Surprisingly the drive to reach Whitefield office of Dr.Arjun Kalyanpur was not bad ! As I walked in to his foundation, I could see a diagnostic center, tele radiology department, an outpatient center, a training center and an auditorium all tucked in a nice place.
Shivoo: The place looks so vibrant with energy
Arjun: <Smiles> A reflection of me I guess
Shivoo: How do you manage it all?
Arjun: If you love what you do, you can balance work-life easily. My wife, Sunitha is a Chief Dreamer and I am the Chief Pusher in our company and foundation. Our vocation is always ‘Workation” ! We never detach from work. Work just flows into our life normally and we both are happy about it
Shivoo: <Smiles> “Workation” ..that’s a word which has Work, Passion, Dedication, Love, Understanding, Service all in one small package !
In conversation with Dr.Arjun Kalyanpur, Founder Teleradiology Solutions
How did it all start?
We moved back to India from the US In 1999. I thought finding a job would be easy, but that was not the case despite 2 ivy league degrees – a residency and fellowship at Yale and fellowship in Cornell. Those days’ things were very different; the number of hospitals were few and in them all the radiology positions were filled. There is also the constant suspicion if you have returned to understand the Indian market and then set-up your own shop. So, the first couple of years I lived in India but continued to go back and forth, as I had my position at Yale.
Then during one of my trips, on a chance conversation with the Chairman at Yale, who was desperately trying to get me to stay in the US, he said it might be best, if you stay here and work here. I questioned this, and told him, I can work from India and cover your night shift too.
So, this got the Chairman very interested. He said let’s first do some research and get a – proof of concept working. We worked on a proof of concept, made sure it worked, proved it scientifically, published and presented the concept at various conferences. The concept was called ‘International Teleradiology’ and how valid it is in this global health economy. It basically means the radiologist can be sitting in India or any part of the world but be working on reporting for hospitals in the US.
India, like the rest of the world faces a similar challenge, there is a tremendous shortage of radiologists. For example, India has 1 billion people, there are only ten thousand radiologists. So, that’s a huge shortage. In many parts of the world, it’s actually similar, as radiology has evolved very fast. And now, it’s become so utilized that the training programs are just not keeping up. So, there just aren’t enough radiologist to meet the demands. That’s why Teleradiology helps. How? it allows the images to be brought to the radiologist. It saves the radiologist’s time and it allows the radiologist to be more productive also. Because we’re sitting in an environment like this – a digital environment – you can be much more focused and productive in terms.
What we’re doing is taking the scans which consists of X-rays, Ultrasound, CT scans and MRI. These can be a diagnostic service in any hospital or center anywhere in the US. Our technology team will set up an interface between their infrastructure and our server so they can push the images to us and then from our server we will forward it to one of our radiologists who will then create a report based on the findings.
From a two-person operation when it started in 2002, Teleradiology Solutions has grown many folds. We now look at over 2.6 million scans annually with 350 employees all over the world. We examine scans from 75 hospitals in the US and 11 centres in Singapore. We have received accreditation from the US Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. This is the first such organization outside of Singapore to be certified by the country’s Ministry of Health. We also work with centres in Netherlands, Nigeria, Denmark, Croatia and Georgia.
With over 50% revenue growth rate in the initial years, we expanded into complimentary business areas such as our technical arm TeleradTech, a multi-specialty outpatient clinic, RxDx and a teaching portal, RadGuru.net and started a foundation called Telerad Foundation.
Apart from large university hospitals, which have large radiology departments globally, we are probably the best and have the largest group of highly qualified radiologists. Are team of doctors belong to various levels. We have a retired professor of radiology from St. Johns, who joined us after he retired and he teaches and works with us. We have radiologists who have worked in different parts of the world and then come back to India – from the US, the UK. So, it’s a very international community of radiologists in our organization.
Quote: We now look at over 2.6 million scans annually with 350 employees all over the world. We examine scans from 75 hospitals in the US and 11 centres in Singapore
Diagnostics on scan report incase of emergency within 30 minutes or within 6 hours solving radiologists shortage
Tell me about some of the success along the way?
When we started the Telerad foundation in 2007. We realized two things – one is have the expertise second implement it to help hospital in areas of need.
Let me explain this to you quickly by using an example. Patients in Arunachal Pradesh, who depended on the only CT and MRI scanner at the Ramakrishna Mission Hospital in Itanagar, are key beneficiaries. People in this far-flung area and even from neighboring Assam were often at the mercy of radiologists in the one referral hospital for the entire state.
The hospital had one full-time and one part-time radiologist. But sometimes both radiologists would go on leave, making it a logistical nightmare,”. That was what inspired the start of the foundation. We started this foundation to help such hospitals without any charge, free of cost. We do the reporting for them.
The foundation stepped in by remotely setting up an IT-enabled work flow so that radiologists at the foundation could share their expertise.
A patient who comes to the hospital goes for a scan – it’s either a CT scan, X-ray, or whatever. The technician performs the scan. This does not require a radiologist for that. Once the scan is done, the images are electronically forwarded to us. The format we use is called Diacom. So, we have Diacom Compatible software and they have Diacom equipment. Once the interface is set up it creates a virtual private network that is secure. Once we get the scan report, incase of emergency within 30 minutes the result goes back to the remote hospital in Itanagar. Else, we may give it according to the time frame that is required – 4 to 6 hours.
To date, more than 13,000 CT and MRI scans have been reported for this hospital, entirely free of charge. This represents one of the Telerad Foundation’s success stories.
We also work with multiple hospitals across Arunachal Pradesh, UP, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh among others and have conducted 84,000 scans.
The other reason why we are extremely successful in our endeavors from the foundation is because our quality of diagnosis. The standards that we apply for recruitment, selection and training of our radiologists are very high. We keep them on par with international standards. So, we ensure we have very strong quality assurance process also. The standards we apply to our clients in Singapore and US, are the same that is applied to our charitable hospitals as well.
Our foundation has its own website (www.teleradfoundation.org), on it we list the things we do. So, apart from the free reporting for charitable hospitals, we also provide free education for radiology post graduates.
The website has been extremely successful in getting us many volunteers for us charitable work. Our volunteers are radiologists spread globally. We run a program called “Read a Scan a Day”. The radiologists can be located in Chicago, Sydney or London. Majority of our volunteers are Indian radiologists settled overseas. They want to do something for our country, and don’t just want to give donations. They want to “do something”.
Our volunteers log on to our site and do charitable reporting for our charitable hospitals. It’s actually a beautiful system because everybody feels very fulfilled by the end of it. Infact one of the top training institutions in the U.S, their post graduates, in their final year, after they have completed their board exam, have volunteered to report for our foundation because it gives them a certain experience in working in International Teleradiology practice.
Do something back for your country
RadGuru Portal has the complete online radiology curriculum and is available for free to 800 post grads across India
What we have done to ensure that there is learning also for our volunteer community. We have volunteers from the teaching community too. We have teaching faculty across the world, giving lectures. It also gives them an opportunity to reach a global audience or a national audience throughout India. For example, we had a professor from the University of Michigan, sitting in his office and giving a lecture which all the post graduates across our volunteer spread across the world could attend. From the perspective of a teacher also, it’s very fulfilling because they get a wider reach for their teaching opportunity. RadGuru Portal (www.radguru.net) has the complete online radiology curriculum and is provided completely free of charge to 800 post grads across the country through our relationship with the National Board of Medical Examinations.
Apart from this, we also have another trust fund called “People4People” program and trust. My wife is the one who is driving this initiative. The primary objective of this activity is to put playgrounds in government schools. We have done over 200 such playgrounds already, in government schools in and around Bangalore over the last 10 years. Apart from this, we also provide services like free clinic facilities at RXDX, helping kids with heart disease and providing free second opinion for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
As far the foundation goes, we are also looking to develop low-cost technologies which can help expand the reach of our service to remote health centers across the country. One of such projects is create a tool that allows the technician to capture, an X ray for example done a primary healthcare center and put in the view box. The x ray is digital, it can automatically be sent electronically anywhere or sent to our center, and can be sent to our volunteer network.
People4people Trust’s aim is to make the world around it, especially for children, a little happier.
What are your future plans?
We don’t have any numbered goals that I want to achieve in terms of scan or records. Instead, I want to at least tie up with one hospital across all states in India so that people in any remote corner still have access to quality radiology diagnostics. Currently our foundation is being run by a manager in addition to his operational responsibilities. We are also looking at hiring a full-time person, preferably with an NGO background to run the foundation, so that we can look at some additional programs or even enhance the existing ones.
How can anyone help or support your program?
We always need volunteers. If you are a DNB or a post graduate student or a practicing radiologist and would like to be part of our volunteer program, please feel free to get in touch with us on our website – www.teleradfoundation.org or on firstname.lastname@example.org