Model T in a Famous Hospital

Few days back my friend, Debu and I visited a famous heart hospital called Rabindranath Tagore Heart Research Institute in Kolkata named after the famous poet.

It was founded by Dr. Devi Shetty, a famous heart surgeon. Its team of doctors were top grade specialists. People trusted them for their skills and diagnosis. Even patients from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan & Pakistan flocked to the place patiently milling around to have themselves treated.

Started in the year 2000 it has acquired a formidable reputation. In little over a decade the place had an overcrowded look. With the ever-increasing stress of handling the ‘swelling crowd’ the smiles on their employees faces were turning into perceptible unwelcome frowns.

Big photo posters were displayed all around proudly showing their team of competent doctors loudly proclaiming the enviable number of successful operations and other procedures they carried out. It was a service replica of Ford’s Model T. The founder Dr Shetty prided himself for having applied that model so well in service of the people. A well-known national daily covered an interview with Dr. Shetty about his dedicated application of Model T in service industry.

Soon we were discussing with the chief administrator about their operations. He looked a bit worried. Other heart hospitals were coming up in the locality. Some of their patients were switching to their competitors. Many of their loyal patients stopped turning up. Some of their good doctors were leaving them. Profits were going down. And they wanted to boost their profits by opening similar facilities in other towns and nearby states. He wanted to know how we may help him keep their heads high and profits up.

It is at this point I asked, “Where are your research facilities?”

“Well, to be honest we dont have one”, he replied.

“But the name of your facility proclaims that so boldly”, I shot back with curiosity.

He looked blank, unsure of his response.

“Well that might just be the thing that you need to keep your heads high and profits up”, I quipped.

I think, one may choose to find out about anything. Whatever they find out would help them restrategize their business.

What is going wrong? How do they strategize? What else can they do? Any clue?

9 thoughts on “Model T in a Famous Hospital

  1. A service replica of Ford’s Model T is a poor fit for a hospital. Understandably hospitals strive for a certain level of efficiency, but relating human beings to manufacturing cars is a mismatched metaphor. Seem the hospital was founded on industrial age thinking, which likely reduced both patients and employees into a mindset that wasn’t healing or nurturing. Then again, the with hospital named after Tagore, patients likely percieved that would be treated with a high level of humanity, so gradually I assume they realized their perceptions and expectations were out of sync with the reality they experienced. The fact that no research was being done and the spirit of Tagore was not alive and well in the hospital is the key issue to be addressed. The strategy would need to begin by re-aligning with the perceptions that the name of the hopspital suggests.


  2. I know about a multi-speciality hospital in Vishakhapatnam. It was very very popular in the region with good doctors and nice facilities. Then a time came when the number of patients fell to such a low that it could not pay the electricity bill. Eventually the hospital got closed. The hospital worked with a profit maximization motive, typically like a mining company.


    1. Loved the story. So the phenomenon is common. Profit are needed but something else might be needed too. That is what the management of our hospitals fail to understand. However, I also understand that medical companies and medical insurance companies put them under a strong bind which is very difficult to escape. All these stories point to one direction. Time has come to redefine ‘healthcare’ system.


  3. Thank you for such an interesting problem. Deserves a much longer answer to the questions you pose, but here’s my notion of how to start.

    The key idea that I learned from you is “one may choose to find out about anything. Whatever they find out would help them restrategize their business.”

    Given my proclivities I would start with “With the ever-increasing stress of handling the ‘swelling crowd’ the smiles on their employees faces were turning into perceptible unwelcome frowns.” How precisely did this happen? What is the process over ten years that got from smiles to frowns over time? What are the simple ways to reverse this path to get to a trajectory of the staff being more happy?

    Does this seem a productive approach to you?

    What else can they do?”


    1. Yes, it certainly does. We can start to see patterns from anywhere since the pictures would be of fractal nature. See one and you see the whole. That is the fun while seeing complex systems. Completely agree. Thanks so much for your great comment. I also agree with your comment on this on Twitter to the effect that heart surgery and healthcare are not synonymous. While surgery focuses on efficiency healthcare focuses on effectiveness. The right balance has to be obtained.


  4. Fabian Szulanski

    They should transform themselves together with their strategy, in order to deliver happy reliability, to internal and external stakeholders. Just my two cents 🙂


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