My QI Story: Abha Agrawal
Monday, April 13, 2020
Improving Patient Safety on a Global Level
Abha Agrawal, MD, FACP, FACHE
Three years ago, I found myself at a crossroads both professionally and personally. My choices were: stay in the United States to continue my journey as a healthcare executive or spend a few years in India, my birth country to do “something new." The challenge and excitement of doing something new in uncharted territory prevailed and in June 2017, I launched A4 Clinics – a chain of advanced yet affordable Robotic Neuro Rehab Centers in India.
I migrated to the US in 1992 after completing undergraduate medical education in India. I completed residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine at the State University of New York, Brooklyn NY, followed by a fellowship in Medical Informatics at Yale School of Medicine. My professional journey included serving first as CMIO and then CMO at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, NY. I spent over three years in the combined role of CMO and COO at Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago. I served in various academic roles at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine to SUNY, Brooklyn to Harvard Medical School. I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2011 as a Senior Specialist. Unarguably, the most valuable asset I acquired was the teachings from great mentors like Dr. Bernard Lown, the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate who was a relentless champion of physicians’ social responsibility and Medicine as the art of healing.
I experienced the greatest privilege of serving numerous patients in the US – both as a practicing physician as well as a relentless driver of patient safety and quality. I witnessed the power of dedicated teams in achieving near-impossible goals even when the resources were thin. I understood that our hope lies in instituting just culture across healthcare systems where people can speak up about their concerns and where systems improvement triumphs blame & shame. I understood the value of low-cost low-resource innovation to solve the challenges of health disparities and to achieve equity. I am glad that I was able to share the patient safety experience of my colleagues and me in a book titled Patient Safety: Clinical Case Series, edited by me and published by Springer in 2013.
So, “armed” with the values of Patient First, Respect, Excellence and Integrity, A4 Clinics started its first center in Indore, a city of about 3.5 million population located in Central India. I often compare Indore to Chicago both in geography and its mid-western values. While acute care has been at the forefront of Indian healthcare, post-acute care, especially rehabilitation is given relatively less importance. We wanted to make tech-enabled advanced rehabilitation affordable and accessible to an average Indian citizen. To this end, we established partnerships with academic institutions so that early-stage technology can be procured and provided. Inspired and encouraged by our patient’s positive outcomes as well as positive feedback, we have opened two more centers – in Bhopal near Indore and the latest one in the Delhi region. My goal is to launch 100 centers across the country to be able to serve many more patients.
During this tenure, I have continued my work on quality and safety by establishing the Institute for Healthcare Innovation and Transformation (IHIT). Dr. Donald Casey has been a great colleague and friend to continue the momentum on quality with ACMQ.
The tiny seed of A4 Clinics has now grown into a strong plant and is self-reliant. I couldn’t be more proud as it's parent. I plan to return to Chicago soon in a professional role. It is my most earnest wish to continue the work on quality of care and patient safety. No matter where in the world I live and in which role I serve, I hold only one title that matters – Patient Advocate.
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