My Brother is Diagnosed with Cancer: Lessons Re- Learnt in Choosing the Right Doctor and the Right Hospital

Dr Shafiq Ahmed, Director and Senior Consultant at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital

By: Rajiv Tewari

We were in a state of shock & disbelief on receiving a biopsy report confirming cancer in the Urinary Bladder of my 70 years’ old elder brother. He already had Kidney stone problems which too needed an urgent surgery before treating him for cancer. With the grace of God his disease has been diagnosed as curable and his treatment is proceeding in the right direction.

Treatment of a disease like cancer is for a life time so a lot of homework is necessary in choosing the Right Doctor & the Right Hospital. I am sharing the lessons re-learnt from a patient’s perspective which may be of value to the healthcare professionals, patients and their family members & well-wishers. 

Though I had worked as a Director in a large network of hospitals, yet I panicked and forgot the lessons learnt due to sheer panic. My first thought was to talk to a couple of doctors based on my comfort level with them and through referrals of friends & relatives. I had almost decided to take my brother to one of the hospitals when I talked to a former colleague of mine at a hospital, who simply asked me if the decision was solely based on my comfort with a known doctor. This was like a wakeup call and I recalled the processes I had learnt during my stint in the healthcare domain on how to choose the right hospital and the right doctor based on the disease. 

1. Choosing the Right Doctor


On comparing the Doctors on 3 key parameters, I zeroed in on Dr Shafiq Ahmed, Director and Senior Consultant at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram in Haryana, India. His experience matched the patient’s disease profile in the Kidney and Urinary Bladder area. This combined with his experience of over 300 robotic surgeries for prostate, kidney and urinary bladder cancer & over 9000 urological procedures at the age of 45 years made us feel more comfortable with our choice. 


Dr. Shafiq Ahmed is an US credentialed robotic uro-oncologist and specializes in robotic radical prostatectomy, robotic radical cystectomy and robotic partial nephrectomy for treatment of patients suffering from prostate, urinary bladder and kidney cancers in addition to general urologic problems in men and women. 

An MBBS, MS (Surgery), DNB (Urology), MNAMS with 15 publications, including 3 book chapters, to his credit in leading medical journals and his work experience at some of the most respected hospitals in India assured us further about his credentials as one of the best Doctors in the Delhi NCR region of India. 

Patients’ Feedback

This to me was the most important factor as in many cases top rated Surgeons operate on the patient and leave the treatment to junior doctors post-surgery. Their busy schedule also makes them unresponsive in-spite of the availability of all kinds of digital interfaces. Dr Shafiq Ahmad was rated as a 5 Star Doctor in Google Reviews yet I wanted to check from some of his patients. To my pleasant surprise every patient gave a very high recommendation on his competence as well as responsiveness.  

Now that he is treating my brother, he always responds to messages and phone calls as early as possible even if he is in the OT room. Meeting with him is a pleasure as he explains every procedure and treatment in clinical as well as lay man’s language. He gives the patient and the attendants an equal chance to give as much input as possible. No irritation even on google questions.

2. Choosing the Right Hospital

The Delhi NCR region in India has a large number of hospitals so choosing the right hospital was difficult. In case the Doctor is good and the choice of hospital is wrong then many things can go wrong. Lack of ethical practices, poor medical protocols, lack of support from the administrative teams and wrong billing can be a nightmare for the patient as well as the attendant. This step therefore is as important as finding the right Doctor.

Reputation of the Hospital

Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Founder and Chairman of Narayana Healthcare is a well-known & respected name for providing a low-cost & high-quality healthcare service across the country. However that was not enough for us as in many cases the vision of the founder may not percolate to all levels. We decided to check the facts before admitting our patient.

I called up Commander Navneet Bali, Director Northern Region, Narayana Health for information on the policies & protocols of the organization. He immediately shared the phone number of one of his colleagues and advised me to visit the hospital and check out the facts by meeting the leadership team on the management side and having a one on one consultation with Dr Shafiq before taking a decision. We followed his advice to get as much information as possible on pricing, medical protocols & responsiveness of the management teams. 

Pricing Policies

The front desk informed me was about the transparent pricing system of Narayana Health which is also displayed on the web site. Later on, after meeting Dr Shafiq Ahmad, we had a better idea of the procedures and a fact check on pricing indicated transparency as well as a reasonable pricing system compared to many other hospitals. This was very important as Cancer Treatment takes a long time and the cost saving at each step matters a lot.

Medical Protocols

On the first day of our consultation we found that the diagnostic images and lab reports are first sent to a panel of experts at Bengaluru for their expert comments and the Treating Doctor sees these reports only after receiving the comments from the experts’ panel. In many other hospitals, I had noticed that the reports are sent directly to the Treating Doctor which saves time but is not a good protocol as it is very important for the diagnostics team to collaborate with the Treating Doctor.

Next day we were referred to various Doctors for their investigation and opinion in important areas like Liver, Heart, Lungs and general check-up of health parameters. This is critical as in many cases expert Doctors focus only on the problem area which can result in complications in other areas during treatment. Treatment line was finalized only after getting all the reports and a review of the recommendations of the experts from all the relevant areas. Lack of collaboration between doctors is a prime area of concern in several hospitals so these protocols convinced us further on the choice of the hospital. 

Responsiveness of the Medical and Administrative Teams

Super Speciality Hospitals have a large number of patients and in-spite of advance IT Systems human intervention is important for moving around from one desk or one room to another. We noticed that there were alert Customer Services Professionals in all the floor areas who were proactively guiding the patients the moment they noticed some one in a confused state of mind or looking for help. They were keen to resolve issues like taking appointments, billing, admissions & discharge procedures.

On a couple of occasions, I needed to reach out to the leadership teams and to my surprise I noticed that they have a WhatsApp group for communication between them so that the top leadership is aware of unresolved issues in real time. This also ensures accountability in real time… Each time I sent a WhatsApp message someone always quickly came forward to resolve the issues on 24×7 basis. In many hospitals the night shift becomes less to non-responsive so this system is of great help due to its accountability at all levels.


In the healthcare domain, one hour is called the golden hour for saving the patient in cases of an emergency. Location of the hospital therefore is as important as all the other check points. This hospital is at a driving distance of 20 minutes from our residence so was well within the desired time range just in case there was an emergency specially because my brother had other complications and is over 70 years of age.