Meet Dr Savitha Dharan, The CEO Looking To Build Malaysia’s Comprehensive Orthopaedic Care System

Can you share more about your background and experiences in getting towards here?

  • Upon graduation from medical school in Ireland, I began my career as a Medical Officer in 2006 and after considerable years of practising as in both the public and private sector, I had made a move into healthcare management.
  • I began my journey in hospital administration and transitioned into roles focusing on Strategic Partnerships and Business Development for a group of hospitals. 
  • As of the time writing, I am currently the Chief Executive Officer of ALTY Orthopaedic Hospital and TAGS. [ALTY and TAGS are regional brands under the HSC Group which was acquired by TE Asia Healthcare and its partner doctors in 2019]
  • As a clinician who transitioned into healthcare management, I hope to bring to the table the balance between the clinical perspective and the strategic needs of the business as we move towards improving healthcare delivery models. 

You are aiming to establish a comprehensive and connected orthopaedic healthcare support system in Malaysia. How so?

  • At ALTY, we are looking to manage the patient experience in totality through a comprehensive and connected orthopaedic ecosystem.
  • Patients who are looking for treatment receive more than just a healthcare solution to resolve their pain. Within a single-specialty hospital such as ALTY, we provide step by step care inclusive of pre-treatment care, one stop centre for hospital-based visits and post-treatment options.
  • We have established roles such as spine and joint navigators in house who are with the  are individuals who help the patient navigate in their journey, especially pre and post a procedure.  This includes preparing the patient for their hospital visits, addressing fears and queries on what to expect, right up to ensuring post discharge needs.
  • To ensure patients receive holistic care both pre and post procedure, ALTY together with TAGS offers non-surgical intervention, and post-surgical rehabilitation (Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy). Coupled with its nationwide coverage, patients are able to access post hospitalisation care with continuous clinical collaboration between ALTY surgeons and allied specialists in TAGS.

What are your initiatives in positioning ALTY as the preferred orthopaedic hub both nationwide and regionally?

  • ALTY is home to 8 renowned Orthopaedic surgeons, with a collective experience of more than 50 years in practice. These surgeons are partner doctors of ALTY, committed to our vision of Adding Life to Years.  As resident consultants, they are committed to providing patients with unparalleled clinical expertise by combining their years of experience, and subspecialty interests.
  • Their expertise is coupled with the integration of state-of-the-art ortho-focused technology, which include the first of its kind imaging technology in Malaysia with the likes of the EOS, open weight-bearing MRI and the CIOS Spin, to offer precise, comprehensive and high quality imaging.
  • The surgeons are supported by a team of Anaesthetists, Cardiologist, Hand & Microsurgery and other disciplines. To complete the patient care journey, the hospital workforce also consists of qualified and trained nurses, physiotherapists and non-clinical teams that are well versed in caring for our patients in this field which is one of the key benefits of single specialty hospitals.
  • We are also working towards becoming a Center of Excellence (COE) for orthopaedic care both locally and regionally. In order to achieve that status and in addition to the resources and technologies in-house, we are working towards ensuring we are data driven with priorities given to research and development and partnerships with other players in the ecosystem.

What are the gaps in the orthopaedic healthcare system in Malaysia and how can your initiatives close these gaps?

  • Malaysia has officially been considered as an ageing country as the population aged 65 years and above was expected to reach 7.3% of national population within 2022. This status coupled with a low bone health awareness among Malaysians calls for an increase in initiatives to raise bone health education. 
  • Additionally, a NHMS 2019 report has highlighted that half of adults in Malaysia are overweight or obese, with 30.4% categorised as overweight while another 19.7% are obese.  This is alarming as obesity adversely affects bone health quality and can prove to be riskier for the population as they age.
  • The pandemic caused significant changes in lifestyle with Malaysian adults amongst with was an upside where there has been an increase in moderate physical activity. Our community has become more conscious about their wellbeing, resulting in more involvement in sporting activities. Hence it is important there is light shed on the need to maintain one’s bones and joints to continue with an active lifestyle whilst knowing how to prevent and address injuries. 
  • These factors increase the demands of Orthopaedics as a specialty to be able to address the growing social issues that are affecting the community at large. And with more hospitals facing a surge in cases, we are looking at more patients being put on longer waiting lists. This would eventually create larger gaps in the orthopaedic care system which is where single-specialty hospitals such as ALTY will be able to assist in bridging this gap.

What is ALTY’s role in raising bone health awareness among Malaysians?

  • At ALTY, it all begins with the aim to educate. Whether its patients who are already here at the hospital or the community as a whole, we aim to raise awareness.
  • As a comprehensive single-specialty orthopaedic hospital, we focus our efforts on raising bone health awareness among Malaysians, which has in the past proven to belacking.
  • Throughout 2022, we carried out awareness campaigns on Scoliosis, inclusivity on bone health among the disabled sports athletes, osteoporosis and arthritis among others. In raising awareness on Scoliosis, we started a Posture Screening campaign, in partnership with Caring Pharmacy and Viatris.
  • We provided complimentary posture screenings and on-ground consultations for parents with young children and individuals who were concerned about the possibilities of having mild Scoliosis which often can be managed if diagnosed and addressed at an early stage.
  • The campaign started in Klang Valley and soon expanded into Pahang, Johor, Perak and Penang.
  • The partnership with Viatris has also spanned into different areas which included the importance of getting bone health screenings to screen for osteoarthritis and arthritis.
  • We have also carried out community health talks, with a specific focus on bone health covering sports injuries and osteoporosis.
  • This year, we are bringing back our Scoliosis awareness campaign, including potentially training school nurses with the necessary skills to screen for Scoliosis among adolescents.
  • We are also actively raising awareness on back pain and women’s bone health through a series of initiatives including health talks and on-ground screening activities through our continuing partnership with Viatris.
  • We have kicked off our very first Bone Health Survey in 2023 to better understand the ongoing awareness level of bone health among Malaysians and hope to publish the outcomes by late March.

Why is it important for single-specialty hospitals like ALTY to be established in Malaysia?

  • With patients being at the core, the benefits of single-specialty hospitals are mainly achieving increased patient satisfaction, better patient outcomes, and more cost-effective treatments. Being able to focus in Orthopaedics for example, allows us to ensure we are providing the best possible options and care for our patients.
  • As medical costs continue to rise in Asia, being a cost-effective provider is vital. At single specialty hospitals, we are able to offer our services at competitive prices as we are able to focus on partnerships with specific vendors with consensus between the management team and our doctors. This enables us to negotiate better pricing with consumables and high-quality implants for example, which then allows for value pricing for our patients.
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