Looking to India for the Future of Healthcare

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Does a chain of healthcare clinics in southern India operate under a model that could potentially revolutionize provider care in the States?

Possibly, Adam Plowright reports for Agence France Presse over at Business Insider. In fact, the Narayana Hrudayalaya clinics have taken the concept of “no-frills” service, popularized by Walmart and some airlines, and applied it to healthcare. Plowright explains, “Using pre-fabricated buildings, stripping out air-conditioning, and even training visitors to help with post-operative care, the group believes it can cut the cost of heart surgery to an astonishing 800 dollars.”

World-famous heart surgeon Devi Shetty founded the company because of the low percentage of people, not just in the U.S., but also around the world who can actually afford the “phenomenal services” healthcare has to offer. He said, “A hundred years after the first heart surgery, less than 10 percent of the world’s population can [afford the procedure].”

Dr. Shetty has already impacted healthcare with his Bangalore “heart factory” that does more cardiac operations than any other organization on the globe, nearly 30 per day at an average of $1800 per procedure. His Narayana Hrudayalaya or “Temple of the Heart” clinics are expanding on the heart-factory construct and looking to offer the best care at the very lowest of prices.

For example, he built a single-story hospital in Mysore for 7.4 million dollars over a 10-month period. In the States, Stanford’s new 200-300 bed hospital is costing them $600 million. Another hospital, in London, is estimated to surpass a billion pounds.

He stated, “Our target is to build and equip a hospital for six million dollars and build it in six months.”

To achieve this lofty goal, he is experimenting with such groundbreaking concepts as limited air-conditioning (just in operating theatres and ICUs) and large-window ventilation and involving family in the caretaking process by requiring visitors to take a four-hour nursing course and having them administer such tasks as changing bandages during their visits.

He buys supplies in bulk and run “the operating theatres from early morning to late at night, six days a week,” drawing inspiration from “low-cost airlines which keep their planes in the air as much as possible.” He said he realized “that as you do more numbers, your results get better and your cost goes down.”

India spends a paltry four percent of its GDP on healthcare and has little to no private insurance; its public insurance imploded long ago. As a result, most citizens are required to pay for their own care. It is this need that engaged both Dr. Shetty’s business and physician senses.

His patients testify to his passion for providing the poorest with the best care, and when you read what they have to say, it’s little wonder his hero (and former patient) is Mother Teresa.

He states, “The current regulatory structures, the current policies and business strategies (for healthcare) that we have are wrong. If they were right, we should have reached 90 percent of the world’s population.”

So, what are your thoughts on Dr. Shetty’s innovations? Could such a model ever be possible here in the States?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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