Chairman of Acıbadem Healthcare Group
Mehmet Ali Aydınlar
“WE ARE OPEN TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES IN GULF COUNTRIES”
Mehmet Ali Aydınlar is one of the reputable businesspeople in Turkey who is renowned for creating a global healthcare brand out of a district hospital. Being Chairman of Acıbadem Healthcare Group, which is the leading healthcare organization in Turkey and Member of Board in IHH Healthcare Berhad, which is the second largest health chain of the world, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar has achieved great successes and gained numerous awards in his business life. Currently, he is getting ready to represent Turkey in “EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year” contest, after being elected as “EY Entrepreneur Of The Year in Turkey”. We interviewed him on healthcare sector and investment strategies of Acıbadem Healthcare Group.
We do know the fact that the journey of Acıbadem in healthcare sector has begun in a district hospital. Your Group has a history of 28 years. Could you please summarize your current position?
We were a small district hospital in the beginning. We named our hospital after the name of district. Today, this name is a well-known global brand in the healthcare sector. Now, Acıbadem operates in 4 countries, namely Turkey, Macedonia, Bulgaria and the Netherlands with 22 hospitals and 15 outpatient clinics. In addition to hospitals and outpatient clinics, we are represented in 19 different countries and 28 cities with 30 Health Point information offices abroad. Acıbadem has approximately 23.000 employees, including 4.000 doctors and 4.200 nurses. We provide services to 5 million people in a year.
Acıbadem Healthcare Group is a rapidly growing and globalizing company… What was your impetus to reach this point?
Acıbadem Healthcare Group grows and develops rapidly both in Turkey and abroad. It has become a group that operates in 4 countries and creates an ecosystem with its business model in a very short time. The driving power of our overall growth strategies is our motivation to act in line with the desire of innovation and perfection with both our business model and our employees, who had already adopted this model, while precisely focusing on patient satisfaction and safety. Acıbadem has blazed many trails and successful works both in Turkey and international field with this culture. Growing is only one of them.
You are mentioning that the business model you have developed has a huge effect on your success. You founded a kind of ecosystem in healthcare sector. Could you please inform us about this model?
We developed a 360° model that is focused solely on health to meet all needs in this field. This model was so striking that JP Morgan, one of the important global investment banks, presented this model as an example to the world in 2007. Yes, we literally created an ecosystem.
A component of this ecosystem is an integrated structure that provides the patients with necessary services at hospitals and outpatient clinics. “APlus” that deals with catering, cleaning, laundry services in international standards, “Acıbadem Mobile” that offers home care and emergency healthcare services and “Acıbadem Labmed” rendering laboratory services as well as “Acıbadem Project Management” that constructs “turn-key” hospital/clinic, “Acıbadem Technology” that develops and produces healthcare software and technological products and “Acıbadem University” that supports education of healthcare professionals are all improving and supporting services rendered at hospitals and outpatient clinics in this integrated structure. Those companies not only supply services to Acıbadem, but they also produce services to meet needs of major international brands.
You also have a University focusing solely on health sciences; can you please briefly inform us about Acıbadem University and the synergy it created with the Group?
Acıbadem University is actually our social responsibility project. It is one of the best health sciences universities around the globe. This university educates more than 4.000 students in 100.000 square meters of indoor and focuses solely on the health sciences. Health professionals of the future are educated in this university thanks to its world standard academic and technologic infrastructure. Accordingly, Acıbadem University undertakes an important function, namely educating qualified human resource that can compete with the rest of the world for both the Group and healthcare sector.
International students also apply to Acıbadem University due to our quality of education. Along with our strong academic staff, we also have The Clinical Simulation and Advanced Endoscopic-Robotic Surgery Education Centre – CASE which is one of the most developed medical simulation training centers in the world. Moreover, our research laboratories that enable any and all research in the field of life sciences and cutting-edge student laboratories providing applied trainings in vocational and undergraduate programs reveals out our difference. CASE, our clinical simulation centre, has been accredited by Europe and the U.S. It is also one of the two centers with certificate of excellence in the world. One of these certificates is in Acıbadem University and the other one is possessed by Toledo University, U.S. We organize and hold various trainings in this centre and we gather many applications. We educated and trained more than 15.000 international physicians in 4 years in this simulation center. Moreover, School of Medicine of Acıbadem University is admitting the students with highest scores in university entrance exam of Turkey.
Can you mention about the “essential” principles of service approach in Acıbadem?
Acıbadem is a pioneer group in its field of business, which has created its own culture. Our major priority includes patient safety, patient satisfaction and employee satisfaction.
Acıbadem Healthcare Group is an organization that works and renders services round-the-clock in the field of health. Moreover, the Group competes with itself as the leader of the sector in Turkey. Services provided to patients and guests are mostly introduced to Turkey for the first time by Acıbadem. The first and the most important value offered to its patients, also the “essential” one, is “patient safety and satisfaction”. Each detail, including but not limited to doctors and nurses, technicians and support personnel as well as infrastructure and medical technology, is planned and applied to ensure that our patients receive better and more reliable healthcare service. Employee satisfaction is also attached enormous importance.
How did Acıbadem start its international investments and what is your strategy abroad?
Healthcare investments of Acıbadem beyond Turkey started after Acıbadem Sistina Hospital in Skopje, Macedonia was acquired in 2011. Investments in Bulgaria in 2016 accelerated Acıbadem’s journey to success. Following acquisitions of Tokuda Group and City Clinic Group in Bulgaria, Acıbadem merged them under a single roof and became the leading healthcare service provider in a foreign country. Recently, the footprints of the Group have extended to Europe in 2017 thanks to Acıbadem International Medical Center in Amsterdam. Acıbadem shares its knowledge with international healthcare service systems and creates synergies in fields of operation and productivity.
Considering our strategy in international investments… Regarded as a model brand in Turkish private healthcare sector, Acıbadem targets to carry its 28-year know-how primarily to the countries where the healthcare sector is still developing. Thus, we aim to contribute to the development of healthcare sector in those countries and provide the most qualified service to the population. Moreover, among our strategies are creating value in the market of developed countries and getting positive outcomes in such countries by introducing service quality of Acıbadem to the developed countries. Hence, our hospital in Amsterdam already serves for this purpose. We hope to improve this operation to a certain point and repeat foundation of such clinics in the countries with similar economic structure.
We prefer to proceed both in our country and abroad with both new hospital construction projects and possible acquisition projects pursuant to our growth strategy. When we make a decision on investments, we especially focus on type, location and probable partnership structures. We attach importance to proceed by investing in profitable companies and the ones that we can add value following the acquisition in our fields of operation pursuant to the growth strategy of Acıbadem.
Can you please tell us about the last 3 years of your growth in the sector and inform us about your future growth strategies?
I can very briefly touch on our growth within the last three years.
As I mentioned above in 2016, we have become the largest healthcare group of Bulgaria following the acquisition of 4 hospitals and 5 Medical Centers. We put Acıbadem International Medical Centre (AIMC) in Amsterdam into service in 2017. We doubled the number of operating theatres to meet the demand within a short time and increased number of beds by 5 times. In Turkey, on the other hand, Acıbadem Altunizade Hospital with 350 beds and 98.000 square meters of indoor area was opened in March 2017. Next, we enlarged the Acıbadem Maslak Hospital from 45.000 square meters of indoor area to 106.000 square meters in order to meet the patient demand. Our Group targets to grow twice in the next 5 years. We prefer to proceed both in our country and abroad with both new hospital construction projects and possible acquisition projects pursuant to our growth strategy to realize this target. When we make a decision on investments, we especially focus on type, location and probable partnership structures.
In conclusion, I can say that we do care about growing, but, we attach importance to progress with a growth model that fits the ecosystem created by our own brand, while the international quality in health is also conserved. Our growth strategy is focused on regions close to the geographies, wherein Acıbadem has operations, rather than specific countries. In this end, the Balkans as well as Middle and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa are regions we are interested in with this regard.
What is the Acıbadem culture and Turkish cultural values carried to these markets by Acıbadem while growing in international arena?
The principal component of our culture is the patient satisfaction. You can see this clearly while our international patients are provided services at our hospitals in Turkey as well as in our services rendered in countries other than Turkey. We are known for our hospitality, our patients are our guests and we try to make them feel at home rather than being in a hospital.
You say that your Group has deep knowledge in healthcare. What are the reflections of this knowledge at international platforms?
Yes, we transmit our 28-year knowledge to international platforms in the most effective way. We also take important initiatives and establish cooperation to be more effective. I can give many examples, especially for the recent period. One of the most important examples is the hospital management contract for Faruk Medical City founded in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq in 2013.
Subsequently, we provide 17 publicly-owned laboratories of the United Arab Emirates with consultancy services since 2017 to restructure these laboratories. Moreover, we installed Acıbadem’s Cerebral Plus system in a state hospital in Riyadh within the scope of digitalizing Saudi Arabian State Hospitals and creating a fully digital environment in the hospital. We successfully treated 27 financially disadvantaged patients with bone marrow transplantation in cooperation with H.H Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Humanitarian And Scientific Foundation. This success has been awarded within the scope of “Sultan bin Khalifa 3rd International Thalassemia Awards” in Abu Dhabi.
We will continue extending the brand and the quality of Acıbadem both in our country and to new locations in close geographies pursuant to our strategic goals.
What are your future strategies in Gulf countries as Acıbadem?
Acıbadem Healthcare Group is open to take advantage of different opportunities in Gulf countries. Our strategy is to meticulously evaluate cooperation opportunities in the region, provide all healthcare services required directly or indirectly at the highest global standards and we request to take a strong position in the Gulf Region, as we had already achieved in other regions. We, of course, target to take other steps to realize our strategy; we want to found hospitals and provide managerial counseling services, business and affiliation services in the region as long as it is feasible. Moreover, we aim to be the preferred destination for treatments that are not available in Gulf countries especially in specialized disciplines and for complex therapies. Another goal is to be a reference center in the delivery of supportive services in the healthcare.
As I also mentioned above, Acıbadem has affiliated companies that deal with supportive services such as ambulance, home care and emergency health services, catering, cleaning, laundry services at international standards, laboratory services, design and project management of safe and comfortable hospitals and medical centers, health software and technologic solutions. We want to support Gulf countries with the services rendered by these firms.
Another important field is the cooperation in academic education. In Acıbadem University, medical and non-medical health professionals can be educated, applied trainings on occupational information, procedures and skills can be provided in the field of health at Clinical Simulation and Advanced Endoscopic Robotic Surgical Training Centre (CASE) which is one of the most sophisticated simulation centers of the world, bilateral contracts can be signed by means of academic cooperation and joint R&D studies can be carried out.
Numerous patients from the Arabic region prefer Turkey and Acıbadem for treatment. What would you like to say about underlying causes of this preference?
Undoubtedly, we have historical and cultural bonds to the Arabic geography. This cultural affinity is associated with certain facilitations. Religious affinity also makes the people, who travel from there, feel better. For example, they feel more assured regarding halal foods. We will also welcome Ramadan in May. I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the month of Ramadan of all Muslims.
The extremely distinguished success of Acıbadem Healthcare Group is the high patient safety and satisfaction rates. We created a culture that is constructed on patient safety, patient satisfaction and employee satisfaction. Because people trust us for their health or their loved ones. It is very important to deliver services with the highest quality using the most recent facilities of medicine, make patients feel at home and have the patients feel the same level of trust at both admission and discharge to sustain this trust. From the perspective of employees, we had/are educated/educating and trained/training our own managers and directors.
What would you like to say about your vision that promoted Acıbadem into the most reliable brand of Turkey and also an important brand abroad?
We dreamed to be a global player, when we established Acıbadem, and we also acted in line with this dream. However, I can express that the most remarkable impetus, which made our dream comes true, is the passion for excellence that we already had. This would be the primary legacy I would like to leave to the next generations; performing the job with a passion, but a passion for excellence… If you want to be excellent at your job, you need to be visionary and innovative. You need to plan and implement all relevant components, such as thinking about each detail of your job, creating models and taking action quickly. If you want to do a job excellently, you do think about each detail and take steps that will transfer you to the success. This passion for excellence is the principal source of my motivation. This passion has also laid the background for all steps taken to proceed from a small district hospital to a global brand.
The second important point is to desire to see the big picture. We develop a model that would work in all fields of health and as I also mentioned above, we can develop and render services in each field of health thanks to this model that creates its own ecosystem.
PIONEER IN HEALTHCARE
- Acıbadem Healthcare Group has always led the sector and set the priorities by pioneering the innovations. Our “Firsts”…
- First company to create an “ecosystem in healthcare”.
- First healthcare organization traded at Istanbul Stock Exchange Market (IMKB) in 2000.
- First healthcare company to attract international private equity investment – Abraaj Capital.
- First healthcare provider to affiliate with Harvard Medical International.
- First healthcare provider to offer know-how from Turkey to a hospital abroad (Sistina Hospital, Skopje, Macedonia).
- First Turkish healthcare provider listed among the largest healthcare groups of the world thanks to the agreement with IHH Berhad.
- First healthcare group to be the contractor of “project, construction, operation and management of a hospital abroad” – Faruk Medical City in Northern Iraq.
- First and the only Sports Medicine Center with the title of FIFA-accredited Center of Excellence in Turkey.
- First privately-owned healthcare provider that operates outpatient treatment center.
- First healthcare provider with a 7/24 Call-Center in Turkey.
- First healthcare provider with a heliport that provides air ambulance service.
- First healthcare group to convert Patient Services into a “profession” in Turkey in order to manage patient relations with higher quality.
- First healthcare provider that produced the first 100% locally sourced digital technology device by creating the brand “Astore” that had made an overwhelming impression in “Drug Management System”.
- First healthcare provider that established the first ISO 15189-accredited clinical laboratory of Turkey, namely Acıbadem Labmed.
- First healthcare provider that established the first and the only Integrated Digital Pathology System of Turkey.
- First healthcare provider that delivered first digital radiology and paperless service in Turkey.
- First healthcare provider that is qualified as Turquality – the first and the most comprehensive state-funded brand improvement program of the world – in 2018.
- First Healthcare Provider that make strategic partnership with IHH Healthcare which is the largest healthcare group in Far east and Asia. – Acıbadem became part of world 2nd largest helthcare group.