If you ask Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub to define what operational excellence is, he responds with a couple of things. “To balance financial sustainability and growth, and at the same time remain focused on a social purpose,” he shares.

For Institut Jantung Negara (IJN), or the National Heart Institute of Malaysia, which Azhari heads up as CEO and Senior Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, these principles guide everything the organisation does.

Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub, CEO of National Heart Institute
Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub, CEO of National Heart Institute

A commitment to health

IJN is the leading institute of its kind in the country, working to provide the highest advanced heart treatment possible to Malaysians and international patients, while also ensuring that it is affordable and accessible. Founded in 1992, it provides a whole spectrum of services, from cardiovascular and thoracic care to health and wellness programs and diabetes clinics.

Azhari says IJN is fully committed to operational excellence and that it is a critical focus, as the business works to further cement its position in the healthcare space and become a household name.

Azhari and his team envision a future marked by growth, fulfilling IJN’s mission to provide the best and most comprehensive health care for their community. From its state-of-the-art facilities and advanced technology to educational programs and community service, IJN has a commitment to health.

This approach is obviously paying dividends for Azhari and the team at IJN. The institute has won several international awards, as well as accreditation from the Joint Commission International, Malaysian Society for Quality in Healthcare 3rd edition 2008, and ISO 9001.

“Our success is due largely to the unwavering commitment of our employees and affiliated medical staff,” Azhari says. “IJN’s dedicated team of cardiologists and surgeons, nurses and allied health personnel work to provide our patients with the best quality care in an atmosphere of compassion and spirituality.”

“Our success is due largely to the unwavering commitment of our employees and affiliated medical staff.”

National Heart Institute

Being a key opinion leader

Azhari is a practising cardiac surgeon with 25 years’ experience in the industry, making him well-placed to lead IJN to new horizons. “I am also a key opinion leader in the Asia–Pacific region in the sub-specialty areas of valve repair and aortic aneurysm surgery, and have pioneered several cardiac procedures in Malaysia,” he tells The CEO Magazine.

According to Azhari, providing expert care that’s of a high quality is how to build up the brand name. He says it entails the involvement of staff at all levels, as well as a strong emphasis on research. “The research – presentations at international conferences and publication in high-impact medical journals – are part and parcel of the recognition and branding of IJN,” he notes.

Balancing the clinical work with the research functions of the institute can be a challenge, he continues, but instilling a work culture that values research enables the ability to jump over any hurdles. “It is about evidence-based medicine,” he states.

Another way the organisation builds upon its reputation for operational excellence is through its CSR initiatives. IJN has a mobile clinic that it sends out twice a month to conduct health screenings and provide health education to various parts of the country, especially in the rural areas.

The organisation also has its charitable arm, the IJN Foundation. Established in 1995, the foundation provides medical assistance to patients who may not be able to afford cardiac-related health care. It also works to raise funds for research, scholarships, education, training and patient welfare.

It is structured into three programs. The Patient Assistance Program provides financial and medical aid to impoverished heart patients, giving them treatment they may not have otherwise had access to. This includes providing devices such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators and valves, as well as allowances for travel, accommodation, meals and funeral expenses as required.

National Heart Institute

A streak of success

In 2017, IJN Foundation spent RM3.3 million to fund procedures and surgeries for 79 adult patients and 60 paediatric patients through this program.

In 2017, IJN Foundation spent RM3.3 million to fund procedures and surgeries for 79 adult patients and 60 children.

The second program is Research and Clinical Studies. The aim here is to assist in advancing the knowledge of IJN’s doctors, paramedics and non-clinical staff. Last year, this department conducted the Prospective, Randomised, Controlled Study of the Safety and Effectiveness of Cardiocel® in the Reconstruction of Pulmonary Arteries and Right Ventricular Outflow Tract Anomalies with Congenital Heart Disease, and released a Revivent Registry.

Finally, there is Education and Training. This program aims to provide financial assistance for IJN’s educational and training initiatives in a bid to prevent cardiovascular diseases. These include hospital collaborations, sponsorships and grants, and symposiums and conferences.

Azhari says that in order to successfully deliver each of these programs, as well as achieve operational excellence in its clinical work, IJN must heavily rely on the robust relationships it has formed with its major partners. These relationships must be solid, with no room for doubt.

“It is about building relationships that are not just transactional in nature but of mutual benefit to both parties,” he comments. “Collaborations in research, value-added services and support, as well as competitive pricing are some of the ways that we create mutual benefits.”

National Heart Institute

With all of this in mind, Azhari confirms that the right foundations are certainly in place for IJN to continue to grow and prosper in Malaysia and beyond. And Azhari’s commitment to balance financial sustainability and growth, while staying focused on its wider social purpose, will surely allow it to continue its streak of success for many years to come.