Devi Shetty is obsessed with making heart surgery affordable for millions of Indians. On his office desk are photographs of two of his heroes: Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi.
Shetty is not a public health official motivated by charity. He’s a heart surgeon turned businessman who has started a chain of 21 medical centers around India. By trimming costs with such measures as buying cheaper scrubs and spurning air-conditioning, he has cut the price of artery-clearing coronary bypass surgery to $1,583, half of what it was 20 years ago, and wants to get the price down to $800 within a decade. The same procedure costs $106,385 at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“It shows that costs can be substantially contained,” said Srinath Reddy, president of the Geneva-based World Heart Federation, of Shetty’s approach. “It’s possible to deliver very high quality cardiac care at a relatively low cost.”
Medical experts like Reddy are watching closely, eager to see if Shetty’s driven cost-cutting can point the way for hospitals to boost revenue on a wider scale by making life-saving heart operations more accessible to potentially millions of people in India and other developing countries.
“The current price of everything that you see in health care is predominantly opportunistic pricing and the outcome of inefficiency,” Shetty, 60, said in an interview in his office in Bangalore, where he started his chain of hospitals, with the opening of his flagship center, Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City, in 2001.
Cutting costs is especially vital in India, where more than two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 86 percent of health care is paid out of pocket by individuals. A recent study by the Public Health Foundation of India and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that in India non-communicable ailments such as heart disease are now more common among the poor than the rich…
“There has been fast urbanization in India that’s brought with it a change in dietary patterns and lifestyle,” said Usha Shrivastava, head of public health at the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation. “It’s leading to this huge jump in cardiovascular disease…”
The biggest impediment for heart surgery in India is accessibility. Shetty aims to bridge that by building hospitals outside India’s main cities. He said he plans to add 30,000 beds over the next decade to the 6,000 the hospital chain has currently, and has identified 100 towns with populations of 500,000 to 1 million that have no heart hospital.
A 300-bed, pre-fabricated, single-story hospital in the city of Mysore cost $6 million and took six months for construction company Larsen & Toubro Ltd. to build, Shetty said. Only the hospital’s operating theaters and intensive-care units are air-conditioned, to reduce energy costs…
“Global health-care costs are rising rapidly and as countries move toward universal health coverage, they will have to face the challenge of providing health care at a fairly affordable cost,” said the World Heart Federation’s Reddy, a New Delhi-based cardiologist who is also president of the Public Health Foundation of India.
Anyone in the American Medical Association listening? I imagine the few progressive thinkers in Congress are – and no one else in that useless body of corporate pimps.
Actually, given where I live, I hope there are more Mexican doctors paying attention. There are beaucoup grayheads from my neck of the prairie who already make their way over the border for much of their medical care.