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The Australian healthcare industry is highly competitive, meaning commercial practices must balance the delivery of high-quality care with profitability. Perth radiologist Dr Ashish Chawla knows it’s a difficult tightrope to walk but has set out to prove that excellent service and affordability can comfortably coexist. After many years working for other radiology practices, Dr Chawla felt there was too much emphasis on profits and a lack of focus on the very essence of healthcare: looking after people. So strong was his belief in putting people before profits that, with this vision in mind, he established two clinics at once.
Late last year, Dr Chawla opened a new comprehensive radiology service— Advanced Diagnostic Imaging & Intervention—in the northern Perth suburb of Madeley. While in the process of setting up the new service, he purchased Western Radiology in Cockburn Central, in Perth’s south.
The latter was a ready-made business with clients and staff—enabling the company to start trading immediately.
“This helped us to streamline cash flows, and the launch of the new clinic was much easier because we already had a running business,” Dr Chawla says.
After approaching several finance providers, he chose BOQ Specialist because they took the time to get to know him and understand his needs—an approach which closely aligned with his own.
“BOQ Specialist was more understanding and experienced than the other financiers,” says Dr Chawla.
“They were able to understand our plan very quickly, they were quick to provide the service and it was easy to contact them. They were very helpful compared to the other banks.”
While setting up the new clinic, Dr Chawla contacted Richard Curia to discuss the idea of buying the second clinic. Richard Curia has a lot of radiologists as clients, so he not only understands finance, but he has a deep understanding of the radiology market in Perth.
“I’m pretty sure the other banks wouldn’t have considered it but BOQ Specialist did and we managed to acquire that centre as well,” he says. “So, it helped me to have a wider coverage of Perth with the two centres, one south, one north. BOQ Specialist enabled it to happen.”
The most challenging part of setting up the two clinics was connecting with referring doctors and building their confidence in the ‘people first’ ethos.
“We don’t rip off the patient,” says Dr Chawla.
“We provide high-quality services at a very reasonable cost and we provide a good service for our referrers too—getting the reports out as quickly as possible.”
It’s not just patients and referring doctors benefiting from Dr Chawla’s approach. He’s committed to caring for his own people, too.
“Many of the radiology clinics in WA are 100 per cent commercial. We take care of our staff and we pay them well.”
Dr Chawla now employs more than 25 staff across both clinics and says while profit margins may be smaller, he is content knowing patients and staff are well looked after.
Although he’s heavily involved with business administration, Dr Chawla still manages to find plenty of time to see and care for his patients.
“I love radiology and I love doing the clinical part,” he says.
“I’m still a full-time clinician but in between I have my administrative role, which initially was difficult for me because I didn’t have a team. Now that I have a team it’s become easier. So I do my clinical job most of the time, and when it comes to making decisions, we make decisions as a team.”
Dr Chawla wanted to make a difference in an industry he felt was losing sight of its core purpose.
“I really wanted to bring a difference to the market,” he says.
“So many other practices are expensive and not providing any extra value. They’ll turn patients away if they can’t pay out-of-pocket expenses. We’re not like that. We consider each patient’s personal circumstances as much as we consider their condition, and we do the best we can to provide a great service.”
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