member and was appointed as the Deputy CEO. Since September 2014, he has been working as the CEO of both American Hospital and Koç University Hospital.

How do you see the American Hospital positioning itself within Turkey's healthcare sector?

Since 2000, the healthcare sector in Turkey has been rapidly getting bigger, but the majority of the hospitals—around 75-80%—belong to the Ministry of Health or have a contract with the social security institution (SGK) in Turkey. The private hospitals make up around 30% of the whole sector. Even the private hospitals have a contract with SGK, so around 95% of all hospitals in Turkey have such a contract. Among all of the hospitals in Turkey, we are one of the very few without a contract with SGK. The private hospitals still make that contract because it is their safety net. The GDP and healthcare spending ratio has been increasing. Even the private hospitals rely too much on SGK, and that's why the spending on healthcare is increasing. It will become intolerable because the government has been trying to make sure that everyone is covered. I'm not sure to what extent the system will be sustainable. The private hospitals, even though they work with SGK, still try to charge the patients much more than just the copay. This is obviously illegal, but a lot of the hospitals do it. That's why we are trying to make sure we are out of that system as well. On top of SGK, instead of having patients pay in cash, we also have complimentary insurance companies so the patients can be covered by both. This way, they won't have to pay in cash. Generally, our prices are 20% higher than even the most expensive hospitals in Turkey because we recognize and believe that high-quality healthcare is only generated by high-quality human capital, which is even more important than our investments in technology. At just the two hospitals, we have around 3,000 employees already working and one of those hospitals isn't even at 100% operation. That is the standard and that's why our investments and human capital expenses are high, hence why our prices are higher. That's why I place the American Hospital in a different category when I compare the hospitals in Turkey.

What is your strategy for this year?

Cardiovascular disease will be rising rapidly in the coming 10 years and we have built a new program around this called “Living Heart.” It will be a very comprehensive program taking care of any patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases. We will be replicating what we have already implemented in our cancer program in this Living Heart program, and we have already hired a patient coordinator, nurse navigator, and other support personnel. Instead of going department by department, we have different programs. We are changing the whole system. We are making sure everything comes together and operates as one. We will be adding another service line focused on neurology and spine treatment and more. One by one, we will be building these service lines and programs, making sure we tackle all of the departments and combine them together. Although we acknowledge the fact that this will raise our human resources expenses, we know that it will benefit both the quality and the care that the patients receive in our hospitals. American Hospital was the first hospital in Turkey to build a patient advocacy office and we've always had psychologists there, listening to any complaints. On top of that, we have built another office, the Patient Experience Office. We have hired a physician, a nurse, and a psychologist to work there. We don't only listen and respond to complaints, but even the happiest patients can give feedback. In addition, we're in the process of expanding our partnership with the MD Anderson Cancer Center right now. We are going to become its international association partner. We will not only be running the radiation oncology program, but also expanding all of its know-how to our cancer program. We are the first ones in the region to be partnering up on this.