by Alessio Pieroni Originally appeared on Social Story on March 18, 2014

Aravind Eye Care is not one of those social enterprises that need an introduction. Their model and impact is a big inspiration for the entire healthcare sector in India. We had earlier written about them when we went on the Jagriti Yatra in December, and how they were able to use McDonald’s model to lower their costs. During the Health 2.0 conference in Bangalore recently, we had an opportunity to speak with Deepa Krishnan, who for the past nine years has worked as an assistant administrator in Aravind Eye Care system in Madurai. She offered some great insights regarding the challenges that they face.

Deepa Krishnan from Aravind Eye Care System

“The main challenge for Aravind Eye Care is dealing with the high volume. Especially from the non-clinical side, there are a lot of aspects to take into account. How do you keep the place clean? How do you make sure everybody knows where to go? Patient safety issues become very important in that high volume. We have chosen to serve people who are not accessing care anywhere, which is very different from other hospitals which are focusing on patients who are ready to receive care. They know that they have a problem and they are able to seek solutions. Providing care for such people is very different from providing care to people who do not know that they have a problem and how to access care. So many other barriers come into place and to overcome those constraints requires a lot of innovation. That’s why Aravind Eye Care is a very innovative organization,” says Deepa. 

Aravind Eye Care is a great organization also because they have the courage to do things differently. When we asked about that we got some good insights into how they try to be customer centric.

“We try to be a very transparent organization and we always try to remember that the patient is at the centre of everything we do." - Deepa Krishnan

"That’s very important because with the complexity of the matter you tend to forget that. So a lot of the process and systems that are in place at Aravind Eye Care are patient centric. It’s also focus on our market. This market is very sensitive. For sure they are less informed and poor, they still have a very strong sense of dignity and self respect. So it becomes very important for us to create a place where they can feel respected and feel cared for. Even tough they are accessing free care or low-cost care, we need to create an environment which is able to satisfy their needs. This is key to achieving something that is not easy, but we always try to work towards that,” explains Deepa.

Being a customer-centric organization is very important nowadays, but in a social enterprise that has a cross subsidized business model things are slightly different. “Most of the clients of Aravind are free or subsidised, but we are able to do that because we attract a good number of paying client as well. And for the paying clients it becomes important to provide patient experience. The demands are constantly changing. Today patient are way more demanding than in the past. They know what they want, what to expect, so they are constantly asking for more and demanding a certain level of service quality. Being able to balance those expectations and remaining efficient is a challenge. Going forward that’s where most of our focus will be. And because of those patients we are able to do this charity work,” states Deepa.

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