Great leaders often carry a heartfelt story of profound loss and relentless determination. Prema Subaskaran’s story is no exception. Her defining moment arrived early in life and etched forever in her memory. It traces back to the time when her father fell critically ill, setting off a desperate search for medical assistance. Despite their best efforts, they found themselves far from a doctor’s reach. The strenuous journey proved futile, as they arrived too late. Her father succumbed to a heart attack, leaving an indelible mark of sorrow.
This tragic event ignited Prema’s passionate resolve to ensure others receive the medical care they desperately need, particularly in regions where access is scarce. The inability to aid her father in his time of need remained a driving force within her, driving her towards unexpected paths.
In 2015, she embarked on a transformative journey by founding LycaHealth, an endeavor rooted in hope and healing. She’s like the captain of the ship, steering it to new places and helping more people. She opened clinics in different parts of the world. People noticed her hard work, and she got awards for it.
Her notable accolades stand as a testament to her dedication. From the Asian Voice Political and Public Life Business Person of the Year Award in 2018 to the UN’s Global Officials of Dignity Distinguished Woman of the Year in 2017, Prema’s achievements have earned her well-deserved recognition.
Let’s explore Prema’s remarkable journey, which has positioned her as one of the most influential and empowering women leaders in the healthcare landscape in 2023:
From Dreams to Dedication
Prema’s childhood dream of becoming a doctor led her to begin her medical studies in her homeland of Sri Lanka. However, due to the disruptions caused by the civil conflict, her medical studies were temporarily halted. Despite these challenges, her determination remained steadfast, ultimately directing her towards a career in healthcare that has since had a positive impact well beyond her home country.
Although she obtained a degree in Biomedical Sciences in the UK, she set aside her dream of becoming a doctor to support her husband Subas and raise their three sons: Bryan, 23, Ryan, 18, and Ian, 12.
However, Prema has been fortunate enough to still pursue her passion for healthcare both professionally and as a Trustee of the Gnanam Foundation. This charity, established by herself, along with her co-founder and husband Allirajah Subaskaran 13 years ago, was named after her mother-in-law, Gnanambikai Allirajah.
“In my role at the Gnanam Foundation which was founded in 2010, I led many of the medical and community projects,” she highlights. Through these endeavors, they have been able to assist thousands of the most vulnerable and underprivileged individuals with health-related issues across the globe. This included collaborations with communities in India, Sri Lanka, and various parts of Africa, as well as funding research by Alzheimer’s Research UK and working closely with the Prince’s Trust, initially established by King Charles III when he was the Prince of Wales. It has been a privilege to touch the lives of so many through the charity they established.
In 2015, Prema founded LycaHealth with the mission of helping people and placing patients at the heart of healthcare. They began by opening LycaHealth’s Canary Wharf Healthcare Centre, swiftly followed by a Diagnostics Centre in Orpington, Kent, and Westminster Healthcare in India. This venture garnered endorsement from the then British Prime Minister, Rt Hon Theresa May MP.
In 2021, they acquired KIMS Hospital in Kent; one of the largest and most successful private hospitals in South East England. This move enables them to guide patients through the full diagnostics-treatment-recovery journey.
Prema’s ambition is to provide accessible healthcare to local communities. With the addition of KIMS Hospital to the LycaHealth family, they can offer access to around 300 consultants providing private healthcare across 35 specialties. They observed a substantial 22% year-on-year increase in patients last year, underscoring their commitment to addressing local healthcare needs.
Leading with Vision and Compassion in Healthcare
Prema, in her role as Executive Chair of LycaHealth and KIMS Hospital and as a Board Director for both, takes a hands-on approach to leadership. She is actively engaged in reviewing and shaping the clinical and commercial strategies for operations at LycaHealth and KIMS Hospital. This involves regular interaction with leadership teams and staff, spanning facilities in Maidstone, Orpington, Canary Wharf, and Sevenoaks.
When reflecting on her responsibilities, Prema emphasizes “I always listen intently to my teams and physicians, hearing their views of how we can better serve our patients in providing the very highest standards of care.” She values their insights on how to enhance patient care and uphold the highest standards. Her passion lies in the pursuit of new technologies and services across their range of offerings, ensuring that LycaHealth and KIMS stay at the cutting edge of healthcare innovation. A keen interest in A.I. fuels her exploration of the best equipment, resources, and services available, including digital pathways, platforms, and web-based applications.
In addition to technological advancements, Prema is committed to ensuring that LycaHealth and KIMS actively support the NHS. She collaborates closely with the NHS service delivery team and Commercial Director, fostering robust relationships with local NHS hospitals and Trusts. This collaborative effort aims to provide ongoing support and reduce waiting times for the residents of Kent.
Prema’s dedication to the community extends to her focus on job creation. In 2022, they witnessed a significant 10% increase in staff, contributing to the growth of local career opportunities. She firmly believes that healthcare facilities should reflect the communities they serve.
Comprehensive Healthcare Excellence
LycaHealth and KIMS Hospital collectively manage healthcare services across the entire spectrum of patient needs, ranging from Primary Care (including GP services) to secondary care involving diagnostics and minor surgical interventions, all the way up to intricate surgical procedures. Their clinical expertise encompasses specialized fields such as cancer screening, orthopaedics, urology, gynaecology, cardiology, and women’s health.
In the past two years since acquisition, KIMS Hospital has seen remarkable growth, with a surge of over 31% in business and an impressive 64% increase in performance. Their trajectory is set to continue upwards, aiming for an outstanding rating and a projected 40% boost in profitability by 2025.
LycaHealth has also experienced significant progress, recording a 27% increase in revenue from Y22 to Y23.
Notably, KIMS Hospital stands as the sole private interventional cardiac center in Kent, offering essential outpatient diagnostic cardiology services and interventional cardiac procedures.
A recently introduced swift cardiac assessment service has filled a crucial void in the Kent healthcare system. This service ensures a timely evaluation and diagnosis of cardiac symptoms, enabling patients to promptly access the medical attention they need. This is pivotal, as early intervention and proper management can markedly influence patient outcomes for cardiac conditions.
Moreover, this service empowers patients to make informed choices about their healthcare. They have the option to either continue their treatment at KIMS Hospital or return to their NHS GP armed with comprehensive knowledge and reports concerning their cardiac health.
Leveraging Technology as Stepping Stones to Success
New technology is continually being developed in healthcare and investing in the latest advancements is pivotal for deriving the best patient outcomes. Diagnostic screening continues to advance, enabling physicians to swiftly and accurately diagnose conditions. This, in turn, allows for more effective prevention and treatment of illnesses in their early stages.
Prema sheds light on the progress at LycaHealth, stating, “A good example here is breast screening. LycaHealth has the very latest technology in mammography, allowing our physicians to diagnose cancers at a much earlier stage, thereby significantly enhancing the patient’s outcomes.”
At KIMS Hospital, they have committed to pioneering the Mako SmartroboticTM surgery for total knee and hip replacements. This places them among the select few hospitals in the country capable of offering this cutting-edge approach in orthopaedics.
Furthermore, a collaboration with Definition Health has led to the introduction of a digital pathway and web-based apps, revolutionizing their approach to patient care. By harnessing this technology and providing intuitive tools for pre-operative assessment, education, file sharing, and post-discharge recovery tracking, they have elevated patient engagement. This has, in turn, fostered better communication between patients and healthcare providers, ultimately resulting in improved patient outcomes.
Prema emphasizes, “Without patients we simply would not have hospitals! It’s the patients who must always come first.”
The Crucial Role of R&D in Healthcare
In healthcare, private sector involvement covers a variety of activities aimed at achieving universal health coverage. Private hospitals are increasingly important in enhancing health systems and global healthcare quality.
This significance is most evident in research. Research plays a crucial role. Currently, at LycaHealth, they offer services with proven effectiveness, ensuring their teams provide the best possible treatment for patients.
Their development initiatives are guided by service requirements. “I am proud that at LycaHealth we listen to our patient voices and act on their service suggestions, which in turn supports our journey of continuous improvement,” highlights Prema proudly.
She is also pleased about an exciting partnership with Cambridge University for groundbreaking research on cardiovascular and neurological studies in Sri Lanka. This research is essential for comprehending the root causes of these prevalent illnesses within the local community.
At KIMS Hospital, their theatre team is working towards earning the AfPP accreditation. This accomplishment will affirm the excellent work performed by the theatre team and provide assurance of outstanding clinical performance through an independent third party.
Greater transparency in the independent sector has become an increasingly pressing issue in recent years. As a result, the Private Hospital Information Network (PHIN) was set up in an effort to strengthen the transparency and accountability of independent healthcare providers. The hospital is exploring ways to connect and establish relationships with PHIN to assist in gathering data from private hospitals, ultimately aiding patients in making informed choices.
Expressing her excitement, Prema stated, “We run a very successful oncology service focusing on diagnosis and treatment, but we are keen to improve and expand on this.” Through research on the specific needs of the local population, they aim to pinpoint areas for enhancement. This may involve investing in their own services or forming partnerships with other providers in the region, all for the betterment of the local community.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
In the current scenario, healthcare companies are struggling with the challenge of recruiting and retaining skilled staff. They find themselves in competition with each other, as well as with the NHS, for a limited pool of talent in the region. These circumstances compel providers to think creatively and explore unconventional solutions. The introduction of new services and technologies serves a dual purpose. They not only elevate the quality of care for patients, which in itself brings substantial benefits, but also acts as a magnet for top talent.
Given the record-high NHS waiting lists, there is an unprecedented demand for healthcare services. The speaker has supported their teams in ensuring that the existing facilities are used to their maximum potential. Additionally, satellite centers have been established to offer patients swift access to consultants, diagnostics, and even minor surgical procedures. This has led to improved patient journeys and has freed up space in the main hospital, enabling a more focused approach to theater usage and inpatient capacity, ultimately optimizing their service volumes.
“My ultimate ambition is to create an academy which will include doctors, nursing staff and people with this special interest and help as many individuals as possible enter into the healthcare profession,” says Prema in a determined tone.
Prema’s Insights and Inspiration
For young female entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to make their mark in healthcare, Prema offers straightforward advice. She emphasizes the importance of self-belief and says, “First, people need to believe in themselves, that they can make positive changes and succeed.” Added to it, she says, “Second, you will always meet challenges along the way which if you let them, will prevent you from reaching your full potential.” Prema encourages perseverance in the face of failure, urging continuous effort until success is achieved. She advocates a combination of diligence and strategic thinking.
Regarding the challenges in her field, she reflects, “As a woman of ethnicity, I think it is tough to do these things, but you can overcome anything by striving to become the best that you can be.” Prema takes particular pride in supporting women’s achievements, recognizing the additional obstacles they often face compared to their male counterparts. She boldly asserts, “It is no longer a man’s world!”
A Visionary Path to Accessible Healthcare
Prema is driven by a vision for LycaHealth, one that prioritizes accessible healthcare for local communities, with expansion and service development at the forefront. “I am committed to digital transformation, investment in cutting-edge technology, innovative patient care, community support, and job creation,” she shares enthusiastically.
She recognizes the global nature of health, acknowledging the remarkable work of research scientists, doctors, and clinicians worldwide. “I want to make sure that this good practice is shared. We need to share this information because it is our precious healthcare services keeping us alive, giving us the capacity to live healthy lives.”
In Prema’s view, healthcare should be nothing short of excellent. When people step into her hospitals and diagnostic centers, they come seeking facts, solutions, and a clear path to better health. “We want to make sure that we give them what they want.” Her commitment is resolute.